NDN

Why DHS Fees Are So Unjust - GAO Finds DHS Did Not Adhere to Federal Accounting Standards and Principles

We knew there was something very wrong with the new fee schedule released in Summer of 2007, now GAO explains why these fees, in fact, have no basis.   

In February 2007, the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) completed a study to determine the full costs of its operations and the level at which application fees should be set to recover those costs.  Based on its analysis, in June 2007 USCIS's new fee schedule increased the cost of some applications by over 300%!  For e.g., the cost of applying for Legal Permanent Resident status went from around $300 to $675 ($595 plus an $80 biometric fee) - and that does not include the cost of hiring a lawyer to assist throughout the application process, which most immigrants can't afford (and people wonder why immigrants fall out of status).  The cost of applying for citizenship went from around $192 plus a few additional fees, to $460, plus additional exams and fees.

This GAO report, released today, to investigate USCIS fee review found that the costing methodology USCIS used to develop the fees for each application type did not consistently adhere to federal accounting standards and principles and other guidance (surprise surprise).  The GAO reports:

While federal accounting standards allow flexibility for agencies to develop managerial cost accounting practices that are suited to their needs, they also provide certain specific guidance based on sound accounting concepts. USCIS's methodology was not consistent with federal accounting standards and principles and other guidance in the following aspects: (1) costs paid by other federal entities on behalf of USCIS were not included in its estimates of costs, (2) key assumptions and methods used for allocation of costs to activities and types of applications were not sufficiently justified, (3) assumptions about staff time spent on various activities were not supported by documented rationale or analysis, (4) the cost of premium processing services was not determined, and (5) documentation of the processes and procedures was not sufficient to ensure consistent and accurate implementation of the methodology.

USCIS charges fees for processing the millions of immigration applications it receives each year, and intends to fund the cost of processing and adjudicating them directly through fees paid by applicants.  We hope the Obama Administration reviews this GAO data closely, and that under Secretary Napolitano, one of the first actions taken by this administration is to return fees to a schedule that is affordable and stops serving as an obstacle for people to renew or adjust their legal status.

NDN and other Groups Deliver Letter to the Obama Administration Outlining Priorities to Fix the Broken Immigration System

Over Twelve-Hundred Groups Sign Letter to New Administration

Over 1,200 advocacy and non-profit organizations, including NDN, delivered a letter to the Obama Administration outlining priorities in order to fix the broken immigration system.  The letter stresses the urgency with which the new Administration should approach immigration reform legislatively and administratively, noting that efforts to address the many ills facing our immigration system have become the victim of gridlock in Washington for too long.

"Over the last eight years, immigrants and their families, employers and workers alike, have suffered from our nation's inability to find common ground on the issue of immigration reform," states the letter, which was signed by groups in 39 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Noting the President's background and the new era his presidency signals, the letter says, "As the son of a Kenyan national and a woman from Kansas, you validate the American dream and we believe that your victory represents a triumph for tolerance and hope."

While we hope the Administration acts swiftly to address the most egregious problems with the enforcement practices and last minute regulatory changes of the previous Administration, there is only so much President Obama and his team can do on their own.

"While President Obama can address some matters administratively, ultimately the President must propose and the Congress must enact meaningful, broad immigration reform to bring order to the current chaos," said Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum. "Reform that is fair, respects the rights of immigrants and non-immigrants, strengthens our economy, reduces the black market, and gets immigrants and employers playing by one set of enforceable rules should be the goal.  We know what needs to be done, now we have to summon the political will and focus the President's political muscle on making it happen."

"The urgency for reform cannot be overstated," the letter says.  "Unless and until we recalibrate our policies, all Americans' rights will be at risk, our communities will be divided and the power of our nation's fundamental principle of E Pluribus Unum compromised."

The letter, delivered late last week to the President's transition team, is part of a broad effort to bring together immigrants, advocacy and civil rights organizations, faith leaders, employers, trade associations, and labor unions in an effort to enact immigration reform as quickly as possible.

"In the 2008 elections, immigrant voters and their families turned out across the nation in unprecedented numbers. They were inspired by your message, including your commitment to a comprehensive reform of our nation's immigration system. The reform challenge is formidable, but so is our resolve," the letter states.

For the full text of the letter and list of signatory organizations, click here.

Thursday New Tools Feature: Now Streaming -- "Change" (Buffering...)

Add one more to the list of firsts from Tuesday's Inauguration -- the event set a new all-time high for internet traffic in the U.S., according to an article in today's New York Times. From the article, "Online Video of Inauguration Sets Records":

Internet traffic in the United States hit a record peak at the start of President Obama’s speech as people watched, read about and commented on the inauguration, according to Bill Woodcock, the research director at the Packet Clearing House, a nonprofit organization that analyzes online traffic. The figures surpassed even the high figures on the day President Obama was elected.

“The peak is the highest measured to date, and it appears to be mostly a U.S. phenomenon,” Mr. Woodcock said, adding that it did not appear that global records would be set.

...CNN said it provided more than 21.3 million video streams over a nine-hour span up to midafternoon. That blew past the 5.3 million streams provided during all of Election Day.

In total, a whopping 60% of Americans watched or listened to the event live, and another 20% either saw or read reports of it that day. From a Gallup report today:

The live audience included 70% of nonworking Americans, but also 53% of those currently employed -- suggesting that many workers either took the day off or had the opportunity to watch or hear the ceremonies at work.

Americans were clearly more interested in the inauguration of Barack Obama than they were in George W. Bush's second inauguration four years ago. In 2005, only 40% of Americans said they watched or heard the inaugural ceremonies live.

These record-breaking internet numbers match the record-breaking crowds Obama drew here in DC this week, and are an appropriate marker for the start of the first 21st century presidency.

The news is not all good, however. Many people experienced problems when attempting to watch the proceedings online:

The viewing troubles may have been more a result of the limited Internet capacity coming to offices and houses, rather than a lack of overall bandwidth from the media companies, according to Mr. Woodcock. The United States continues to suffer from less-than-robust bandwidth, which Mr. Woodcock attributes to inadequate government attention and limited competition between Internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast. President Obama, in fact, mentioned the issue in the very speech that people were trying to watch.

Luckily, President Obama seems to recognize the importance of expanding our internet infrastructure so that all of America can join in, and not just those of us that can afford expensive computer equipment and a broadband subscription. Currently, the United States is 19th in the world in broadband penetration, right behind Estonia. The stimulus package currently contains $6 billion to increase access to broadband internet, which will go a long way towards ensuring that more Americans enjoy the advantages of the digital revolution.

Hispanics and Immigration Reform Must be Part of the Economic Agenda

Reports from the Pew Hispanic Center and others, released at the end of 2008, show disturbing data on the impact of the economic crisis on minorities, and I hope Tim Geithner is up to speed on this information and keeps minorities in mind as he helps map the course for economic recovery.  We hope Geithner's confirmation hearings over the next few days will pass to a speedy confirmation so that he can get to the business of governing "for all Americans," along with President Obama.

Data show that minority workers have fewer employment opportunities, lower wages, or both as compared to their white counterparts. As a result, they tend to have lower incomes and slower income growth.  And because minorities are less well suited than white families to save and build an economic cushion, hard economic times place them in tougher conditions sooner than is the case for white families.

Hispanics are currently suffering a percent of unemployment much higher than that of their white counterparts, 9.2% in January, up from 8.9% unemployment in December 2008.  In addition, the unemployment rate for Hispanics rose faster than for any other group, increasing by 3.1% from December of 2007-December of 2008, while the unemployment rate for whites rose by 2.1% and for blacks, 2.9%.

Even during a period of employment gains enjoyed by Hispanics from 2001-2007, poverty increased among Hispanics over the same period, which only highlights the low wages at which Hispanics tend to work. In 2007, 8.2 percent of whites lived below the poverty line, up from 5.4 percent in 2000, but well below the 21.5 percent of Hispanics who lived below the poverty line in 2007.

Lastly, personal and family income has steadily declined for Hispanics.  From 2001-2007, family incomes for whites were about 30 percent greater than for Hispanics and that gap has increased over time.  Hispanics' median family income declined by an average of 0.5 percent per year from 2000, the last full year before the last recession started, to 2007, the last year for which data are available, falling to $38,679 from $39,935, or by a total of $1,256 (in 2007 dollars). In comparison, whites' median family income fell at a much lower rate of just 0.003 percent per year, for a total decline of $12 between 2000 and 2007, to $54,920 from $54,932 (in 2007 dollars).

Large disparities in health insurance coverage also persist.  In 2007, 32.1% of Hispanics lacked health insurance coverage, compared to 10.4% of whites.

Additionally, Hispanic home ownership rate was only 49.7% for Hispanics in 2007, compared to 75.2% for whites.  While the annual average increase of homeownership was greater among Hispanics, many were also victims of bad-actor lending companies and they ended up purchasing high-cost mortgages, as opposed to market rate mortgages.  Nearly 29% of home purchase loans made to Hispanics in 2007 were high cost, as opposed to only 11% for whites.

We encourage Secretary Geithner and President Obama to show courage and leadership in developing an economic stimulus and economic recovery that addresses these discrepancies and includes financial literacy for minorities.  In addition, we encourage President Obama to take the lead on fixing our broken immigration system in order to help stem this economic crisis.  As long as the trap door of undocumented immigration remains, we will not be able to achieve economic recovery.  It is vital that Congress and the Administration realize that as long as we continue the race to the bottom fostered by our broken immigration system, we will not achieve economic recovery.

Wednesday Buzz: The Inauguration of a New Generation, Pragmatic Progressivism, More

Yesterday's proceedings were an historic landmark in many ways, representing a momentous step forward in race relations in America and a dramatic shift in governing philosophy and ideology. 

But President Obama's inauguration as the 44th president of the United States of America was historic in other ways as well -- NDN Fellows Morley Winograd and Mike Hais helped to provide some context and insight into the generational implications of this inauguration in the San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Chronicle, Forbes, the Palm Beach Post, and the Orlando Sentinel. From the Chronicle piece:

"This is our moment," says Jonah Khandros, 23, of Orinda, a Democratic political activist who worked on Obama's campaign and traveled to the nation's capital this week. He plans to celebrate the inauguration by uniting with dozens of friends from high school and college who have scattered around the country. "We've waited for this; a lot of us worked for it," he said. "But even if your only contribution was talking to your mom and dad and convincing them to vote for Obama, we feel our generation gets a lot of credit."

Morley Winograd, an author and a fellow at NDN, a progressive think tank and advocacy organization, says the Woodstock comparison is entirely appropriate. "This is their moment to demonstrate to America what they think America's future should be like," said Winograd. "They are going to celebrate that and underline it for all of America. Of course, the race relations breakthrough is huge, and the media will be focused on it ... but the generational difference, the moment the generational shift takes place, is also an important story."

...NDN Fellow Michael Hais, who co-authored "Millennial Makeover: My Space, YouTube and the Future of American Politics" with Winograd, said that the Millennial generation's overwhelming and early support of Obama means Millennials are poised to watch his swearing-in with a high level of connection. A recent Rasmussen poll, he said, showed they are expected to tune in to today's events at more than twice the level of other generations.

And another quote, this one from the Mercury News article:

Obama's campaign mobilized a new generation of voters, and the turnout of about 1.5 million in Washington was a testament to his wide appeal. The new 47-year-old president claimed a mandate for bold action, despite the doubts of many.

"What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply," he said.

Morley Winograd, author of "Millennial Makeover" with Michael Hais, said Obama "was elaborating on the theme of generational change, that we are getting past ideological division, that we need government action and to rebuild our image abroad."

Simon was quoted in the Financial Times and the Boston Globe (and its sister papers) on the challenges facing our new president. From the Globe:

Obama begins his term with a long list of national troubles to address: an economic recession, massive home foreclosures, high unemployment, two wars, a healthcare crisis, and a damaged US image abroad - any one of which could derail his presidency in the first year.

But Obama also starts with a deep reservoir of good will among the public and elected officials in both parties. Recent polls have found that Obama is the most popular incoming president in a generation, with 80 percent of Americans in a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Sunday saying they approved of the way Obama handled the transition. Further, 71 percent said Obama had earned a mandate to work for major new social and economic programs.

"These are happy times for our politics, but a very tough time for the country," said Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, a progressive think tank. "There's both tremendous hope and a great deal of sobriety. People are having both of these feelings at the same time."

Simon was also featured in the New York Times blog talking about immigration reform.

Finally, Michael Moynihan was featured in the Los Angeles Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Obama's climate change challenge. From the LA Times feature:

"Before you spend billions of dollars on new lines, you have to spend millions of dollars on design work," said Michael Moynihan, the green project director of the liberal think tank NDN in Washington, who has worked extensively on green infrastructure and the stimulus. "Nobody had been thinking about this much money [becoming available]. So the planning just has not been done."

What Race Means in America is Changing

Here's a video I just recorded on the idea of how race is changing in America. Some additional links to related essays are below.

 

Majority Minority

 

Southern Strategy

For more of NDN's analysis of race in American politics, please see:

The GOP and Magic Negros - 12/30/08

Virginia and the New Coalition - 11/30/08

The Long Road Back - 11/18/08

"The Tipping Point" - VIBE, 10/14/08

Race and 21st Century America - 3/18/08

On Obama, Race, and the End of the Southern Strategy - 1/4/08

The 50 Year Strategy - Mother Jones, 11/07

Monday Buzz: Inaugural Fever, NDN Internacional, y Mas (and More)

It was a worldly week for NDN, with Simon quoted in Agence France-Presse (France, English translation here), Diario Público (Spain), Telemetro (Panama), RTBF (Belgium), Realitatea (Romania) and Globo (Brazil) on how President-elect Obama will reinvent the White House the same way that he reinvented how political campaigns are run. From the English translation of the AFP story:

"Obama is going to change the game with government the way he changed the game with politics," said Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, a Washington-based progressive think-tank.

"We should expect that experimentation is not just going to happen in the White House, but there will be competition inside the administration," he said at a panel discussion this week on the Internet and policy-making.

"Using these tools is going to become a critical way that Barack is going to evaluate the performance of his own team," Rosenberg said.

Simon was also quoted in the El Paso Times about last week's Obama-Calderon meeting and the beginning of a stronger US-Mexico relationship. 

Morley Winograd and Mike Hais were quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Advertiser, the Boston Globe, and Prophetizing.com about Obama's use of technology and his appeal to civic service, both themes that they explore extensively in Millennial Makeover. From the San Francisco Chronicle piece:

Morley Winograd, a fellow at NDN, a Democratic advocacy group, and co-author of "Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube, & the Future of American Politics," said that the speech will probably include at least one reference to a theme that Americans on both sides of the aisle will welcome: "rebuilding America's civic spirit."

"The way to solve that is through a unified effort, a perfect millennial theme, the 'Joshua generation' - that we hold hands and blow down the walls together," he said. "I don't think it will have a single digit of partisan tinge. ... It will be 'everybody is in this together.' "

Morley and Mike were also quoted in The Hill about Speaker Pelosi's Rickroll YouTube video (now there's a sentence I never anticipated writing). From the Hill article: 

“I think this is part of the congressional wakening that, given the power of social networks demonstrated by the Obama campaign, Congress needs to get with the program,” said Morley Winograd, coauthor of the book Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube and the Future of American Politics.

“The key to success in YouTube or any other social network is to have something that's inherently interesting, and I think that's what they're trying to get at with this choice,” Winograd added. “I think it's important for politicians using this kind of medium have a challenge to make sure their use of pop culture isn't exploitative or old-fashioned. It's a delicate line to walk.”

Finally, Rob was featured in Roll Call on the need for a carbon tax, and NDN's pollster and longtime friend Sergio Bendixen was featured in Politico.

NDN Participates in Latino Political Action Training Day, Pre-Inaugural Day Weekend

Washington, D.C. - Today, Simon and Andres will address approximately 100 Latino organizers, community leaders, and individuals interested in increasing the civic participation of Latinos from approximately 20 different states. 

It is most fitting that Simon and Andres begin the day's program, reflecting on Latino vote in 2008.  NDN's most significant accomplishment has been our advocacy for what we have called the "new politics."  For years NDN has made the case that a new politics was emerging in America, driven by three major changes: 1) the emergence of a new governing agenda and priorities, 2) the emergence of a whole new media and technology construct that was fundamentally changing the way we communicate and advocate, and 3) the emergence of a new American people, one very different from the demographic makeup of the U.S. in previous decades.  As part of this third pillar of the new politics, NDN has made the case to progressives and those on the center-left that for us to succeed as a 21st century movement, we must involve Hispanics and encourage Latino participation in politics. 

This day-long event is intended to serve as one major step to ensure that Hispanics continue to build on the momentum built by their participation in the 2008 elections, and engage civically.  Panelists are experts in the areas of political organizing, media strategy, and advocacy.  Attendees are coming to this pre-Inauguration event from AZ, CA, CO, D.C., FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, MA, MD, NV, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, PR, TX, VA.

LATINO POLITICAL TRAINING DAY
Más que nuestro voto: The New Latino Movement

Saturday, January 17, 2009
8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
National Council of La Raza Headquarters
Raul Yzaguirre Building, Washington, D.C.
1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, D.C.

Honorary Co-Hosts

Rep. Xavier Becerra & Rep. Linda Sanchez

Schedule & Speakers
8:30-9:30 a.m.  Registration. Continental breakfast. Activity on challenges facing the Latino community.

9:30 a.m. Official Opening & Welcome Remarks

9:35-10:35 a.m.  Reflection on 2008 Election

Simon Rosenberg, President of NDN
Andres Ramirez, Vice President for Hispanic Programs at NDN
Temo Figueroa, Obama campaign Latino Vote Director

10:35-11:35 a.m. Political Fundraising

Gabriela Lemus, Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement
Regina Montoya, Poder PAC member, previous congressional candidate in 200, and previous chief executive of the New America Alliance

11:35 a.m.-12:35 p.m. Media Outreach

Estuardo Rodríguez, Raben Group
Fabiola Rodríguez-Ciampoli, Rep. Xavier Becerra Communications Director and former Hispanic Communications Director for Hillary Clinton's Presidential Campaign

12:35- 1:50 p.m. Lunch and Conversation with Latino Leaders

Moderator: Adolfo Gonzales, Ed.D., National City Police Chief
Mireya Falcon, Mayor, Achichilco, Hidalgo, Mexico
Delia Garcia, Kansas State Representative
Victor Ramirez, Maryland State Assembly
Emma Violand-Sanchez, Arlington County School Board

2:00-3:00 p.m. Advocacy/Lobbying

Sam Jammal, MALDEF
Larry Gonzalez, Raben Group
Alma Marquez, Green Dot Public Schools

3:00-4:00 p.m. Community Organizing
Introduction: Dario Collado, Harvard University Latino Leadership Initiative
Marshall Ganz, Harvard Professor and designer of "Camp Obama" organizing strategies for Barack Obama's presidential campaign.
Jeremy Byrd, former Ohio General Election Director, Barack Obama's Campaign for Change
Carlos Odio, Deputy Latino Vote Director, Obama for America

4:15-5:00 p.m. Regional Break out sessions

Participants will break into groups based on their geographic region to reflect on lessons learned during the course of the training, key issues to address, and next steps.

5:15 p.m. Closing Remarks

Melody Gonzales, New Latino Movement Committee Chair

Stephanie Valencia, Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs, Presidential Transition Team and Deputy Latino Vote Director, Obama for America

Busy Week for NDN Hispanic Programs

Friends, it has been a busy week for NDN's Hispanic Programs.  Today, NDN released a statement congratulating Sen. Rockefeller for introducing an amendment to the Children's Health Insurance Program that eliminates a five year wait for legal immigrant children to receive care.

You can check out Simon's thoughts on this debate on our blog

Additionally, in case you missed it, NDN issued a statement on Monday regarding President Calderon's visit, and we have begun a new feature on our blog - the Weekly Update on Immigration, which provides analysis of the week's most relevant news in the area of immigration in the U.S. and Mexico. 

Lastly, NDN will be participating in several events during the week of inauguration.   Andres and Simon will be sharing their insight into the demographic transformation of the United States and the role of the Latino electorate at the "Latino Political Training Day,"  being held for organizers and activist from over 20 different states in order to keep the momentum of Latino civic participation from the elections going.  Simon will also speak on Latinos and the Economy during the morning session of the Latino State of the Union event hosted by NCLR.  We hope you can join us at these important events. 

SATURDAY, JANUARY 17, 2009

9:00 am-5:00pm

Más Que Nuestro Voto: The New Latino Movement
Latino Political Training Day
Location: NCLR Headquarters, 1126 16th St Washington DC
The aim of this training is to build upon the momentum and increased civic engagement of Latinos in the 2008 presidential campaign season by offering participants the skills training and resources to achieve social and political change in their home districts. The day-long training with experts in political organizing, media, and advocacy, will focus on strengthening the grassroots community to leverage the growing political power of Latinos throughout the nation.
Apply online and receive more information at http://www.newlatinomovement.org/ or http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=52035952222

MONDAY, JANUARY 19, 2009

8:30 a.m.

Latino State of the Union
Cohosts: NCLR, MALDEF, LULAC
Location: Hyatt Regency Hotel
400 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001

The Dawn of a New Politics

In a special pre-Inaugural video, Simon reflects on the confluence of forces that led to the election of Barack Obama and the dawning of a new political era:

For more of NDN's thinking on these historic changes now taking place before our eyes, please see:

The Long Road Back - 11/18/08

Obama to Reinvent the Presidency - 11/7/08

More Evidence of a Sustained Progressive Revival - 8/15/08

Hispanics Rising, 2 - 5/30/08

$55 million and the emergence of "a virtuous cycle of participation" - 3/6/08

On Obama, Race, and the End of the Southern Strategy - 1/4/08

"The 50-Year Strategy" - Mother Jones, 10/30/07

"The Democratic Opportunity" - Politico, 4/11/07

The End of the Conservative Ascendancy - 11/12/06

A Day of Reckoning for the Conservative Movement - 11/7/06

Foreward to Crashing the Gate - 3/7/06

Thoughts on the Internet, Politics and Participation - 12/03

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