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Wonkbook: For 2 million illegal immigrants, change has come

Not too long ago, I sat down with a senior member of President Obama's political team. Talk turned, as it often does, to the election, and the official said something that surprised me: If the president wins, this official thought that we would look back after the election and pinpoint the day the administration announced their new policy on deportations as the day the election was won.

This week, that immigration policy, in which undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements can apply for relief from the fear of deportation, becomes reality. The details: "The program is open to immigrants ages 15 to 31 who came to the country before they were 16 and have lived here continuously for at least the past five years. Among other restrictions, they must be free of serious criminal convictions, be enrolled in or have completed high school, or have served in the U.S. military. On Tuesday, officials confirmed that those enrolled in GED programs and certain training programs will also qualify, broadening the program’s potential reach."

Estimates are that this will apply to almost two million illegal immigrants. And unlike most of what happens in an election year, this policy is actually changing their lives. It's headline news in the Hispanic press. Advocacy organizations are holding workshops across the country. For the people this policy will help, the world before this program and the world after it will be genuinely different. And for the people this policy won't affect, it is, if nothing else, a signal that the Obama administration actually is interested in figuring out solutions for them.

These immigrants, of course, can't vote. But they have friends, family, and are part of communities that can. And those communities, when faced with the choice between the presidential administration that did this, and the Republican Party that they've seen in recent years, might come to decide that this is a rather consequential election.

I didn't think much of the Obama official's comment at the time. But reading over some of the coverage of this policy change in local press, and looking at photos like this one, I'm starting to take it more seriously. Changing people's lives is always more effective than another campaign ad. And this policy is looking like it's going to change a lot of lives.

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Wonkbook dashboard

RCP Obama vs. Romney: Obama +3.0%; 7-day change: Obama -0.9%.

RCP Obama approval: 48.0%; 7-day change: +0.2%.

Intrade percent chance of Obama win: 56.9%.

Top story: For some illegal immigrants, hope replaces specter of deporation

The Obama administration's changes to immigration policy enforcement are now in effect. "The Obama administration kicked off one of the most sweeping changes in immigration policy in decades Wednesday, accepting applications from young illegal immigrants for the temporary right to live and work openly in the United States without fear of deportation. An estimated 1.7 million young people who arrived in the United States illegally as children could qualify for the new Department of Homeland Security program, and thousands are expected to pay the $465 application fee for a “deferred action” permit that would protect them from deportation for at least two years...On Tuesday, officials surprised advocacy groups by posting the application forms online one day early." Steve Hendrix in The Washington Post.

@DHSgov: Certain youth who came to the U.S. as children & meet other guidelines may be eligible on a case-by-case basis to receive deferred action.

Newly-legal temporary residents were excited, hopeful. "In Chicago, more than 10,000 people thronged Navy Pier to take part in an application workshop held by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. In Los Angeles, lines began forming at 5 a.m. outside the offices of another organization where more than 100 volunteers, including attorneys, were on hand to help applicants fill out forms...'I'm ready for my life to change,' said Luis Garcia, 27 years old, of Mexico...Crescencio Calderon, the 21-year-old son of a gardener arrived at sunrise. 'So many opportunities are going to open up now,' said the Mexican college student, who boasts a 3.95 grade point average and hopes to study law." Miriam Jordan and Ben Kesling in The Wall Street Journal.

@ByronTau: Obama will be in the 4th whitest state on the day his deportation freeze/deferred action for DREAMers kicks in (tomorrow)...

Democratic organizations are working to ensure that the eligible enroll. "Democrats in both chambers have launched a national effort to enroll young illegal immigrants in a new program letting them stay in the country without threat of deportation...Democrats are organizing outreach programs nationwide to help potential beneficiaries navigate applications, understand fees and avoid expensive scams...In Chicago, Gutierrez will join Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in hosting a workshop to get potential beneficiaries enrolled. At least 17 other cities, including Detroit and Los Angeles, are staging similar events." Mike Lillis in The Hill.

Most illegal immigrants are unaffected and will remain in the shadows. "Fewer than 2 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country are eligible for the program...That leaves life in the shadows to continue unchanged for the rest. For many who have been waiting to learn the final details of the program, its launch brought crushing disappointment. 'It was devastating to hear I didn’t qualify,' said a sobbing Elsi Hernandez after her visit to Carecen of Columbia Heights. Hernandez, 25, came to the United States when she was 17 and graduated from high school in 2008. She only learned while gathering documents to apply that she was too old when she arrived from El Salvador to be eligible. 'I just want to study and be a good example to my daughters.'" Steve Hendrix and Luz Lazo in The Washington Post.

Arizona governor Jan Brewer has ordered state agencies to not comply. "Jan Brewer signed an executive order on Wednesday denying driver's licenses and other public benefits to anyone benefitting from Obama's immigration policy that finally took effect today...Brewer says she's reaffirming current Arizona law denying state identification and tax-funded benefits to illegal immigrants." Connor Simpson in The Atlantic Wire.

Romney targeting Latino voters in new ad. "The ad opens with video of the president declaring, 'Yes, we can,' in Spanish, with onscreen text then responding back, 'Can we?'...As a montage of worried-looking Hispanic voters plays, onscreen text displays unfavorable statistics about the economy. Among the claims: more than 10 percent Hispanic unemployment and more than 2 million American Hispanics in poverty. 'Can we allow for Democrats to continue fooling us?' a narrator says. 'When Obama and his Democrat allies tell us, 'Yes, we can,' we've got to tell them we no longer can!' The Obama campaign fired back Wednesday morning, accusing the Romney campaign of misleading Hispanic voters in the ad." Justin Sink in The Hill.

Romney's ad (in Spanish): Watch it here.

Paul Ryan has moved to the right on immigration issues over time. "Paul Ryan has adopted a firm anti-amnesty, enforcement-first stance on immigration in recent years. But Ryan hasn’t always held such a hard line: In the past, he has supported multiple bills that would have allowed some illegal immigrants to apply for temporary guest-worker status — including one bill that would have provided a pathway to a green card for certain illegal immigrant farm workers...Ryan has since turned against any pathway toward permanent legal status." Suzy Khimm in The Washington Post.

Top op-eds

ROVE: Republicans are winning the political argument over Medicare. "Republicans must make [their] persuasive arguments for Medicare reform, which brings us back to Mr. Ryan. He has been doing so successfully back home...Democrats have long had an issue advantage on Medicare. Republicans cowered in fear. This time it's different. The Romney-Ryan ticket is not only talking about Medicare, it is putting Mr. Obama on the defensive. If Republicans succeed, politics will never be the same." Karl Rove in The Wall Street Journal.

KLEIN: The Obama administration's high-stakes bet on Paul Ryan. "Here’s the weird thing about Paul Ryan being named to the Republican presidential ticket: It’s all part of Barack Obama’s campaign plan -- a plan that’s working better than his strategists could have hoped. It could also backfire more disastrously than they have ever imagined...As Obama’s poll numbers dropped, they did everything in their power to publicize Ryan and his budget...The Obama team never could have predicted that its efforts would help vault Ryan into the nomination for vice president. But Ryan is a remarkably talented politician -- so good, in fact, that he managed to convince Romney and the Republican Party that the argument the Obama administration pursued so aggressively is actually an argument that Republicans will win." Ezra Klein in Bloomberg.

@fivethirtyeight: Romney's Ryan bounce across 11 polls thus far: +5, +5, +2, +2, +2, 0, 0, 0, -2, -2, -2. So, take your pick. +0.9 on average.

ALTER: Actually, Ryan is a godsend for Democrats. "If Barack Obama’s campaign officials were happy over the weekend about Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate, they’re ecstatic now...[A]ides traveling with Obama pointed with glee to headlines from Florida, Iowa and elsewhere that lash the Republican ticket to Ryan’s plan for deep cuts in Medicare, the nation’s most popular social program after Social Security...[T]he selection of Ryan looks like it will make that effort harder, and life in Chicago just a little bit easier." Jonathan Alter in Bloomberg.

WESSEL: Ryan's data-driven analysis is refreshingly honest. "Paul Ryan really is different...[He] is telling voters a few economic facts...Ryan, more than most who wave the "smaller government" banner, has made clear what spending cuts he has in mind...Mr. Ryan doesn't hide his priorities. He puts numbers on them...Whether Mr. Romney fully embraces the Ryan spending-cut agenda and whether voters favor such spending cuts remain open questions. But Mr. Ryan's enthusiasm for prescribing spending cuts, putting numbers on them and then trying to sell them distinguishes him from earlier Republican candidates." David Wessel in The Wall Street Journal.

@dkberman: No, this is not a typo. Paul Ryan's budget would cut Medicaid spending by 78% by 2050.

SACHS: Neither Democrats nor Republicans are defending what government must do. "[F]or all the rhetoric, the small-government agenda has already prevailed. No matter who is elected on November 6, dangerous cuts in public goods and services are already in train...Only a big political realignment, perhaps spurred by a third party bold enough to campaign on free social media rather than expensive television advertising, is likely to break the status quo. Until then, the demise of public goods and services will continue apace." Jeffrey Sachs in The Financial Times.

@samsteinhp: Shame on Obama for passing Medicare cuts that my VP kept in his budget which i called marvelous and pledged to sign

PEARLSTEIN: Why don't we just legalize bribery already? "I propose that we finally give up the charade that we are not 'buying' elections and, in fact, do exactly that — mount an all-out political and legal challenge to laws preventing us from buying votes directly...[B]ribing voters is an honored tradition in this country, dating to the early days of the Republic...The stunning success of the super PACs in the eyes of the public and the 1 percent gives us hope that the Supreme Court is ready to finish the work of bringing the magic of the free market to the electoral process." Steven Pearlstein in The Washington Post.

Top long reads

Paul Tough visits Roseland, where Obama got his political start: "When you’re down in Roseland, it’s easy to feel very far from the center of the nation’s attention. The big question that Gates wrestled with every day — how do you help young people growing up in poverty to succeed? — was not too long ago a major focus of public debate in the United States...If any American president might have been expected to focus his attention on Roseland and its problems, it would be Barack Obama. The neighborhood, as it happens, played a critical role in Obama’s personal and political history. As a young community organizer, he worked in Roseland...The idea that Obama hasn’t done much for poor Americans is simply not true; by some measures, he has done more than any other recent president. But [former New York Times columnist Bob] Herbert is right that Obama has stopped talking publicly about the subject. Obama hasn’t made a single speech devoted to poverty as president...[H]e is missing — so far, at least — an important opportunity to change and elevate the national conversation on poverty."

Classical music morning interlude: Eric Satie plays 'Trois Gymnopédies'.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Still to come: Good economic news on inflation, factory output, home builder confidence; the Medicare debate undermining common ground for pragmatic policy fix; FEC approves political-donation-by-text proposal; another hurdle cleared for nation's first offshore wind farm; and an graphic artist draws 'things he saw.'


Report: Inflation remains subdued. "The news on inflation: There isn’t any. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said Wednesday that the inflation rate for all products was a flat 0.0 percent in July...Excluding food and energy prices, as economists frequently do when calculating the 'core' rate of inflation, the consumer price index in July was 0.1 percent. Inflation for the past 12 months was 1.4 percent, and core inflation was 2.1 percent. Inflation as measured by the index has been below the Fed’s target of 2 percent annually since April and fell below that level for all but three months between November 2008 and February 2011."Dylan Matthews in The Washington Post.

Low inflation may lead the Federal Reserve closer to more monetary easing. " The Federal Reserve likes an annual rate of 2 percent. So it’s time for more stimulus, right? QE33333333333! Well, maybe. But don’t pay too much attention to the headline numbers...The Fed is focused on the future – monetary policy influences the economy only gradually – so what officials really care about is what the data will show in the coming months. Their most recent guesses, published in June, pegged core inflation between 1.2 and 1.7 percent this year – well below their target. They will bring updated predictions to the next meeting of the Fed’s policy-making committee in September. And it is those predictions that may determine whether the Fed decides to ramp up its bond purchases." Binyamin Appelbaum in The New York Times.

@BCAppelbaum: I wonder whether Richard Fisher speeches are leading indicators -- whether he becomes more outspoken right before the Fed acts.

More good news: factories are turning out more goods, and builder confidence rose. "Economists approached the mostly positive data with some caution...Still, the gains were encouraging, and they followed other July reports showing that consumers stepped up retail spending and that employers created the most jobs since February...[I]ndustrial production, which includes output at factories, mines and utilities, [is] up 0.6 percent in July, the fourth consecutive monthly increase...Home builder confidence rose to a five-year high of 37 in August from 35 in July, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo sentiment index. While that is well below 50, the dividing line between positive and negative sentiment about the housing market, the index has been trending higher since October. And in August, many builders reported their best sales levels since February 2007." The Associated Press.

Soaring farmland values may soften blow of drought on farmers' incomes. "Prices of nonirrigated farmland in a seven-state stretch of the Midwest and West rose 26% in the quarter through June 30, compared with a year earlier, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City said in a survey published Wednesday. Farmland prices nationwide had already nearly doubled in the past five years...Soaring prices, along with the widespread use of crop insurance, are insulating many farmers from the drought's financial impact. Farm incomes are expected to approach all-time highs this year, farm-equipment maker Deere & Co. said." Ian Berry in The Wall Street Journal.

@jbarro: Farmers talking about why they need subsidies sound almost exactly like teachers talking about why it should be impossible to fire them.

Muni bond defaults higher than reported, says NY Fed. "Defaults on municipal bonds for decades have been far higher than reported by rating agencies, bringing into question the true risk of a common investment widely considered to be safe, according to a study released Wednesday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Economists at the agency counted 2,521 muni bond defaults since 1970, whereas ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service, for instance, reported 71." Danielle Douglas in The Washington Post.

The cost of the auto bailout has risen to $25 billion. "According to the latest U.S. Treasury report, taxpayers will now lose $25.1 billion on those auto bailouts. That’s $3.3 billion more than previously estimated. And it’s not even the final price. So how costly could the bailout get, anyway?...[A] lot depends on when, exactly, the U.S. government decides to sell all the shares of GM that it currently holds." Brad Plumer inThe Washington Post.

Standard Chartered's settlement may upend efforts international cooperation among bank regulators. "Officials at the U.K. Financial Services Authority complained afterward to the New York regulator, which oversees Standard Chartered's U.S. unit, that the sudden move could have damaged the stability of the bank and that the lack of advance notice breached long-standing protocol among bank regulators, these people said...The swirl of bad feelings could complicate the regulation of giant banks that operate in two of the globe's financial capitals, New York and London." Liz Rappaport, David Enrich and Victoria McGrane in The Wall Street Journal.

@BCAppelbaum: We are now in the second week of complaints that some regulators just don't have nice manners anymore.

Ultra-fast 'femto-photography' interlude: What the world looks like with 1 trillion frames per second.

Health Care

President Obama weighs in on Medicare debate in Iowa speech. "Mr. Obama accused the Romney campaign of being "dishonest" about the changes he has made to Medicare, saying 'they're just throwing everything at the wall to see if it sticks.'...'I have strengthened Medicare,' Mr. Obama told a crowd of 3,000 people on the last of his three days in Iowa on a campaign swing...'Their plan ends Medicare as we know it,' Mr. Obama said." Carol E. Lee in The Wall Street Journal.

Watch the speech here: Obama in Dubuque, IA on Romney and Ryan.

Obamacare doesn't cut Medicare benefits, but it could indirectly hurt quality. "Medicare cuts to hospital payments could reduce the quality of care. It’s a finding that’s especially relevant right now as both campaigns are talking about Obamcare’s Medicare cuts, which slow down spending in much the same way...Every $1,000 in lost Medicare was associated with '6 to 8 percent increase in mortality rates…implying a 1 percent reduction in payment would translate to a 0.3 percent increase in mortality rates.'" Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Domestic Policy

FEC approves 'dial-a-donation' proposal. "A plea to text “donate” to 62262 (that’s O-B-A-M-A) may be coming to a political ad near you. The Federal Election Commission announced Wednesday that it has approved legal guidance that will allow small political donations to be added to cellphone bills when a campaign supporter sends a specific text message." T.W. Farnam in The Washington Post.

Penn. judge OKs state's voter-ID law. "A Pennsylvania judge declined Wednesday to block the state's voter-identification law from taking effect...Democrats in the state have said they believe the law, known as Act 18, would disproportionately impact poor urban voters and others more likely to vote for President Barack Obama and other Democrats. State Republicans say the law is intended to prevent voter fraud." Kris Maher in The Wall Street Journal.

Doodle interlude: The New York Times' latest series of op-art shows New York City scenes according to a casual artist's pen.


FAA greenlights nation's first offshore wind project. "In its latest ruling in favor of Cape Wind, the FAA said its study found that the proposed 130 wind turbines had 'no effect on aeronautical operations.'...The developer aims to begin construction next year in a shallow, 25-square-mile part of Nantucket Sound, a body of water surrounded by Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard." Jennifer Levitz in The Wall Street Journal.

The Department of Interior's Alaska drilling proposal demonstates acute awareness of the trade-off between energy and environment. "[Alaska] has been home to some of the fiercest political battles pitting energy interests against environmental concerns...[On some] Alaska-based energy questions, the Obama administration has not taken a pure pro-environment position. For instance, it has backed Shell’s efforts to enter previously untouched Arctic waters to drill. At the same time, it has imposed some new restrictions on onshore drilling...That balancing act was in evidence on Monday when the Interior Department released its proposal for new limits on drilling in the northwestern chunk of the state." Felicity Barranger in The New York Times.

A drilling-safety rule stemming from the 010 BP spill is now on the books. "The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) finalized an offshore drilling rule Wednesday that cements safety measures put in place after the 2010 BP oil explosion...The rule includes new standards for well designs, requires third-party verification that subsea 'blowout preventers' can close off drill-pipes and many other measures." Zack Colman in The Hill.

Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Evan Soltas and Michelle Williams.



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