21st Century Agenda for America

Weekly Immigration Update (con.): E-verify controversy, Al Franken, and CIR Recommended by Task Force for Economy, Security

E-VERIFY - DHS reported today that starting Sept. 8, the E-Verify system, an online tool that checks a worker's Social Security number and immigration status, will be mandatory for all  contractors and subcontractors and their employees assigned to federal contracts.  Moreover, these contractors and subcontrators now have to run all employees - not just new hires - though the system.

Soon after the announcement, the Senate approved by voice vote an amendment to the FY10 Homeland Security appropriations bill offered by Sen. Jeff Sessions that would make the soon-to-expire – and increasingly criticized – E-Verify program permanent.  

A lesser-known provision was inserted by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy to permanently authorize the EB-5 visa program, which enables foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in the United States to obtain a green card (yes, a fact unknown to most Americans is that you CAN buy a legitimate green card…if you can afford it).  

The Senate also voted 54-44 to adopt an amendment from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), that would require the department to build up to 700 miles of fencing along the Southwest border (because those taxpayer dollars have been SO well spent until now) – nice way for those Republicans to “cut back unnecessary spending.”  

AL FRANKEN – WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM? – Yes, with Franken in the Senate Dems now have 60 votes.  Yes, Democrats have the votes, but many are still missing the backbone to fix the broken immigration system.  While Franken is exemplary in his support of immigration reform, this is still not the case for many of his colleagues. 

The vote on the e-verify amendment presented the first break between Franken and the Senior Senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar (Dem leadership and Franken voted against the amendment, Klobuchar voted in favor).  It is these kinds of New Dems who will have to be whipped into shape (figuratively) to recognize the urgency and need for immigration reform.  

HOW TO CONVINCE THEM? – Many of us who study the issue of immigration on a daily basis are fully aware of the economic and social net benefit that reform will bring to all Americans.  Luckily, today's developments coincided with the release of a bipartisan task force report that said overhauling the nation's immigration system and giving millions of undocumented workers a path to legal citizenship is critical to America's national security and economic interests.  Comprehensive legislative changes should be "a first-tier priority for the Obama administration and Congress," said the report, released by a Council on Foreign Relations task force led by former Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush and Thomas (Mack) McLarty, who served as President Bill Clinton's chief of staff.

The authors of the report essentially reiterated what I wrote in my Weekly Update on Monday:  "The United States, a country shaped by generations of immigrants and their descendants, is badly mishandling its immigration policy, with serious consequences for its standing in the world," the report said.

Among other things, McLarty disputed the notion that giving undocumented workers now in the country a path to citizenship would be akin to giving them amnesty. They would have to first pay fines, learn English, assimilate and wait behind current applicants, McLarty said.


Weekly Immigration Update: Fourth of July - Why Immigration Reform Is Our Patriotic Duty, Now

This Fourth of July weekend the Statue of Liberty – the most recognizable symbol of the “American Dream” – was once again made fully available to visitors.  It is now as before, "From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome," as Emma Lazarus once wrote in a poem now engraved inside the monument.  Sadly, this is not the reality faced by most immigrants today (regardless of whether they are “legal” or “illegal”) – particularly Mexican and Hispanic immigrants.  We can only hope that the spirit of the founding fathers and the spirit that led us to erect a “Statue of Liberty” prevail in Washington, D.C. in the coming months, and an entire overhaul of the U.S. immigration system is enacted.

In the same patriotic spirit, this weekend, 237 soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen were sworn in to become American citizens in Iraq. They are from 59 countries, mostly Mexico, the Philippines and Iraq. As he gave the keynote remarks of the ceremony, Vice President Biden noted that caring for troops abroad and at home is the “sacred obligation” of this nation. Yet many of the soldiers dying for our country today, many of those who were sworn in this weekend, come from “mixed status” families and – in addition to the stress caused by their professional responsibility – have to worry about adjusting their own immigration status or the possible deportation of a loved one.  This added stress will continue until the passage of immigration reform legislation.  

According to the military, with this ceremony, roughly 3000 service members will have become naturalized citizens. But what of the service members who are legal residents but not yet citizens? They remain in waiting.  U.S. legal residents who are not yet citizens and happen to be of Mexican origin can take a bullet – as Americans – because of, and to defend, the American ideals that they believe in but ironically they cannot take a seat at a desk in an agency of the federal government to fight for those same freedoms in a different capacity.  I think our founding fathers would be appalled if they witnessed such a double-standard.

And what of soldiers' families? It is a sad irony that in addition to the fight these soldiers endure on the field, they must also suffer the lack of due process often afforded to their families by the country they serve; or have family that cannot come out of the shadows; and if they have family that is “doing things right” and “waiting in line” to be joined with them legally in the U.S., they must endure years of being processed through an unfairly costly and unfairly broken immigration system.   

In his speech, Vice President Biden invoked the Statue of Liberty’s famous inscription:

 “Give me your tired your poor,” very accurately adding, “to be honest I’m not so sure that its legendary inscription is applicable to this group here today, because when I look at the men and women sitting out in front of me here, I’m having a hard time because I don’t see them in terms of tired, poor or huddled.” If I had to write an inscription, he added, "I would say give me your best, your brightest and your bravest. Give me your warriors your heroes who will enhance our great nation and strive to keep her free."

The key to understanding the immigration issue is the last point - immigrants are of all colors, from all creeds and all regions, and they are everything from agricultural workers, to service employees, to some of the most talented lawyers, scientists, and entrepreneurs in the world.  To America’s great fortune, many would like to be here.  Additionally, all the polling data demonstrates that a resounding majority of American voters side with immigrants on the need to fix the broken immigration system.  Only 3% of voters polled in swing states blamed immigrants for the problems caused by the broken immigration system – while over 2/3 blamed the U.S. Congress and federal government (presumably for its inaction on this front).

At a time when our economy has shrunk over 5%, we need the best and the brightest here; we need them to create jobs here to help us through this economic crisis. 

Biden went on: “There’s always room for more Americans, always room for more Americans. It’s the lifeblood of our country.  You know, over 50 countries represented here today, men and women, black and Asian, Hispanics.”

Per the press pool:
Biden went on to recount a story from when he was in Kosovo. Milosevic had just capitulated, he said, and he had a Kosovar driver who was “very proud to drive a United States Senator around.”  They headed out over a rutted and muddy road, and they saw a lot of construction. “America, America” the driver said, pointing to all the construction activity.  Then at a checkpoint they came upon a female colonel, a black captain, a white sergeant and a Hispanic private, Biden said. “And I pointed and I said, no – there’s America, that’s America and until you understand it here, you’ll never be free.”

Unfortunately there are many in our country today and in the halls of Congress who still do not understand Vice President Biden’s point.  Just last week, 50 Democratic members of Congress voted for an amendment for greater enforcement of the overwhelmingly discredited E-verify program in appropriations legislation.  If their interest is rule of law, then we hope they recognize the need to step up and fix the broken immigration system.

As President Obama stated on July 4, the spirit of our founding fathers is one that, “we are called to show once more. We are facing an array of challenges on a scale unseen in our time.”  He went on to say that, “Meeting these extraordinary challenges will require an extraordinary effort on the part of every American. And that is an effort we cannot defer any longer.”  Unfortunately, of all the challenges he mentioned – health care, climate change, the economy, even dependence on oil – not once did he mention the broken immigration system that affects so many millions of Americans today.

I have no doubt of the President’s genuine desire and commitment to passing immigration reform, but I do hope that his calls to action and his call for an “extraordinary effort on the part of every American,” will ring again for immigration reform.  Because unlike the other reforms mentioned, immigration reform will serve as an immediate net gain to the U.S. economically, culturally, and to a great extent, the moral authority of America depends on it.  

Make no mistake – immigration reform is urgent.  The broken immigration system affects all Americans.  If there is any doubt on anyone’s mind as to the urgency of reform, I would only highlight the fact that hate crimes against Hispanics (the group the media has associated the most with “illegal immigration”) have risen 40% over the past four years.  The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that that the number of hate groups targeting Latinos and immigrants has increased by 54% since 2000.

These are not just statistics:
- Luis Ramirez, a 25-year-old immigrant, was brutally beaten to death in July of last year by a group of teenagers in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania (several with a criminal record) who got off with a ridiculous 6 month sentence.  Friends of Ramirez have been told to get out of Shenandoah, "or you're gonna to be laying effin next to him." Ramirez was married to a native-born American and left a 1 year old daughter. 

- November 8, 2008, in Suffolk County, New York, 37-year-old Marcelo Lucero was going to visit a friend to watch a movie when he was brutally attacked and beaten to death for no apparent reason.  Originally from Ecuador, he had lived in this country for 16 years. 

- Less than a month later, two Ecuadorean brothers were assaulted by three men yelling anti-Latino slurs in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. One of the brothers, a business man who had lived in the U.S. for ten years, died as a result of his injuries. 

- Most recently, a Hispanic 9 year old girl and her father were brutally gunned down in front of their wife and mother by Minutemen followers who broke into their home in the middle of the night and claimed the family was part of a “Mexican gang.”

This is not a side of America that can be tolerated, much less encouraged by mainstream media and our own community.  And inaction on our part enables this kind of intolerance.  Hate has always been present. But passage of comprehensive immigration reform will undoubtedly take much of the air out of the growing balloon of hate and some of the most shocking displays of racism that we have seen in a generation.

It is not an option; it is a necessity for all Americans - for our soldiers, for our teachers, for our families, for our scientists, for our friends.  Make no mistake about it; fixing the broken immigration system is an urgent national challenge.  And to the naysayers, I repeat the words of President Obama on Independence Day: 

These naysayers have short memories. They forget that we, as a people, did not get here by standing pat in a time of change. We did not get here by doing what was easy. That is not how a cluster of 13 colonies became the United States of America.

We got here by doing the right thing, by fighting for a legacy greater than ourselves. 

Rahm Emanuel Leaves Door Open for Immigration Reform This Year

In an important statement today to the Washington Post, Rahm Emanuel left the door wide open for tackling immigration reform this year:  

"It's not impossible to do it this year," he said. "Could you get it in this year? Yes."

...Responding to a question about the political implications for Democrats of delay, Emanuel said, "It's better that it happens, politically." 

FYI - the list of the attendees at today's meeting on immigration reform at the White House.  It is important to note the presence of Members like Sen. Specter, Rep. Joe Crowley, Rep. John Conyers, and others who might not be considered the "usual suspects" on this issue, but they will be essential players when it comes time to pass reform:


Office of the Press Secretary



June 25, 2009


The President and the Vice President will meet with a small group of Senate and House members from both sides of the aisle and both sides of the issue to discuss immigration reform in the State Dining Room at 2:00 PM today. The meeting is intended to launch a policy conversation by having an honest discussion about the issues and identifying areas of agreement and areas where we still have work to do, with the hope of beginning the debate in earnest later this year. There will be a pool spray at the bottom of the meeting. 

Below is a list of expected attendees at today’s meeting on immigration reform:


Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis

Deputy Attorney General David Ogden

Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel


Senator Richard Durbin 

Senator John Cornyn     

Senator Dianne Feinstein 

Senator Lindsey Graham 

Senator Jon Kyl

Senator Patrick Leahy 

Senator Mel Martinez 

Senator John McCain 

Senator Robert Menendez 

Senator Chuck Schumer 

Senator Jeff Sessions 

Senator Arlen Specter 

Representative Xavier Becerra

Representative Howard Berman

Representative Anh Cao

Representative James Clyburn 

Representative John Conyers

Representative Joe Crowley

Representative Lincoln Diaz Balart

Representative Gabrielle Giffords

Representative Luis Gutierrez

Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

Representative Zoe Lofgren

Representative Adam Putnam

Representative Silvestre Reyes

Representative Loretta Sanchez

Representative Heath Shuler

Representative Lamar Smith

Representative Nydia Velazquez

Representative Anthony Weiner



Statement & Backgrounder from NDN on Tomorrow's White House Meeting on Immigration Reform

This morning, Andres and I released the statement below on tomorrow's meeting at the White House with President Obama and key Members of Congress on immigration reform.

NDN applauds President Obama and the White House for bringing together congressional leaders tomorrow to discuss how to best fix our nation's broken immigration system. Given all that is in front of the White House this summer, the meeting is an encouraging sign that the President and his team are starting a process which we hope will end in passage of Comprehensive Immigration Reform by Congress later this year.

There can be no doubt that conditions for significant movement on immigration reform this year have become more favorable. Senator Reid has made it clear he will introduce a bill this fall, and believes he has the votes for passage. Speaker Pelosi and House Majority Leader Hoyer now both identify immigration reform as one of their highest legislative priorities. An overwhelming majority of Americans want action taken to fix the broken immigration system now and support the Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislative approach. Some polls even show support for reform for increasing this year. There is a broad and deep bipartisan coalition ready to work on a common-sense bill, and a pro-reform President is riding high in the polls, with sufficient standing to sheperd an immigration bill through Congress.

As favorable as the conditions are today, they are likely to improve this fall. The right time for the President and Congress to move on immigration reform will be in the days and weeks following Sonia Sotomayor taking her seat on the Supreme Court, when the pride many will feel about the appointment of the first Latina will still be fresh in the public's mind, reminding all of the extraordinary and growing accomplishments of America's largest, and fastest-growing, minority.

While the road to passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform will not be an easy one, with strong leadership, progress this year is within Washington's grasp. Tomorrow's White House meeting is an important step of the many needed steps required for passage this year.

We also offer the following commentary, analysis and video, including video of Andres and I at a June 16 event on immigration reform. 

NDN Forum Immigration Reform: Politics, Public Opinion and Legislative Prospects, video camera Simon Rosenberg and Andres Ramirez, 6/16/09. Please click here for video of Simon Rosenberg's presentation; please click here for video of Andres Ramirez' presentation.

Making the Case for Passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform This Year (PDF), Simon Rosenberg, 6/16/09 - Rosenberg lays out the basic foundation for why Congress must pass comprehensive immigration reform. This summary is a good introduction for those wanting to learn the fundamentals of this issue.

Recent Polling on Immigration Reform, Benenson Strategy Group, 6/2/09 - Since a previous America's Voice poll in November, Pete Brodnitz of the Benenson Stratagey Group finds that support for comprehensive reform has been stable (and high), but increasing numbers of voters see the economic benefit of passing comprehensive immigration reform. The poll is consistent with NDN polling by Bendixen & Associates in its affirmation of overwhelming public support for immigration reform.

Making the Case: 7 Reasons Why Congress Should Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform this Year, Huffington Post, Simon Rosenberg, 4/30/09 - Rosenberg argues that the answer to whether Congress can pass reform this year is "yes."

The GOP's Impossible Dream: Republicans Can't Win Without Latino Support in Millennial Era, Mike Hais, 6/10/09 - NDN Fellow Hais writes that on his fivethirtyeight.com Web site, Nate Silver recently raised the possibility that the Republican Party could more effectively compete in the 2012 and 2016 elections by turning its back on Hispanics and attempting to maximize the support of white voters in enough 2008 Midwestern and Southern blue states to flip them red. The Republican Party rode similar exclusionary strategies to dominance of U.S. politics during most of the past four decades. But America has entered a new era.

Latinos Vote in 2008: Analysis of U.S. Presidential Exit Polls (PDF), Andres Ramirez, 1/18/09 - Ramirez provides an overview of the Hispanic electorate in key states from the 2008 presidential election. The analysis concludes that Hispanics participated in record numbers in this election cycle, increasing their turnout from the 2004 election;  Hispanics significantly shifted towards the Democratic nominee in 2008, reversing trends from the 2000 and 2004 presidential election cycles; Hispanics played a key role in Obama’s victory in Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico; Hispanics are poised to make other states competitive in future elections; and if these trends continue, the national map will continue to get harder for Republicans.

National Survey of Hispanic Voters on Immigration Policy, Bendixen & Associates, 5/18/09 - Bendixen & Associates conducted a poll for America's Voice that comprehensively documents Hispanic voters' view on immigration policy. 

NDN Backgrounder on Judge Sotomayor and Our Changing Demography, Melissa Merz, 5/26/09 - In response to President Barack Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to serve on the Supreme Court, Merz compiles key NDN commentary and analysis on the great demographic changes taking place in America today.

David Brooks on the Conservative Economic Legacy

David Brooks has a very good column in the NYTimes today about how we got to where we are today, and the daunting economic challenges ahead.   His sober analysis of our economic situation is part of a growing tide of recent analysis looking beyond the momentary crisises, and which are beginning to move the economic debate beyond the stale, brain-dead bromides of the terribly disapointing age of Bush.  

Here’s one way to look at the politics of our era: We’ve moved from The Age of Leverage to The Great Unwinding.

For about a generation, the U.S. surfed on a growing wave of debt. The ratio of debt-to-personal-disposable income was 55 percent in 1960. Since then, it has more than doubled, reaching 133 percent in 2007. Total credit market debt — throwing in corporate, financial and other borrowing — has risen apace, surging from 143 percent of G.D.P. in 1951 to 350 percent of G.D.P. last year.

Charts that mark these trends are truly horrifying. There is a steady level of debt through most of the 20th century, until the mid-1980s. Then there is a steep accelerating rise to today’s epic levels.

This rise in debt fueled a consumption binge. Consumption as a share of G.D.P. stood at around 62 percent in the mid-1960s, and rose to about 73 percent by 2008. The baby boomers enjoyed an incredible spending binge. Meanwhile the Chinese, Japanese and European economies became reliant on the overextended U.S. consumer. It couldn’t last.

The leverage wave crashed last fall. Facing the possibility of systemic collapse, the government stepped in and replaced private borrowing with public borrowing. The Federal Reserve printed money at incredible rates, and federal spending ballooned. In 2007, the federal deficit was 1.2 percent of G.D.P. Two years later, it’s at 13 percent.

The crisis response more or less worked. Historians will argue about the Paulson-Geithner-Bernanke reaction, but the economy seems to be stabilizing. And now attention turns to the task of the next decade: slowly unwinding the debt that has built up over the past generation.

Americans aren’t borrowing the way they used to, but the accumulated debt is still there. Over the next many years, Americans will have to save more and borrow less. The American economy will have to transition from an economy based on consumption and imports to an economy with a greater balance of business investment and production. A country that has become accustomed to reasonably fast growth and frothy affluence will probably have to adjust to slower growth and less retail fizz.

The economic challenges will be hard. Reuven Glick and Kevin J. Lansing of the San Francisco Fed estimate that Americans will have to increase their household savings rate from 4 percent to 10 percent by 2018 to restore balance. That, they write, will produce “a near-term drag on overall economic activity.” Meanwhile, capital and labor will have to flow from sectors that depend on discretionary consumption to sectors based on research and investment.

But it’s the political challenges that will be most hellacious. Basically, everything that a politician might do to make voters happier in the near term will have horrible long-term consequences. Stimulate the economy too much now and you wind up with ruinous inflation down the road. Preserve failing companies and you wind up with Japanese stagnation. Cushion the decline in living standards with easy money now and you just move from a housing bubble to a commodities bubble.

The members of the political class face a set of monumental tasks...

Read on to see his recommendations, all of which are a little less compelling than his narrative on how we got here.  What is most interesting to me, however, is how Brooks' analysis is itself a complete condemnation of the cultural and economic impact of the recent conservative ascendency.  His story rightly points out that this "Age of Leverage," or as Paul Krugman has called it, "The Great Unraveling," was a manifestation of the Reagan Revolution.  Rather than being conservative in the classic sense, Brooks has correctly and helpfully begun the labeling of this era of our history as it will be known to future generations - a terribly reckless, irresponsible time where our leaders, in the grip of impractical ideologies, failed to do what was required to ensure American greatness and success in the 21st century.  

Digging America out from the hole that been dug by years of reckless, ideological and impractical conservative government remains the greatest governing challenge of this early part of the 21st century, a job that increasingly looks like - given its depth - will last long past the Obama Presidency. 

Finally, for all these reasons, I think it is time for us to move beyond the concept of "recovery" as a goal of our economic strategy.  Who wants to go back to what we had? A time of bubbles and declining wages, of a policy designed for the few at the expense of the many? Obama has begun to move beyond this frame with his recent attempts to use the term "new foundation."  But there is an urgency to this mission - for I think very few Americans are interested in recovering - or going back to - that old economy of the late 20th century and this terribly destructive conservative ascendency.

The GOP's Impossible Dream: Republicans Can't Win Without Latino Support in Millennial Era

Note: This essay is the first in a new series that I will be contrubuting to NDN. The essays will examine important and interesting data from available public surveys and surveys commissioned by NDN and its affiliates. Themes and analysis will include attitudes toward race and ethnicity, the economy, foreign affairs and the Millennial Generation, but will not be limited to those topics. 

In a recent posting on his fivethirtyeight.com Web site, Nate Silver raised the possibility that the Republican Party could more effectively compete in the 2012 and 2016 elections by turning its back on Hispanics and attempting to maximize the support of white voters in enough 2008 Midwestern and Southern blue states to flip them red. This would involve positioning the GOP as the non-Latino party by "pursuing an anti-immigrant, anti-NAFTA, 'American First' sort of platform.'" The Republican Party rode similar exclusionary strategies to dominance of U.S. politics during most of the past four decades.

But America has entered a new era. Propelled by the election of its first African-American president, an increasingly non-white and more heavily Latino population, and the emergence of a new, significantly more tolerant generation, the Millennials, America is not the same country, demographically and attitudinally, that it was in the 1960s or even the 1990s. These changes have altered the electoral environment and lessened the usefulness of divisive strategies that were once effective, but may no longer be so.

Superficially, a non-Latino strategy might seem more plausible than anything else the GOP has attempted since the election of Barack Obama. After offering significant support to George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, Hispanics have recently become a solidly Democratic group. Republicans may have little to lose in not courting them in the next election or two. Nationally, Hispanics voted for Barack Obama over John McCain by more than 2:1 (67% vs. 31%). They supported Democratic House candidates last year by an even greater margin (68% vs. 29%). Pew surveys indicate that four times as many Hispanics identify as Democrats than Republicans (62% vs. 15%).

Adopting a non-Hispanic strategy would certainly be compatible with strategies the GOP has been utilizing for decades. From the "Southern strategy" of Richard Nixon and Kevin Phillips in the late 1960s, through the "wedge issues" used by Lee Atwater in the 1980s, to Karl Rove's "base politics" in this decade, the Republicans effectively took advantage of white middle and working class fears of the "other" -- African-Americans, gays, feminists -- who could be positioned as being outside the American mainstream. Applying this approach to Latinos would only be doing what came naturally for the GOP during the past 40 years.

But, while ethnically exclusionary strategies may offer the possibility of short-term relief, they do little to resolve the deep difficulties now facing the Republican Party. The ethnic composition of the United States is far different now than it was in the 1960s when the GOP began to separate white southerners (and like-minded white working class voters in other regions) from their long attachment to the Democratic Party. Four decades ago, 90 percent of Americans were white, and virtually all of the remainder were African-American. Hispanics were a negligible factor within the population and the electorate. Since then, the percentage of non-Hispanic whites in America has fallen to two-thirds. Hispanics now comprise about 15 percent of the population and just under 10 percent of the electorate. Moreover, Hispanics are a relatively young demographic. Even if no additional Latinos migrate to the United States, their importance will continue to increase as older whites pass from the scene.

It is this rise in the Hispanic population that prompted Silver to offer his suggested non-Latino strategy to the Republicans in the first place. But Silver's plan, which he facetiously calls "Operation Gringo," would require the GOP to pull off a rare political balancing act or "thread the needle" to use his term. In order to compensate for expected losses in the increasingly Latino Southwestern states of Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and, without John McCain on their ticket, Arizona, Republicans would have to win states like Pennsylvania and Michigan that they have not carried in decades. They would have to do this while not, at the same time, losing Florida and possibly Texas with their own large Hispanic electorates.

Moreover, while it is true that Hispanics are not distributed evenly across the country, Silver concedes "there are Hispanics everywhere now." Latinos were decisive in Obama's wins in closely divided "gringo territories" such as Indiana, North Carolina, and Nebraska's second congressional district and the growth rate of Hispanics is greatest in "nontraditional" areas like the South and Prairie states. This means that "America first" campaigning may ultimately have the effect of hurting Republicans even in some of the "white" states where it was intended to help.

However, the biggest barrier in running against Hispanics is that American attitudes on ethnicity have changed significantly over the past four decades. A new Pew survey indicates that Americans have become less hostile toward immigrants and more positive about policies designed to incorporate immigrants, even undocumented immigrants, into American society.

The number favoring a policy that would allow illegal immigrants (Pew's term) currently in the country to gain citizenship if they pass background checks, pay fines and have jobs has increased from 58 percent to 63 percent since 2007. While 73 percent do agree that America should restrict and control people coming to live in here more than we do now, that number is down from 80 percent in 2002 and 82 percent in 1994. Finally, support for free trade agreements like NAFTA has risen from 34 percent in 2003 and 40 percent in 2007 to 44 percent now.

The Pew findings are confirmed by the findings of a survey recently released by Pete Brodnitz of the Benenson Strategy Group. That study indicated that, across party lines, virtually all Americans (86%) favor the passage by Congress of comprehensive immigration reform when they are given full details of that plan.

Leading the way in these increasingly tolerant attitudes is the Millennial Generation (Americans born 1982-2003). Only a third of Millennials (35% vs. 55% for older generations) believe that the growing number of immigrants threatens traditional American values. Just 58 percent of Millennials (compared with 77% of older generations) agrees that the United States should increase restrictions on those coming to live in America. A large majority of Millennials (71% in contrast to 62% of older Americans) favors a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. And, 61-percent of Millennials favor free trade agreements such as NAFTA in contrast to just 40 percent of older generations.

To date America has only seen the tip of the Millennial iceberg. In 2008, just 41 percent of them were eligible to vote and they comprised only 17 percent of the electorate. By 2012, more than 60 percent of Millennials will be of voting age and they will be a quarter of the electorate. In 2020, when the youngest Millennials will be able to vote, they will make up more than a third of the electorate. Over the next decade, this will make the ethnically tolerant attitudes of the Millennial Generation the rule rather than the exception in American politics.

At this early point in the Millennial era, Republicans remain most open to the intolerance and immigrant bashing of ethnically exclusionary strategies. Pew indicates the number of Democrats and independents who favor a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is up 11 points and 3 points respectively since 2007. By contrast, the number of Republicans who favor that policy is down by six points. In the end, a non-Hispanic approach by Republicans would amount to a continuation of Karl Rove's base strategy. As the Republican base continues to diminish in the Millennial Era, that strategy will be a recipe for disaster for the GOP, certainly in the long term, and very likely in the short run as well.

Weekly Immigration Update: Not all Immigrants Equal Before the Law

Last week we observed the awesome unity of immigrants from all backgrounds as they met in Washington, DC for a major conference gathering activists for immigration reform from all over the country.  Unfortunately, U.S. immigration law does not recognize the similarities between all immigrants.  In an interesting article by Julie Wolf, the Miami Herald notes that the new reason for Mexican immigration to the U.S. is drug violence, the entire piece is reprinted below. 

The families and individuals who are currently under seige in Mexico have not only suffered a more drastic economic crisis, many fear for their lives.  But Mexican immigrants have no "Temporary Protected Status" provision guaranteeing them safety from such persecution, nor is living under drug cartel violence in Mexico akin to living under a communist regime in the face of the INA.  But who is to judge that a Cuban living under the Castro regime is any better or worse off than a factory worker in Ciudad Juarez or a poor farmer in the state of Guerrero living under the terror of drug cartels or armed militias?  It is an unfair comparison, and thus our immigration laws need to be overhauled so that they are no longer based on alternative realities and unqualified judgements, but rather respond to individual cases - regardless of nationality.  We do not have rule of law in America when a U.S. citizen friend of mine who is trying to bring her sister and mother here from Ciudad Juarez legally has been waiting patiently "in line" for 15 years for USCIS to process their paperwork.  As she says: for Mexicans "there is no line." 

One does not dare suggest the U.S. should have "open borders," but it would be a great improvement to our broken immigration system to treat each individual case as an individual, who can apply for asylum or refugee status and have their particular circumstances considered, regardless of the country from which they originate.  Right now, most Mexicans who apply for asylum are denied, which will only put increased pressure on the undocumented flow of people in the long term.  The drug crisis will get worse before it gets better.  Let's stop encouraging the trade of humans crossing the border, let's pass comprehensive immigration reform this year and create realistic legal channels for entry into the U.S.  It is a mistake for border officials and government officials to "worry more about the drug wars than about immigration,"  because the two go hand in hand.

New reason for Mexican immigration to U.S.: Drug violence

Mexican immigration to the United States has been almost entirely an economic issue for the past few decades. Politicians have fine-tuned their positions around what to do about illegal immigrants who supposedly take jobs from Americans.

Now, however, as violence on the border continues to increase, a new kind of immigrant to the United States is appearing: people seeking asylum to escape the drug-fueled brutality in Mexico.

More than 5,400 people were killed in the violence last year, and more than 8,000 in the two years since President Felipe Calderon sent thousands of troops into the drug war zones.

"Some families living on the frontier are leaving, and the easiest way to live in the U.S. for them is by asking for the status of refugee," said Damaso Morales, a professor of international studies at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, the largest university in Latin America. "It's a way to get into the U.S. in a legal way."

Already, there have been two celebrated cases of asylum-seekers: a journalist who fled the northern state of Chihuahua after drug cartels threatened him, and the mayor of Ciudad Juarez, a major border city opposite El Paso, Texas, who pulled out when drug traffickers threatened his family. Though both succeeded in getting into the U.S., their tactic is still relatively untested in U.S. courts.

Ana Maria Salazar, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense during the Clinton administration who's now a political commentator in Mexico City, said that people were moving away from the country's crime-plagued border towns, if not yet to the U.S.

"Many people fearing for their lives in border towns are moving to big cities within Mexico," said Salazar, who has Mexican and American citizenship. "As descriptions of the violence continue to become public, there will definitely be talk about the refugee status" in the U.S., although she added that the violence would have to be "very high."

The increase in violence, experts said, has replaced immigration as the major source of friction in U.S.-Mexican relations. In March, Mexicans ranging from Calderon to local editorial writers were outraged when a U.S. official suggested that the government had lost control of some parts of the country to the drug lords.

The incident wasn't smoothed over until Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama visited Mexico and acknowledged that the U.S. bore a share of responsibility for Mexico's drug wars, not only from the billions of dollars sent south to purchase illegal drugs but also because of the high-powered weapons that are purchased legally in U.S. border towns and sold to Mexican gangs.

The fear created by this border violence, Morales said, is "a real problem, as Mexicans are coming in to the U.S. claiming asylum. These people would rather be in jail in the U.S. waiting to see if Uncle Sam grants them mercy than be in Mexico, where drug traffickers are killing family members."

Although the number of people entering the United States may increase if the violence continues to escalate, the number of Mexican citizens emigrating to the U.S. has dropped almost 25 percent within the past five months, according to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. Though it's hard to say why, the faltering U.S. economy most often is blamed.

"The economy here is really tied up in the economy of the U.S.," Morales said. "Things are very different and are changing in this economic crisis."

Francisco Gonzalez, an associate professor of Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, said that officials on both sides of the border now worried more about the drug wars than about immigration.

"The country has become very violent," Gonzalez said, "and it is very easy to see that things there could get even worse."

(Wolf is a student at Penn State University. This story was reported from Mexico City for a class in international journalism.)

Democracy or Not

Note: Today, I am going to take a break from my usual topic of clean technology and the environment to comment on the anniversary of two significant events in the history of freedom and democracy.

New York City -- Twenty years ago today, Poland held the first free elections in Eastern Europe since before World War II. Solidarity, led by former electrician Lech Walesa, crushed its main opposition, the Communist Party to win close to 100% of the vote. Walesa went on to become Poland's president, and Poland has since joined the European Union and NATO and emerged as a significant player in Europe with an economy larger than that of Sweden or Belgium. Led today by Donald Tusk, it is emblematic of the democracies that emerged in Europe in 1989 and 1990 following the withdrawal of the Soviet Union and the great leap forward for Democracy that has occurred more broady since then in much of the world.

Twenty years ago today, however, something quite different happened across the globe in China. The same day that Poles were voting for freedom, on the other side of the globe at Tiannamen Square, the Chinese government decided to quash a several-weeks rebellion that had brought China to a standstill.  The bloody action that followed involved troops firing successive volleys into the crowd in a manner reminiscent of the famous Indian massacre at Jallianwala Bagh that some say marked the end of British moral authority in India. China has since gone on to stage an economic miracle so that by some economic and social indicators it rivals the United States.  While per capital GDP is still a fraction of ours, China today churns out more PhDs, olympic gold medalists and pollution than the United States. The Chinese miracle is indeed more dramatic than that of Japan or any other country in modern history, but it has not led -- contrary to great Western hopes and wishes -- to democracy. Just this week, for example, China censored Twitter, Flickr and Hotmail.

The Polish example -- like that of the Czech Republic and similar states -- is reassuring to those of us in the West. It suggests that without coercion, left to their own devices, people choose democracy and democracy leads to prosperity. You can't have one without the other. Indeed one of the reasons that Gorbachev, Russia and its satellites turned away from Communism in the 1980s toward the American way was that our way seemed not only more enjoyable but so much better at delivering material well-being.

The Chinese example is not so reassuring. While we don't know what would happen without the continuing power of the Communist authorities, the Chinese example suggests that wealth can multiply in the absence of freedom and democracy. Indeed, it suggests that material wealth may act as a substitute instead of a complement to democracy and freedom of expression. 

This is troubling because in the United States we have gotten used to the idea that economic leadership and freedom go hand and hand. Certainly, we have used our economic and military strength to promote -- if imperfectly -- the cause of freedom. Our standard of living, moreover, has been not only an advertisement for our way of life but the draw for many who have chosen democracy.

There is much to validate our point of view in history. With some notable exceptions, free places have been economically and culturally dynamic ones. Ancient writers marveled at Athens' emergence from obscurity in only a matter of years after it embraced democracy and attributed the marvel, including the ferocity with which its people fought -- to their love of freedom. Rome and Carthage, the two most free republics of their day dominated, trade and commerce in the Mediterannean. Venice, a republic dominated trade in the high middle ages, prompting imitation. The Dutch Republic during the 17th century led the world in trade And England during its long sojourn as the world's leading economy was far more democratic than most. All this paved the way for America's experiment with freedom -- the world's greatest -- that has led to unprecdented wealth and prosperity for an unprecedented number as well as unprecedented freedom.

However, there are plenty of civilizations and empires in the world that were simultaneously rich and unfree, from the ancient Assyrian empire to the Incan and Aztec empires in the Americas to the Ottoman empire to the Chinese dynasties. These empires created less excitement and left less of a written record, generally, because they suppressed expression. However, they often generated substantial wealth in gold, decorative art and architecture.

It would be nice if wealth in China leads inexorably to Democracy.  However, we cannot take this for granted.  If China does not embrace the same ideals as the United States, our case will rest on our ability to continue to innovate -- so as to continue to lead economically--and also on our ability to convince the world that freedom has benefits beyond those that are purely economic. 

Russian Affairs

As GM prepares to file for bankruptcy in the wake of rejection by bondholders of a tender offer for their $28 billion in outstanding debt, the strongest bidder to emerge for its large European assets is Magna, a Canadian firm, backed by the Russian bank Sberbank and GAZ, a Russian carmaker controlled by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

This news comes on the heels of a deal announced yesterday for a Russian firm to take a $200 million stake in Facebook.  Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg indicated he accepted the Russian money because it came with a higher valuation than money offered by potential investors closer to home.  Facebook has previously taken money from investors in China (besides a high profile deal with Microsoft) making its funding base more international than most Internet companies.

The sudden appearance of two high profile Russian deals could just be a coincidence.  Or it could signal that Russia is looking to diversify away from natural resources which Prime Minister Putin had made a centerpiece of his economic strategy.  It does, however, raise provocative questions about the interrelationship between strategic and economic goals in a global economy.  Will Facebook's Russian investors have access to the data of Facebooks' millions of participants?  What role will Gaz play in determining Opel's future?  Less than a decade ago, US companies were not allowed to export strong encryption technology to Russia and many other countries.  Ideally, these sorts of deals will draw Russia more into the global economy; however, the scenario more troubling to contemplate is that security may trump economics and these deals will give Russia political leverage on economic matters.

The GM deal is notable, not only because of the Russian connection but also because it demonstrates that at best, the GM that emerges from bankruptcy will be far smaller than the one today.  Although not immune to the global downturn GM's European operations have long been among the company's most successful.  In addition, Opel has handled most of the engineering for GM's mid-size and compact cars, precisely the cars that the government says GM should now make more of.  Without Opel, GM will have to move its design and engineering operations for small and mid-sized cars to Detroit or Korea, potentially good news for laid off engineers in Michigan but problematic for the company's bottom line.  Indeed, the loss of its small car engineering capability if Opel is sold separately underscores the difficulty of trying to divide up a company as vertically and horizontally integrated as GM into good an bad pieces.  GM, like all the major automakers, derived its economies of scale precisely from sourcing and sharing its engineering and other components globally.  A smaller GM will potentially have to allocate these engineering costs against fewer revenues,

I was an advocate of trying to avert bankruptcy, however, the die appears to be cast.  Let us hope that the GM bankrupcy moves rapidly enough, while equitably addressing the rights of all stakeholders, to emerge in reasonably good condition on the other end.  

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