For better or worse, the President’s executive action can and will only go so far. And while many leaders on both sides of the aisle acknowledge that it’s time for legislative reform, very vocal holdouts remain, protesting that executive action will “poison the well” for reform. Even among supporters of reform, the tune is often to “start with border security,” as one Senator-elect recently commented.
Yet we are hardly “starting” with security. Border security and enforcement have driven immigration policy for the better part of two decades, under both Republican and Democratic administrations. In 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act expanded mandatory detention and created re-entry bars for undocumented immigrants. The 2004 creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) added an anti-terrorism focus to immigration enforcement, aided by expanded powers under the Patriot Act. What’s more, President Obama’s just-announced executive action includes provisions to continue the surge of resources pumped into the border to manage this summer’s influx of migrant children.
DHS’ FY15 budget is more than $60 billion, nearly double 2004’s $36.2 billion allocation. Of the current budget, its two enforcement agencies ―US Customs and Border Protection and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement― get $18 billion. That is more than 15 times the spending level of their predecessor, the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, at the last big reform in 1986. By comparison, the combined budgets of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives are $14.4 billion.
To date, the administration has returned and removed a record two million undocumented immigrants, earning Obama the nickname “deporter-in-chief” among unhappy advocates. And while President Obama’s executive action will provide deportation relief for up to five million people, it will also further centralize border security, continuing to crack down on illegal immigration at the border.
Yet as security spending at the border is on the rise, the number of illegal crossings continues to fall. Net migration from Mexico fell to zero between 2005 and 2010 for a variety of reasons, some recession-related, but signs point to it staying at that level despite a strengthening US economy. In 2011, border arrests were at the lowest levels the nation has seen since 1972. An even as activity at the border spiked in recent months as violence ravaged Central America, the number of child migrants apprehended has declined sharply as of August.
Recent data strongly suggest that Americans have noticed the results yielded by enforcement efforts of recent years.
The 2014 Chicago Council Survey of US public opinion recorded the lowest level of concern over immigration since it began polling on the issue two decades ago. Today, an all-time-low of 47 percent of Americans prioritize controlling and reducing illegal immigration as a “very important” policy goal, down from a peak of 72 percent in 1994, according to the survey. Furthermore, only 39 percent feel that large numbers of immigrants and refugees coming into the US are a “critical threat,” compared to a 1994 peak of 72 percent.
Today, Americans feel more threatened by other issues. Chicago Council Survey respondents put cyber attacks, international terrorism, and drug-related violence near the top. They cite job protection, reducing US dependence on foreign oil, and reducing the spread of nuclear weapons as critical foreign policy goals.
It’s time for Congress to consider a new strategy that recognizes Americans’ policy priorities.
On the heels of executive action, this country’s lawmakers should look beyond security, focusing instead on the other, badly neglected items needed to fix our broken immigration system and boost the economy: updating outdated visa queues and quotas to create a world-class skilled workforce, developing a workable legal entryway for lower skilled migrant workers, and providing a path to legal status and even citizenship for millions now living in the shadows.
There is a tremendous opportunity for the 114th Congress if it focuses on what it can do instead of what it wants to block. This is the place to start.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy.
The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion.
The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.
In the spirit of Throw Back Thursday, Running Numbers is digging out its archived polls to look back at America’s foreign policy feelings of old. This week, we’re looking at Council data on Americans' perceptions of the threat posed by chemical and biological weapons in the late 90s and early 00s.
In the spirit of Throw Back Thursday, Running Numbers is digging out its archived polls to look back at America’s foreign policy feelings of old. This week, we’re looking at the first time the Council asked Americans about their perceptions of various threats to the US and its interests.
The polling community took a lot heat following the failure of forecasters and data journalists to predict Trump's triumph in the 2016 election. But polls measure so much more than voting intentions says Council senior fellow Dina Smeltz.
There is perhaps no more important bilateral relationship in the world today than the one between the United States and China—the world’s two most important players in terms of economics and security. Where do the Chinese and American publics stand on key issues in the relationship, and what policies do they want to see their respective nations pursue worldwide?
Although President-elect Donald Trump has threatened to dump the Paris Agreement on climate change, calling it a “bad deal,” the 2016 Chicago Council Survey finds strong bipartisan support for US participation.
Trade was an important issue in the recent presidential election, but not in the way the media and many prominent observers have led us to believe. The dominant narrative in the media was that disgruntled manufacturing workers whose jobs had been sent overseas emerged, understandably, as trade’s strong opponents, thus making Trump with his strong anti-trade rhetoric their natural ally.
In partnership with the New America Foundation, the 2016 Chicago Council Survey included two questions developed to provide better insight about the importance of promoting women's rights and women's participation in societies around the world.
Donald Trump just pulled off one of the most stunning upsets in American political history, capturing the presidency last Tuesday night. How did it happen? This election was all about identity politics, with Trump able to connect with non-college whites, especially white men without a college degree.
New survey evidence suggests that leaders strongly support international engagement but substantially underestimate public support for international engagement, globalization, and immigration among the broader American public.
The 2016 Chicago Council Survey partnered with the Levada Analytical Center in Moscow to ask Americans and Russians how they feel about each other and—more importantly—each other’s government.
There are three patterns in American politics that take on special significance in 2016: the gender divide in Presidential elections; the low support for Donald Trump among women; and the growing discussion in the foreign policy community about the inclusion of women in the policy process. Nonresident fellow Richard Eichenberg explores the extent of gender difference in the 2016 Chicago Council Survey data and assesses the relevance of any differences to this year’s presidential election.
What are the most interesting results from the Council's annual survey of Americans’ views on foreign policy? Dina Smeltz, senior fellow on public opinion and foreign policy, shares her "top five" list of surprising findings from the 2016 Chicago Council Survey.
On October 6, 2016 the Chicago Council released the results of its 2016 Chicago Council Survey. Get the full report.
Karl Friedhoff takes a look at American attitudes on South Korea from data in the 2016 Chicago Council Survey.
Karl Friedhoff takes a quick look at American public opinion on North Korea in light of its 5th nuclear test.