immigration reform

Backgrounder: The Administration’s Progress on Immigration and Border Enforcement

In light of the current public discussion of the Obama Administration’s record immigration enforcement, we offer up the following background materials compiled in the last two months from years of work on this topic.  While there is still more to be done, the Administration has made tremendous efforts over the last five years to secure the US border with Mexico, and to smartly prioritize enforcement resources for the removal of unauthorized immigrants with criminal convictions or who have recently crossed the border without permission.

Additional Resources:


We hope you find these useful, and please reach out with questions.

Frank Sharry and Tamar Jacoby on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

See video

Simon Rosenberg, Frank Sharry, and Tamar Jacoby discuss Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

On Gabby Giffords

I've had a hard time sitting down this weekend and writing about what happened to Representative Gabby Giffords and the good people in that strip mall parking lot on Saturday morning.   I know Representative Giffords.  To me she has always represented the best of what a Member of Congress could be.  Smart, hard-working, in touch with her complicated district, willing to take a stand even on tough ones like immigration reform and SB1070 (just take a look at the bio on her Congressional website to get a sense of her - remarkable stuff).  It is unimaginable that this thoughtful, respectful, serious elected leader was gunned down on Saturday.  In hearing the news my kids saw their daddy cry for the first time in their lives.  Am still strugging to make sense of it all, and am trying awfully hard not to put anything down in writing until I take a bit more time.  

But I also can't see what happened outside the prism of the extraordinarily contentious politics in Arizona these last few years.   NDN and its affiliates have spent millions of dollars in Arizona over the past decade, working to enfranchise and empower a Latino community that has been steamrolled and scapegoated to a degree far worse than other Latino community of size anywhere in the US.  In this past election cycle, NDN ran a major Spanish language media campaign in AZ, CO and NV, in part driven by the coursening of the debate and dialogue in Arizona (so well captured by the courageous Sheriff Dupnik) and ended up spending more money in the Tucson media market than any other.  As EJ Dionne writes about today, Rep. Giffords has been on the receiving of this extra-ordinary threatening  and contentious brand of politics (her opponent held fundraisers on a shooting range) more than perhaps any politician in the US these past several years.   

As we prepare for the Monday Martin Luther King holiday next week, let us reflect on his message, and in particular our own willingness to combat intolerance in our midst.  There is perhaps no greater founding principle of our nation than tolerance for those not like us.  It certainly predates the revolutionary spirit of the Boston Tea Party so very much in vogue these days, and in many ways is much more appropriate to the moment we are in.

Our nation in growing through profound and historic change right now.  We are leaving the security of a post WWII "American Century" culture, and entering a period of our national story much less certain.  We are have seen vast waves of immigration which is changing who we are.  Technology and media have become both liberating but also disruptive forces, literally reshaping the way we do just about everything in our lives.  Rising powers and greater global competition are remaking the world as we know it, forcing us to re-imagine America's role in a new century.  More must be done by our leaders to talk about these changes, help people understand them, and to craft plans and strategies which maximize our national chance for success.  This next great American project will have to be grounded in the value of tolerance and civil discourse, for we, Americans, have become much more diverse, and success in this new more complicated world of the 21st century will require America to inter-act with, and partner with, a vastly more diverse set of global actors than in the past.  Tolerance of people not like us will become a bedrock value of the emerging American ethic of this new century, or this next great American project will not turn out as we all hope it will.  

But i digress. and will certainly have more to add here in the days ahead.  I end by expressing my deepest and most profound hope for Gabby's recovery, and sympathy for those families who lost loved ones in this terrible, terrible tragedy.

Update - NYTimes has a thoughtful take along similar lines here.

Talked Immigration, Arizona and "Anchor Babies" on Fox Today

Given the news that the Department of Justice has filed its suit against the new Arizona immigration laws, it was an interesting day to go on Fox News to talk about immigration. You can watch my segment, which included the well known anti-immigrant crusader Dan Stein from FAIR talking about changing the 14th Amendment and other fun matters, below and here.

In prepping for my segment I found this following passage from the FAIR website about "anchor babies:"

What Does This Mean?

Higher Taxes: The federal government has control over immigration law for the United States. By not correcting this mis-application of the 14th Amendment, the funds that state and local governments must provide to anchor babies amounts to a virtual tax on U.S. citizens to subsidize illegal aliens.

Disrespect for the rule of law: Congress, by failing to act on legislation aimed at correcting the interpretation of citizenship by birth, in effect rewards law-breakers and punishes those who have chosen to follow the rules and immigrate legally.The original intent of the 14th Amendment was clearly not to facilitate illegal aliens defying U.S. law and obtaining citizenship for their offspring, nor obtaining benefits at taxpayer expense. The United States is unusual in its offer to extend citizenship to anyone born on its soil. Other developed countries have changed their citizenship practice to eliminate the problems caused by the practice of birthright citizenship.[1] The anchor baby problem has grown to such large proportions that the United States can no longer afford to ignore it. The logical first step for correcting the problem is for Congress to adopt legislation clarifying the meaning of the 14th amendment.

(we've added the bold face here)

What struck me was how clear FAIR is in this passage that federal law trumps state law when it comes to immigration, and the proper course for those wanting a different immigration system in the US was to pressure Congress to act. This is of course is the same argument the President made last week in his American University immigration speech, and the same argument the Department of Justice made today in bringing suit against other FAIR-inspired laws in Arizona.

I hope those politicians in Arizona are aware of the real game FAIR is playing here. As we saw in the remarkable movie, 9500 Liberty, FAIR views political actors in the states as local chess pieces in a more national game of anti-immigration chess. As the movie details, the local community in Prince William County, VA who tried the FAIR-crafted "probable cause" statute (an ancestor to the current AZ law) saw their economy tank, racial polarization increase, forclosures skyrocket. The movie details how FAIR fed a group of ambitious conservative politicians a legal and political strategy which ended up backfiring on the local community, caused tremendous harm to the residents of the county, cost the local government a lot of money, and was ultimately reversed by the politicians themselves.

In Arizona we are starting to see the same thing play out. The economy and reputation of the state are being harmed. Racial discord is soaring. Local newspapers, police chiefs and businesses are fighting back against the law. And now the federal government is properly inserting itself into the debate, reminding those in Arizona that their law is, simply, illegal. Arizona cannot set its own immigration policy, just as it cannot craft its own foreign policy. Increasingly all this stuff around SB1070 may be, at the end of the day, a massively damaging escapade by a group of ambitious politicians in Arizona led astray in part by the Rasputin-like leaders of FAIR.

But what is so sad to me is that if the leaders of the Arizona effort had actually read FAIR's website they would have understood that even FAIR itself doesn't believe that the law the people of Arizona have passed is legal. Increasingly the nation and the people of Arizona will come see the passage of SB1070 and other legislation begin cooked up now (see the clip of my Fox debate today with FAIR about the legality of the 14th Amendment!) as another chapter in FAIR's grand and so far failed strategy to fundamentally change the immigration debate in America.

It is possible that a local court prevents a stay of SB1070, and it goes into effect on July 29th. But I think the die is cast here now. Eventually we will get a federal law and a new federal immigration system, and the sooner folks like Russell Pearce stop listening to FAIR's crazy and failed ideas and start working with Congress to construct this new law, the better off the nation and the people of Arizona will be. For as in Prince William County, my bet is that pretty soon the people of Arizona are going to want to find a way out of the mess created for them, and will begin to view this law much more negatively than in some of the early "sugar high" polls showing broad initial support.

Update - In the Fox News discussion today I read a portion of the 1st Section of the 14th Amendment. Here is the whole passage:

Section. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Update 2, More on FAIR - Our friends at 9500 Liberty just released one of the most compelling parts of their remarkable movie. It comes in the latter half of the movie, when all of a sudden our understanding of how the debate around "probable cause" - essentially the same law as SB1070 in Arizona - came to Prince William. It was brought there by FAIR, a national anti-immigrant advocacy group, whose President Dan Stein I debated today on Fox, and who is featured prominently in the video below.

Please watch the video below my friends, for what you learn is that FAIR views counties like Prince William and states like Arizona as "laboratories;" they admit to being the "mad scientists" behind the spread of these strategies across the country; and they admit, on camera, to colluding with Republican politicians to use this issue to help them win elections, a particularly odd goal for a 501 (c) issue advocacy organization.

Why does this matter so much? For I hope the good people of Arizona understand that they are being used as a laboratory by a national anti-immigrant group, a group who has shown very little concern for the communities who've been torn apart by their divisive strategies in the past.

On Monday, Watch Sarukhan, Bersin Discuss Vision for "21st Century" U.S - Mexican Border

On Monday, May 24th, at noon ET, I hope you will tune into NDN/NPI for a special event looking at a vital new initiative - a newly announced joint US-Mexican vision for a "21st Century Border." 

Joining us for this discussion will be the Mexican Ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, and the Department of Homeland Security's Commissioner of Customs and Border Projection, Alan Bersin.  

This week, during the very successful State Visit of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, the United States and Mexican signed a new Declaration concerning Twenty-First Century Border Management.  This declaration lays out a comprehensive new approach to the joint management of the US-Mexican border, and expresses a strong commitment to:

  • Enhancing economic competitiveness by expediting lawful trade, while preventing the transit of illegal merchandise between their two countries,
  • Facilitating lawful travel in a manner that also prevents the illegal movement of people between their two countries,
  • Sharing information that enhances secure flows of goods and people, and
  • Disrupting and dismantling transnational criminal organizations and punishing their members and supporters.

This declaration was one of the most important achievements of the visit by President Calderon this week.  We are pleased to be hosting this event which will take a much deeper look at what this all means for our two countries in the years ahead.

The speaking program will begin at 12:15pm ET on Monday, May 24th.  You can watch on the NDN website by going to

Statement on President Calderon's Visit to the White House Today

I released the following statement today:  

“On display today was a US-Mexican relationship perhaps deeper and stronger than any point in the history of our two countries.  The tireless efforts of the current administration and the Mexican government has created an atmosphere of mutual trust and understanding essential for the success of each nation in the 21st century.  This new sense of trust and true partnership will pay great dividends for the people of both countries for decades into the future.

At NDN/NPI we are particularly pleased to see that President Obama has continued to show support for Congressional action on immigration reform and is carefully reviewing the legality of SB1070. It is also heartening to see President Calderon weighing in respectfully but forcefully against SB1070.

We congratulate both President Obama and President Calderon for their success in ushering in a new and better day in this historic and vital relationship."

Immigration Reform Debate Enters A New Phase

With the passage of the "probable cause" law in Arizona the immigration debate has entered a new phase  It will now be impossible for federal lawmakers and the Obama Administration to argue that nothing needs to be done, or that reform can wait.  This is a new dynamic in this complicated debate, and one that forces the hand of both political parties.   For there is universal agreement - right and left - that the immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed.  The question now for both parties is - what is your plan for fixing it?

The Democrats offered up their plan yesterday, a descendent of the original McCain-Kennendy legislation which passed a Republican led Senate with 62 votes in 2006.  I take the Senate leadership at their word and believe they will attempt to pass this new bill this year, and bring it up for a vote soon.

What will the Republicans do? So far only one GOP Senator has been even willing to sit down with the Democrats and discuss the bill.  This is a big problem for the GOP, for there are 11 GOP Senators who voted for McCain-Kennedy legislation in 2006 who really have no reason not to vote for this new immigration bill.  If anything the new bill has moved to the right, and has added elements that the Republican Senators should support.  If the GOP fails to deliver anyone on this new bill and the bill fails it will be accurate and fair to say that the bill failed because the GOP walked away from legislation they once supported.  This 2006 vote is the key here.  Unlike health care and financial services reform, for example, the GOP has a history of working with the Democrats on immigration reform (the last major reform was championed by President Reagan, and President George W. Bush was a major supporter of the 2006 bill).   There is no public option here, or consumer projection agency that the GOP can use as a figleaf not to support the new CIR bill.  Essentially the argument that the Senate Republicans have been making is that given all the primary challenges their candidates are facing from the right they cannot do it this year.  It is not the substance of the bill they are opposing.  Their internal politics won't allow them to move on CIR this year, at this time, this close the election.

For immigration reform now it is a question of when not if.  If the Democratic bill fails this year due to GOP opposition, the President and the Democratic leadership will bring the bill back early next year.  At that point the GOP will be totally out of excuses for why they cannot work with the Democrats.  The country is demanding that our broken immigration get fixed; the tragedy of Arizona will keep the failed system in the news; the Democrats have stepped up and are leading now.  I think the Republicans will have to support CIR next year for they will simply no longer have any logic to oppose.  And as we all know a sustained period of public opposition to this bill without any real reason other than political fear of their base will not only further damage the GOP brand with Latinos, the fastest growing part of the American electorate, but with most Americans looking for a Party willing to step up and solve the great problems facing the country. 

Update: you can find more of my thinking on this new post-Arizona landscape in articles in Politics Daily, and  Talking Points Memo.

New Policy Institute Releases New Report, "Hispanics Rising, 2010"

Yesterday, our affiliate New Policy Institute released a report by Andres Ramirez and Kristian Ramos on the rapid increase of the Hispanic population, fueled by recent waves of immigration to the United States.  You can find the Executive Summary here and the full report here.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at

Hispanics Rising 2010 Executive Summary

Hispanics Rising 2010 Full Report


NDN's 21st Century America Project Presents Hispanics Rising 2010

Yesterday Simon Rosenberg announced the launch of The 21st Century America Project, featuring NDN’s demographic and public opinion research.  Many of NDN’s senior staff are involved in this new project, including Alicia Menendez, our new Senior Advisor, Morley Winograd and Mike Hais, NDN/NPI Fellows, and Andres Ramirez, NDN’s Senior Vice President.

On Tuesday, April 27th, NDN will release Hispanics Rising 2010: An Overview of the Growing Power of America's Hispanic Community, a The 21st Century America report by Andres Ramirez and Kristian Ramos, that examines the most current trends characterizing America's growing Hispanic community.

The rapid increase in the Hispanic population in the U.S. is one of the most tangible demographic trends of the 21st century. Huge waves of immigration from throughout the Americas contributed to this exponential growth, and will have lasting effects on the complexion of the United States. At 15% of the U.S. population today, Hispanics are now America’s largest “minority” group, and are projected to be 29% of all those living in the United States by 2050. The combination of the 2010 Census and the upcoming mid-term elections provides meaningful context for examining the growing influence and power of the Hispanic community.

Hispanics Rising 2010

Tuesday, April 27th
Time has been changed to 12:00 PM.  Webcast will begin at 1215pm. 
NDN Event Space First Floor 729 15th Street, NW Washington, DC

Click here for more information on NDN's Hispanic Programs.

Talking on NPR about Immigration Reform

Was featured on a weekend NPR piece by Mara Liasson on the politics of immigration reform.  Enjoy.

Syndicate content