Tag Archives: immigration reform

Can Hillary Clinton become America’s Mutti?

Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton might find in German chancellor Angela Merkel a role model in the era of Trump (State Department)
Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton might find in German chancellor Angela Merkel a role model in the era of Trump (State Department)

In 2008, US president Barack Obama won the largest Democratic mandate in a generation, in part, by pledging to change the tone in Washington.USflag

But in 2016, after eight years of increasingly bitter and partisan posturing, it’s Obama’s one-time rival, Hillary Clinton, who now has the opportunity to transcend the hyper-partisanship that began with the divided government under her husband’s administration in the 1990s.

Donald Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party laid bare the long-growing schism among various Republican constituencies. Currently, the two living former Republican presidents (George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush), the party’s most recent presidential nominee (former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney), its one-time 2016 frontrunners (former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, Texas senator Ted Cruz and Florida senator Marco Rubio) and the Republican in the highest-ranking elected official — speaker of the House (Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan) — have all refused to endorse Trump.

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RELATED: That transcending ideology thing from 2008?
Merkel did it. Obama hasn’t.

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Despite the promise that the coming general election will be nasty, even by the recent standards of American politics, Clinton, if she’s nimble enough, can become a unifying and moderate figure who can work with both Republicans and Democrats. If Trump loses as badly as polls suggest he might, the Republican Party will be a shambles on November 8. The fight for Senate control was always a toss-up, and a Trump debacle could endanger even Republican control of the House of Representatives.

Increasingly, the debate in world politics is tilting away from traditional left-right discourses, replaced by a much darker fight, for the first time since the 1930s, between populist nationalism and globalist internationalism — and not just in the United States, but everywhere from the Philippines to the United Kingdom. In that fight, Ryan (and Bush and moderate Republicans) have much more in common with Clinton and the officials who will lead a Clinton administration than with Trump.

Make no mistake, if Clinton wins the presidency in November, she’s not going to form a German-style ‘grand coalition’ with Ryan and leading Republicans. Postwar German politics operates largely on consensus to a degree unknown in American (or even much of European) politics. Still, German chancellor Angela Merkel has already paved the way for how a successful Clinton presidency might unfold, and Clinton advisers would be smart to figure out, as the campaign unfolds, how to position Clinton as a kind of American ‘Mutti.’ Clinton is already reaching out to moderate Republican donors, but the challenge goes much deeper — to become a kind of acceptable figure to both blue-state and red-state America.

It’s not clear that Clinton has the same political skill to pull off in the United States what Merkel has done in Germany.

But it’s a rare opportunity, nonetheless, if she can.  Continue reading Can Hillary Clinton become America’s Mutti?

For El Paso-Juárez, Trump’s vision of Mexico based on misconception

In the leadup to Pope Francis's visit to Juárez, signs and billboards welcome him with slogans like, 'Chihuahua is love.' (Kevin Lees)
In the leadup to Pope Francis’s visit to Juárez, signs and billboards welcome him with slogans like, ‘Chihuahua is love.’ (Kevin Lees)

EL PASO, Texas and CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico – When Pope Francis visits Ciudad Juárez on Wednesday, city officials hope that the international attention will change its reputation as the homicidal, lawless capital of Mexican drug violence.USflagMexico Flag Icontexas flag

Five years ago, at the height of the city’s instability, it registered over 3,000 homicides annually. But that was before a renewed push for less corrupt policing, the local victory of the Sinaloa cartel and a retreat by the current Mexican government from a militarized approach to defeating drug cartels.

In 2015, the city recorded just 311 homicides, the lowest murder rate in nearly a decade. Philadelphia, by contrast, with roughly the same population, recorded 277 homicides in 2015.

But it’s not just Juarenses who hope the papal presence can rebrand the city. It’s also El Paso, which lies just across the border, and which is one of the safest cities in the United States, even at the height of the violent battle between the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels. In fact, Beto O’Rourke, who has represented the 16th Congressional district that includes El Paso since 2013, had hoped to work with Mexican officials to use to visit to highlight U.S.-Mexican relations on a far grander scale.

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RELATED: An interview with El Paso-area congressman Beto O’Rourke

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“There was an attempt that we were part of, short-lived, that was ambitious, to construct at small bridge across the [Rio Grande] to allow the Pope to sort of walk across and put his hand on the border fence,” O’Rourke said in an interview late last month. “I spoke to the diocese, to the bishop. I think that would have done so much to bring home to people how connected our two countries are. It would have been a powerful message.”

Though the plans fell through, O’Rourke will attend this week’s papal mass in Juárez, and he hoped that many El Pasoans will have a chance to see Francis, the first Latin American pope, as he drives along a border that divides one community into two cities that belong to two countries, the Apollonian yin of El Paso counterbalancing the Dionysian yang of Juárez.

In snowy New Hampshire, voters endorsed another view about the U.S.-Mexican border last week when Donald Trump swept to a crushing victory in the Republican presidential primary. When he announced his candidacy for the nomination last June in the lobby of Manhattan’s Trump Tower, the businessman attacked Mexico as an enemy of the United States, a country “killing us economically,” and he painted the vision of a southern border overrun with immigrants “bringing drugs” and “bringing crime,” labeling many would-be migrants as “rapists,” even while conceding that some “are good people.” Continue reading For El Paso-Juárez, Trump’s vision of Mexico based on misconception

What would Jeb Bush’s foreign policy look like?


Is he more like his brother or his father?floridaUSflag

One of the most vexing questions in US politics is whether the foreign policy of former Florida governor John Ellis ‘Jeb’ Bush will look more like his father’s or his brother’s. Bush announced he would ‘actively explore the possibility’ of a presidential campaign on Tuesday.

The common perception is that Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, was a moderate and a foreign policy realist. He largely navigated the United States to the post-Cold War world with deftness, and he wisely held back US force against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during the 1990-91  liberation of Kuwait. Bush père surrounded himself with hard-nosed realists like Brent Scowcroft, his national security adviser, and James A. Baker III, his secretary of state.

Conversely, the foreign policy of Jeb’s brother, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, weighs heavily his response to the September 2001 terrorist attacks, the onset of the global ‘war on terror,’ and the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq that ousted Saddam and presided over a sectarian civil war between competing Sunni and Shiite forces. Bush frère deployed muscular language in stark tones about democracy, freedom and embraced a neoconservatism that set itself as realism’s counterpart, with support from officials like Donald Rumsfeld, his defense secretary, John Bolton, his ambassador to the United Nations, and Dick Cheney, his powerful vice president.

On the basis of idle speculation and one speech earlier this month in Miami, commentators are already declaring that Jeb Bush, who might run to become the 45th president of the United States, is closer to his brother’s foreign policy than his father’s.

Those false dichotomies will only calcify before they become more nuanced. Continue reading What would Jeb Bush’s foreign policy look like?

Throughout ‘reform’ debate, US ‘immigration’ has changed


In 2001, when George W. Bush came to power in the United States, three factors — his record as a Texas governor, the strong relationship that he had developed with his conservative Mexican counterpart, Vicente Fox, and his hope to make the Republican Party more attractive to US-based Latino voters — meant that immigration reform was suddenly back on the agenda for the first time since 1986.USflag

Three US presidential elections, two Mexican presidential administrations and a 2001 terrorist attack and a 2008 financial crisis later, Bush’s successor, Democratic president Barack Obama, will take a leap toward immigration reform today through executive action, pushing as far to the line as possible without exceeding his authority vis-à-vis the US Congress.

Obama will announce today a plan that will de-emphasize the deportation of undocumented immigrants to the United States who have lived in the United States for at least five years, and he will do so with a prime-time Thursday night speech and a campaign-style rollout in Las Vegas on Friday:

Up to four million undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years can apply for a program that protects them from deportation and allows those with no criminal record to work legally in the country, President Obama is to announce on Thursday, according to people briefed on his plans.

An additional one million people will get protection from deportation through other parts of the president’s plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration enforcement system, including the expansion of an existing program for “Dreamers,” young immigrants who came to the United States as children. There will no longer be a limit on the age of the people who qualify.

But farm workers will not receive specific protection from deportation, nor will the Dreamers’ parents. And none of the five million immigrants over all who will be given new legal protections will get government subsidies for health care under the Affordable Care Act.

It’s a strong first step toward reforms that both Republican and Democratic politicians have attempted (unsuccessfully) to pass through the US Congress since the Bush administration. Obama’s action could affect between 4 to 5 million of the currently 11.4 million undocumented immigrants in the United States today.

Why now? And why without Congress?

A pro-reform Republican president couldn’t pass a bill with either a Republican-led Congress (from 2005 to 2007) or a Democratic-led Congress (from 2007 to 2009). Nor has a pro-reform Democratic president passed a bill with either a Democratic-led Congress (2009 to 2011) or, currently, with a Republican House. Obama’s action indicates that he doesn’t believe that the switch to a fully Republican-led Congress will make much different. Despite howling from the Republican opposition about the ‘monarchial‘ nature of Obama’s executive action

While Washington debated immigration for over a decade, the nature of immigration in the United States has changed dramatically. Even if the basics of ‘reform’ today still look and feel like they did in 2001 or 2005 or 2008, the world has changed, and the nature of immigration to the United States has changed with it.

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RELATED: 2014 US midterms showcase rise of Asian Americans

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For example, in 2013, more Asians migrated to the United States than Latin Americans, part of a new wave of immigration from an even more diverse array of cultures, languages and backgrounds that’s rising. In 2008-09, as the global financial crisis sent the United States into its worst recession in decades, net migration from Mexico actually decreased, reflecting a larger trend that began in the mid-2000s. Continue reading Throughout ‘reform’ debate, US ‘immigration’ has changed

What Eric Cantor’s stunning primary defeat means for world politics

Israel's PM Netanyahu walks next to House Majority Leader Cantor before pre-bipartisan meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington

The eyes of the entire political elite were on the 7th congressional district Thursday night, as the majority leader of the US House of Representatives, Eric Cantor, lost a primary election to challenger Dave Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College by margin of 55.5% to 45.5% among mostly Republican voters in a sprawling exurban district that includes Richmond’s northern hinterland and the faintest southwestern hinterland of the DC metro area.USflag

The most immediate response from pundits is that Cantor’s loss all but dooms the chances for immigration reform between now and 2016:

Coming off President Barack Obama’s re-election, immigration reform was seen as an issue both parties could deal with quickly. Democrats wanted to deliver on promises made to their Latino backers and Republicans wanted to get the issue off the table to avoid reliving the electoral demographic nightmare of 2012.

But House GOP leaders have long said they wouldn’t bring up the Gang of Eight bill the Senate passed last year, and Cantor’s embrace of even piecemeal proposals was derided by opponent Dave Brat and tea party activists as “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.

That’s probably right.

While there were almost certainly several reasons for Cantor’s loss to Brat, a conservative insurgent supported by Tea Party enthusiasts and several top conservative radio talk show hosts, the perception that Cantor’s muddled position on supporting at least a tepid version of immigration reform will almost certainly scare House Republicans from supporting any version of reform between now and the 2016 election. Political writers were already calling Cantor’s shocking loss  a harbinger of difficulty for the presidential hopes of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who’s weighing a run, and who has called illegal immigration to the United States an ‘act of love.’ 

That, of course, has obvious implications for US foreign policy in Latin America, where immigration reform is one of the top regional issues, alongside enhancing trade, drug policy and promoting economic and political development.

It’s the first time since 1899 that a House majority leader, second in rank only to the speaker of the US House, currently John Boehner of Ohio, has lost an election, and it’s a political earthquake reminiscent of Democratic speaker Tom Foley’s 1994 loss in his own House district in Washington state or of the Democratic US Senate minority leader Tom Daschle’s loss in 2004. 

But both of those upsets were not entirely unexpected, and they came at the hands of surging Republican candidates in November general elections, not to underfunded Tea Party renegades in a primary election. 

There will, no doubt,  be plenty of commentary on Cantor’s loss in the hours and days ahead. Most immediately, Cantor’s defeat creates a looming hole in the House Republican leadership — Cantor’s position as House majority leader was so secure that he was thought to be the favorite to succeed Boehner as House speaker. 

But what, if anything, will Cantor’s loss mean for foreign affairs?

It’s worth noting that Cantor was not merely the only Jewish Republican in the House caucus (one among 233 lawmakers), he was the highest ranking Jewish member of the US Congress in American history. Though there’s no shortage of support on Capitol Hill for Israel, especially among Republicans, Cantor (pictured above with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu) held a special role for Jewish conservatives in the United States. When Netanyahu visited the United States four years ago, he met privately with Cantor before an official visit with Hillary Clinton, then the US secretary of state at the time, and he told Netanyahu that House Republicans would act as a ‘check’ on the administration of US president Barack Obama. 

Although there’s no love lost for Cantor among Jewish Democrats, who largely noted they wouldn’t be sorry to see his exit from Congress and from the House leadership, his loss is a blow to big-tent Republicans who desire as broad and diverse a leadership as possible. 

Nonetheless, Cantor was a top Netanyahu ally among the House Republican leadership ranks. Just earlier this week, as US diplomats softened their opposition to the new unity Palestinian government between the competing Fatah and Hamas factions, Cantor reiterated his call to suspend US aid to the Palestinian Authority.

But Cantor’s loss isn’t just a defeat for Netanyahu.

As Timothy B. Lee at Vox also notes, Cantor’s loss is also bad news for the National Security Agency: Continue reading What Eric Cantor’s stunning primary defeat means for world politics

How U.S. immigration reform might affect México


The last time the United States seriously contemplated immigration reform, it was also immediately after the inauguration of a new Mexican president — Vicente Fox, a business-friendly conservative whose Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) came to power for the first time in 69 years, ousting the long-governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).Mexico Flag IconUSflag

That was 12 years ago, and this time, the PRI has returned to Los Pinos with a new president — Enrique Peña Nieto.

While Peña Nieto’s administration moves forward with tax reform and business-friendly reforms of the Mexican labor and energy markets — all of which the PAN will likely support — his approach to pending U.S. immigration reform couldn’t be more different from Fox’s.

Fox came to office alongside U.S. president George W. Bush, and both had high hopes for U.S.-Mexican relations — after all, both were conservative reformers and former governors (Fox in Guanajuato in the industrial north of México and Bush in Texas along the Mexican border) with larger-than-life personalities and cowboy boots to match.  So observers on both sides of the border believed their personal chemistry and simpatico views would actually bring about a new era in bilateral good feeling.

Fox’s major address before a joint session of the U.S. Congress, marking a turning point in Mexican-American relations, in fact, came on September 6, 2001.

What happened five days later would turn the Bush administration’s attention far from México, except for security concerns with respect to potential terrorists crossing into the United States, despite Fox’s vigorous and active campaign throughout the rest of his six-year term, and thereafter, for the United States to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

This time around, net migration from México has slowed from a burst of migration activity to net zero migration, according to Pew Research’s Hispanic Center, ending or even reversing a decades-long trend:

The U.S. today has more immigrants from México alone—12.0 million—than any other country in the world has from all countries of the world.  Some 30% of all current U.S. immigrants were born in México. The next largest sending country—China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan)—accounts for just 5% of the nation’s current stock of about 40 million immigrants.

The relatively bleaker economic conditions over the past four years in the United States have much to do with the sharp decline, but there are other reasons, too — optimism over a Mexican economy that’s growing so rapidly that it is set to overtake Brazil’s economy as the largest in Latin America in the 2020s, and a half-century of declining Mexican birth rates.

Given that Fox’s approach fell flat, and in light of the relatively fewer gains for Mexican migrants north of the border a decade later, Peña Nieto’s approach has been decidedly less hands-on:

In a joint appearance, Peña Nieto told Obama that Mexicans “fully support” the idea of immigration reform but said, “More than demanding what you should do or shouldn’t do, we do want to tell you that we want to contribute. We really want to participate with you.”

Like his predecessor, the PAN-backed Felipe Calderón, Peña Nieto appears to be more interested in working with the United States on security matters, especially at a time when drug-related violence is on the decline in México, and at a crucial time for a new administration that hopes to bring a less confrontational approach to security, focused on reducing violence rather than declaring full-out war against Mexican drug cartels.

The release last week of a ‘bipartisan framework’ from a group of U.S. senators, however, makes U.S. reform more likely now than at any time during the Bush administration, meaning that the issue of immigration reform will necessarily take up more space on Peña Nieto’s agenda this year. Continue reading How U.S. immigration reform might affect México