21st Century Agenda for America


Arizona Style Immigration Law Coming to Texas in 2011

In Texas, a heavily Hispanic state, Republican legislators are drafting highly anti-immigrant legislation for 2011.

David Montgomery of the Fort Worth Telegraph has the whole story here:

"Conservative lawmakers, empowered by last week's Republican election gains, introduced a host of bills Monday that include an Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigration and the requirement of a photo ID to vote."

State Rep. Debbie Riddle, who at her finest can be seen here railing against "Terror Babies," has begun a new quest to pass Anti Immigrant legislation in the state capitol:

"Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, said she set up folding chairs and camped out near the House chamber over the weekend to be first in line to file a batch of bills that include a voter ID measure and Arizona-style legislation that would allow local law enforcement officers to arrest illegal immigrants."

The Texas state legislators actions highlight the battle currently raging over what to do in the absence of any federal legislation that addresses our broken immigration system. After Arizona, states have become increasingly emboldened to pass their own immigrant legislation.

Certainly state legislators should try to help their constituents, but until there is a definitive ruling on the constitutionality of laws like SB1070, these new laws may be much ado about nothing.

It is important to note that where similar laws have been passed they have been incredibly expensive to enact and been all but impossible to implement as there have been so many lawsuits filed against said laws

It would be wise for states to at least wait until the 9th circuit comes back with their ruling on whether the law is constitutional or not, before they attempt to pass laws that may be thrown out shortly after they are passed.

That might save state legislators time and money, that they could devote to passing laws that would actually help the state, as opposed to tying it up in legal battles with the federal government.

Growing Pains: The Evolution of the New American Electorate

On Friday, November 12, NDN hosted a panel discussion moderated by Alicia Menendez, the Director of NDN's 21st Century America Project, on what the 2010 Midterms Elections can teach us about the evolution of the American electorate. 

This event joined together four electoral experts, Karen Finney, MSNBC Political Analyst and Former DNC Communications Director; Karen Emerson, Lake Research; Jessy Tolkan, Senior Advisor to NOI and CEL; and Andres Ramirez,  NDN Senior Vice President.

The panelists offered insights into various constituencies, including African-American, Latino, unmarried women and Millennial voters.  Among their key takeaways:
•    Youth/Millennial vote numbers remained relatively consistent with the 2006 midterms
•    The Marriage Gap numbers also remained relatively consistent
•    In places where investments were made in organizing and turning out a constituency; they overperformed
•    Methods for mobilizing each constituency are proven -proper  investment is the challenge
•    Democrats are not maximizing their base
•    Republicans are missing an opportuntiy to make in roads
•    Parties need to shift away from cycle-to-cycle planning and begin investing in long term state infrastructure.

Video of the event is here:



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After the Midterms

Yesterday, Americans voted to return leadership of the House to Republicans, put many more Republican governors in statehouses and trim the Democratic majority in the Senate. While a huge recession undoubtedly contributed to yesterday's results, there is no question that they reflect voter unhappiness with how the Democrats handled the last two years.

What did the Democrats do wrong?  Critically, they did not focus on the economy, the one issue that people cared about most.  Instead, after passing the ARRA act, they pursued a strategy of using the financial crisis to move other priorities.  Indeed, the tea party which provided most of the energy behind the Republican resurgence came into its own in the summer of '09 when it organized rallies at Town Hall meetings to lobby Congressman against Obamacare.  And polls turned sharply agains the President and the Democrats after the Senate passed Health care legislation on Christmas eve.  The problem with healthcare legislation was it did not deal with the economy and, it went against the preferences of a majority of the public.  Expect Republicans to continue to use this issue against the Democrats for some time.

Second, the Administration generally did not take ownership of policy.  Leaving the policy up to Congress highlighted the sausagemaking element always present in making law and it was process (ie proposals to deem and pass) as much as substance that soured many people on the Administration's agenda.  Energy legislation--central to the Administration's vision of a clean economy, languished in various Senate committees. (Of note, the financial services bill where the Treasuty did take leadership moved successfully.)

Thus, pre-occupied with non economic issues and ceding policy leadership to Congress, the Democrats failed to articulate a plan to solve the one problem that people are rightly focused on in the midst of 10% unemployment, how to right America's economic ship and recover what was once considered an American birthright, rising incomes and prosperity.

While yesterday's losses were steep, they do not spell the end of the Obama presidency.  In 1994, the Democrats lost both houses of Congress yet those elections are remembered primarily as a footnote in the Clinton Administration's successful tenure and prelude to the prosperity that followed.  How then should the Administration react to what happened?  Here are some ideas.

First polarization at this point in history works for Republicans and against Democrats, not the other way around.  The last thing the Administrations should allow is the return of old wedge and hot button issues.  The Administration though it may be tempted to double down on left leaning priorities should recognize that it will be judged on problem solving. Polarization will not only reduce the likelihood of victories, it will also lower business confidence which may slow economic recovery.  While it should stick to principles it should also go the extra mile in reaching out to the other side.  The flip side of this is that the other side may resist working together.  However, the Democrats must try.

Second, though Republicans may find it in their political interest to be a party of no, they will be hard pressed to vote against policies they support.  Thus, where there is common ground, the Administration needs to find it.  Cutting taxes on small business, lowering tarrifs, making government smarter, and eliminating red tape to make America more competitive are potential areas of common ground.  Once more, Democrats win through accomplishments.

With respect to accelerating the emergence of clean energy as a job creating machine, streamlining regulations and opening up energy markets to new participants, ideas and capital can prove popular with Democrats and Republicans alike.  Our Electricity 2.0 initiative is focused on tapping the billions in private capital now off limits to the electricity network--the network at the center of the electrity regulation--due to its 20th Century regulatory architecture.  There are currently a number of financing proposals as well to tap private capital for clean energy and infrastructure projects without imposing a fiscal burden on the federal government.

Finally, Democrats should remember that part of being the party closest to the people--besides trying to enact policies that benefit everyone--is reflecting the preferences of the majority of the people.   Big D Democrat has a lot in common--or should--with small d democrat.  Politically and philosophically, the Democrats win when they represent the people, not elites or special interests. 

Yesterday may have been a good day for Republicans and a bad one for Democrats.  What's important, though is that the parties make tomorrow a better day forAmericans.  They can if they work together.   For the Obama Administration reaching out to the other side should be a policy and political imperative.


Lesson from the New York Times Poll: Have a Plan for the Economy

Today’s poll from The New York Times tells the story of a country focused solely on frustration over the bad economy. Jobs and the economy, added together, are the top concern of 60% of Americans. (No other issue comes close to those figures, including the budget deficit, which sits at 3 percent.)

Additionally, the poll write-up reinforces the notion that we have discussed at NDN, neither party is where it wants to be right now:

The findings suggest that there are opportunities and vulnerabilities for both parties as they proceed into the final seven weeks of the campaign.

A case for Republicans: Voters are remarkably open to change, even if they are not sure where Republicans will lead them. Most Americans, including one-third of those in the coalition that elected Mr. Obama, now say he does not have a clear plan to solve the nation’s problems or create jobs. Democrats remain highly vulnerable on the economy.

A case for Democrats: They are seen as having better ideas for solving the country’s problems. The public steadfastly supports the president’s proposal to let tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans. And far more people still blame Wall Street and the Bush administration than blame Mr. Obama for the country’s economic problems.

Voters have a darker view of Congressional Republicans than of Democrats, with 63 percent disapproving of Democrats and 73 percent disapproving of Republicans. But with less than two months remaining until Election Day, there are few signs that Democrats have made gains persuading Americans that they should keep control of Congress.

So, while neither party is where it wants to be right now, there is good in this than bad for the President and his party. The American people are still far more with him than the alternative, they just angry and frustrated, and rightfully so. It’s also inarguable that the President’s ideas have been far better then the opposition's, and the truth is borne out in the polling.


The president’s overall job approval rating is 45 percent, with 47 percent disapproving. On the economy, his rating is worse, with 41 percent approving and 51 percent disapproving. When asked whether Mr. Obama has a clear plan for solving the nation’s problems, 57 percent responded that he did not, yet twice as many give him more credit than Republicans for having a plan.

The good news for the Democrats right now is that they have the ability to increase their standing with the American people, and the path is very clear: they must convince the country they have a plan for the economy. The President has a strong case to make about what his administration done over the last two years, and that it’s all been part of a plan to fix an economy with serious problems that have been playing out for the last decade. The next month and a half are all about making the American people believe that he has a plan for the future and his opponents have one that just doesn’t work.

For the Republicans, they have to step up if they really want to take advantage of this poor economy, which means they too have to offer a serious economic plan for the country. It's something the American people don't think they've done yet. 


New NPI Report - The Impact of Immigration and Immigration Reform on the Wages of American Workers

Yesterday the New Policy Institute (NPI) released a new report on the impact of immigration and comprehensive immigration reform on the wages of the American worker. The report written by NPI Fellow and Former Under Secretary of Commerce Dr. Robert J. Shapiro, accomplishes five important things.

1. It gives an accurate portrait of America's Immigrant Population.

2. It dispels many misconceptions regarding undocumented immigrants.

3. It provides economic analysis on the impact of immigration on wages.

4. It examines the wage impact of reforms to provide a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.

5. It also examines the other economic effects of immigration

What is most impressive about this report is its comprehensiveness. Quite simply there is alot of data to wade into. Which is why NPI has also included an appendices which highlights some of the important data within the report.  Finally to get another view on the paper, Dr. Shapiro has written a blog post, The Economics of Immigration Are Not What You Think, discussing what he considers the most important aspects of the paper. 

All are must reads, the links to all three, are below:

The Impact of Immigration and Immigration Reform on the Wages of American Workers, May 27, 2010, Robert Shapiro and Jiwon Vellucci: NPI's new report provides a much needed look at the intersection of America's economy and immigration system.

Appendices to the Impact of Immigration Report, May 27,2010, Robert Shapiro and Jiwon Velluci: Provides a visual representation of the data presented in the NPI report The Impact of Immigration and Immigration Reform on the Wages of American Workers.

The Economics of Immigration Are Not What You Think, May 27,2010, Robert Shapiro: Blog post which highlights important data points to look for in the larger NPI report.

The Impact of Immigration and Immigration Reform On the Wages of American Workers

Publish Date: 

Today, the New Politics Institute (NPI) is proud to release an economic report on the impact of immigration and comprehensive immigration reform on the wages of the American worker. The report written by NPI Fellow and Former Under Secretary of Commerce Dr. Robert J. Shapiro, presents an accurate portrait of America's immigrant population, dispels certain misconceptions about American Immigration and offers economic analysis regarding the impact of immigration, and proposed immigration reforms on wages and the economy. This report offers a much needed look at the intersection of America's economy and immigration system.

Below is a link to to the paper, after the executive summary there is an appendix which highlights some of the more pertinent information from the paper and Rob has blogged on the paper here.

Paper: The Impact of Immigration and Immigration Reform on the Wages of American Workers

Executive Summary

As the debate on comprehensive immigration reform has been rejoined, alarming amounts of misinformation are being presented as facts.  This report corrects some of this misinformation by reviewing the empirical evidence and evaluating the real economic effects of the recent waves of immigrants into the United States by analyzing the role of immigrants in our labor markets and economy.

This report presents an accurate portrait of our immigrant population, dispels misconceptions about undocumented immigrants, and reviews the evidence and analysis regarding the wage and other economic effects of both immigration and reforms to provide undocumented immigrants a path to legal status.

  • Immigration Population Demographics: More than one-third of recent immigrants come from Asia and Europe, while less than 57 percent come from Mexico and Latin America. A substantially larger share of immigrants than native-born Americans lack a high school diploma; but roughly equal shares of both groups -- between 28 percent and 30 percent - hold college or graduate degrees, and more than half of immigrants from Asia are college-educated or better.
  • Misconceptions about Undocumented Immigrants: Two-thirds of immigrants are naturalized citizens or legal permanent resident aliens, 4 percent have legal status as temporary migrants, and 30 percent are undocumented. While undocumented male immigrants are generally low-skilled, they also have the highest labor participation rates in the nation: Among men age 18 to 64 years, 94 percent of undocumented immigrants work or actively seek work, compared to 83 percent of native-born Americans, and 85 percent of immigrants with legal status.
  • Economic Analysis on the Impact of Immigration on Wages: A careful review shows that high levels of immigration have not slowed overall wage gains by average, native-born American workers. Most studies suggest that recent waves of new immigrants are associated with increases in the average wage of native-born Americans in the short-run and with even larger increases in the long term as capital investment rises to take account of the larger number of workers.
  • The Wage Impact of Reforms to Provide a Path to Legal Status for Undocumented Immigrants: The largest effects of such reforms would be felt by immigrants themselves: After the 1986 immigration reforms, wages rose by 6 percent to 15 percent for previously-undocumented male immigrants and by 21 percent for previously-undocumented female immigrants. Those reforms also increased wages of previously legal immigrants. Research also suggests that those reforms led to modest wage gains by native-born Americans.
  • Other Economic Effects of Immigration: Studies have found that immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start new businesses than native-born Americans; and even immigrants without high school diplomas, who account for 31 percent of all immigrants, comprise 27 percent of immigrant business owners. Various analyses of the fiscal effects of immigration have produced mixed results on the state and local levels; but studies show that immigrants have a net positive effect on the federal budget. Moreover, immigration reform would enhance these positive fiscal effects by indirectly raising the taxable incomes of immigrants and others.

Why are Americans Upset With Their Government?

Senator Judd Gregg's theory is below:

Gregg says Americans are frustrated with Washington and are lashing out at incumbents because of high spending and deficits. He's not the only one voicing this theory. Is he right? What is his evidence? Is spending more of an issue than high unemployment and a decade of stagnating wages and declining incomes?

Immigrant Charter Schools

The recent passage of Arizona's SB 1070 has shed due national light on immigration as an issue that affects all Americans and needs to be addressed.  At NDN, we have said for five years now that our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed.  That it has taken a draconian measure such as the passage of this bill to give this important issue the attention it deserves is unfortunate but not surprising.  The legislative arm of our government has had a beefy calendar trying to address healthcare, jobs and the economy, environmental concerns, and education. 

In a democratic bureaucracy that was designed to work slowly so as to prevent any person or group from taking over quickly or easily, we must strategically inspire our leaders to take action.  Issues such as education, which affect more people more directly, are often addressed in a timelier manner because constituents put more pressure on their leaders to do so.   In the Fall of 2008, according to the Census, 55.8 million children were enrolled in elementary school through high school - that's nearly 20% of the population. 

The slow rate at which our government works is not its only downfall.  In addition, issues such as education and immigration are often addressed with tunnel vision, eliminating the chance to account for factors outside the issue's scope.  Most education policy only directs money towards schools.  Most proposed immigration policy focuses on toughening the border, providing pathways to citizenship for immigrants already in the country, and managing future flow.  The DREAM Act is an exception that takes a two pronged approach, providing an educational incentive for immigrants by qualifying undocumented youth to be eligible for a six-year long conditional path to citizenship that requires the completion of a college degree or two years of military service. 

The recent wave of education activists that have pioneered immigrant charter schools provide another example of efforts that address the multi-dimensional world in which we live.  These schools, such as the Twin Cities International Elementary School in Minneapolis, MN and the Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School in Philadelphia, PA work to provide a rigorous education in a culturally sensitive environment.  In Stanford University's 2009 study of charter school performance in 16 states, results suggested that over a third of charter school students performed at a lower level than their public school counterparts.  While this is somewhat disconcerting considering the increasingly substantial role of charter schools in education reform, there were two subgroups in the nationally pooled sample that fared better in charter schools than in the traditional system: students in poverty and English Language Leaners (ELLs).  It should be noted that not all ELL students are immigrants and that the study did not focus solely on immigrant charter schools, but even with these variables, one can reasonably hypothesize that immigrant charter schools would likely be a good place for immigrant students. 

After teaching two years of elementary school, I feel I can say that, students at the elementary school level need more nurturing than those in middle or high school.  As with most people, if they are uncomfortable for any reason, they are less likely to reach their full learning potential.  It seems, then that these immigrant charter schools are a fantastic idea - but only to a certain point.  In the middle school years, when most children are more influenced by their peers than by their teachers, it would be limiting and perhaps debilitating for students to remain in an immigrant charter school.  If we want our children to achieve their dreams in this country, they must not only be able to read, write, and compute.  They must also be woven into the cultural fabric of American society.  There is no better way to do this than to be immersed in it, and an immigrant charter school seems not to be able to provide that opportunity.  Additionally, if this model became pervasive, wouldn't we face the danger of once again segregating our schools?

Ultimately, I believe in doing what it takes for students to succeed, and I support immigrant charter schools.  However, I encourage policy makers, education activists, entrepreneurs, and the like to approach these innovative models with a long term focus and to lead periodic conversations, reflect on positive and negative implications of their work, and make adjustments as they are necessary.

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