Category Archives: Immigration

This time around, a more supportive stance on immigration from religious organizations

The usual suspects pushing immigration reform have a new ally in the fight this time — the religious right.

Christian conservatives, who stayed on the sidelines in 2006 or opposed reform outright, have sprung into action for the cause.

They’re talking to their congregations from the pulpit. They’re urging lawmakers in private meetings to support reform. And they’re even calling for change publicly.

Full article here:

Given my past research on religion and immigration attitudes, I find these developments very encouraging. 

More punditry on immigration reform

Some excerpts from David Brooks’ recent editorial on the case for immigration reform:

The forlorn pundit doesn’t even have to make the humanitarian case that immigration reform would be a great victory for human dignity. The cold economic case by itself is so strong. …

Thanks to the labor of low-skill immigrants, the cost of food, homes and child care comes down, living standards rise and more women can afford to work outside the home.

The second clear finding is that many of the fears associated with immigration, including illegal immigration, are overblown.

Immigrants are doing a reasonable job of assimilating. Almost all of the children of immigrants from Africa and Asia speak English and more than 90 percent of the children of Latin-American immigrants do. New immigrants may start out disproportionately in construction and food-service jobs, but, by second and third generation, their occupation profiles are little different from the native-born. …

The second big conclusion is that if we can’t pass a law this year, given the overwhelming strength of the evidence, then we really are a pathetic basket case of a nation.

Full article available here:  

A glimmer of hope on the horizon for immigration reform

The thousand-mile journey to comprehensive immigration reform has begun, as you might expect for Washington, with a single memo. Eight senators, four from each party, released it on Monday: a statement of principles behind a deal to overhaul the system in one big bill. It calls for more border and workplace enforcement, more visas for needed workers and legalization — with a path to citizenship — for 11 million undocumented immigrants.

The statement lacks specifics and leaves a lot of room for disappointment and retreat. But what’s encouraging is that it exists at all. No longer does the immigration debate consist of two groups yelling across a void. No longer is the discussion hopelessly immobilized by Republicans who have categorically rejected any deal that includes any hint of “amnesty.”

Full editorial available from the New York Times

From my perspective, the bipartisan immigration memo released this week is a very encouraging step in the right direction. As the NYT editorialists point out, there is a LOT to be concerned about with the proposal (the most significant being that the “pathway to citizenship” will be made conditional on reaching a level of border security that will be virtually impossible to achieve). However, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon for immigrant advocates (such as myself) that something might finally get done this year on immigration.

The growing coalition on immigration reform

Since I do research on the intersection of religion and immigration attitudes and policy, I am encouraged to see things like this coming out in the news:

Richard Land, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s policy arm, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said Tuesday at a news conference here that immigration was a “moral issue.” He warned Republicans that “if they want to be a contender for national leadership, they are going to have to change their ways on immigration reform.”

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the largest organization of Latino evangelicals, portrayed the Republicans’ dilemma in biblical terms. “They must cross the proverbial Jordan of immigration reform,” he said, “if they want to step into the promised land of the Hispanic electorate.”

Also this:

Former President George W. Bush weighed back in to the discussion on Tuesday by calling on policy makers in Washington to revamp the law “with a benevolent spirit” that recognized the contribution of those who moved here from other countries.

When a majority of Republicans in Congress are not on the same page as 1) national religious leaders, and 2) George W. Bush, it’s likely that something is going to eventually give somewhere. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in 2013. It might finally be the year that some progress is made on comprehensive immigration reform.

Next up: comprehensive immigration reform

President Obama is pressuring lawmakers to complete work on immigration next year. If they were starting from scratch, such a major endeavor would seem impossible. But under the Obama administration’s vision, it is more than doable because he is simply picking up the conversation where it left off in 2007, when an massive immigration bill died on the Senate floor. …

The outline of an immigration deal is already there. It involves a path to citizenship for undocumented workers and tightened restrictions on the border and in the workplace so that it will be harder for illegal immigrants to live in the United States and find work. Now all that is needed is the coalition that supports it. That’s happening too.

Full article available here:

Nativism strong predictor of Republican partisanship

A quick follow-up to my various posts about the role of nativism is our current campaign discourse. It begs the question of why the Romney campaign would be using the “foreigner” frame in characterizing the president or his policies. From my perspective, it’s straightforward: Romney needs to turn out his partisan base to win the election, and the Republican base of the last few years has become increasingly nativist. (I define “nativist” to mean that you would agree with the following statement: “Our American way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence.”)

Here’s data from the 2011 Pew Political Typology survey:

  Low nativism High nativism
Democrats and leaners 66.6% 33.4%
Pure independents 57.8% 42.2%
Republicans and leaners 43.5% 56.5%
Total 55.9% 44.1%

Whereas only about a third of Democrats express nativist sentiments, more than half of Republicans do, and this number climbs nearly 10% when looking specifically at “strong” Republicans – the ones most likely to turn out to vote.

In a regression analysis (not shown), nativism predicts Republican partisanship, even controlling for gender, age, education, religiosity, race, and income. In fact, it’s a stronger predictor than gender, age, education, or income. Only race and religiosity are stronger predictors of Republican partisanship.

Notice here, though, that I’m not passing judgment on whether nativism is “good” or “bad,” simply that this can help explain why Romney has been so quick to emphasize Obama’s “foreignness” lately. 

Nativism is real in the current presidential campaign

I post about nativism a lot, but that’s because 1) this is a concept that often gets overlooked in explaining American political attitude, and 2) I’ve been thinking and writing about it for the better part of the last five years.

Here’s some more evidence that it’s becoming a central part of the campaign discourse:

Mitt Romney has also sought to “other” President Obama, to present him as “not American” on a number of other occasions throughout this campaign. He did it on Dec. 7, 2011, and on Jan. 2, 2012.

Once could be a mistake. Twice (or more) is a pattern. The Romney campaign has clearly made a strategic decision to characterize Obama as “foreign.” Yes, they can say they are talking about his “ideas,” but that’s a distinction without a difference. The decisions he makes as president flow from his ideas. Romney is saying that Obama’s presidency would be “foreign.” There can be no question about that.


Partisan differences in the link between nativism and opposition to health care reform

Last summer I posted a bunch of evidence suggesting that nativism, the  opinion that a traditional American culture and way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence, is associated with higher levels of opposition to the ACA health care reform law. (See the whole post for a detailed recap.) My big research project here at Centre College over the summer (thank you FDC funding and Jordan, my research assistant!) is to polish it all up for a paper that I’ll be presenting at the American Political Science Association conference this September in New Orleans. 

Here is my novel addition to the analysis this summer:

This is based on an analysis of the 2011 Pew Political Typology Survey (N= more or less 1,500). The vertical axis is how likely one is to disapprove of the ACA health care reform bill on a 0-1 scale. The horizontal axis is the person’s level of nativism.

The interesting finding is that nativism is associated with less favorable views toward the ACA among Democrats as well as Republicans. However, the effect is three times as strong for Republicans than it is for Democrats.

Why is this the case? From 2009 to present we’ve had lots of Republican elected officials calling health care reform “un-American.” Apparently it made a difference! Those who are worried about “un-American” influence on our culture are more likely to oppose health care reform as a result. And since it’s generally only Republican politicians making that claim, it affects Republican partisans in the public at a much higher rate than Democrats.

Also, when there are many Americans who think that the chief advocate of health care reform (the president) is himself a foreigner (i.e. birth certificate conspiracy theory), they begin to associate the policies he supports as “foreign” as well.

Nativism and the 2012 campaign

I wrote my dissertation on nativism: the individual-level attitude that a uniquely American culture and way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence, broadly-speaking. As can be imagined, nativism plays an important role in shaping public opinion attitudes toward immigration, and my upcoming 2012 APSA paper (which Centre student Jordan Shewmaker is helping me out with) shows that it also shapes attitudes toward health care reform.

Now we see some inklings of nativism creeping into the 2012 election campaign discourse:

From Romney campaign surrogate and New Hampshire Governor John Sununu, earlier today:

He has no idea how the American system functions, and we shouldn’t be surprised about that, because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia, another set of years in Indonesia, and, frankly, when he came to the U.S. he worked as a community organizer, which is a socialized structure, and then got into politics in Chicago. … I wish this president would learn how to be an American.

Notice the key words “Hawaii” (not technically foreign, but still suggestive), “Indonesia”, “socialized” and then the explicit assertion that he is not an American.

Then from Governor Romney himself earlier today, talking about the president’s approach to economic matters:

“It is changing the nature of America, changing the nature of what Democrats have fought for and Republicans have fought for,” Romney said, adding: “celebrating success instead of attacking it and denigrating it makes America strong.”

“That’s the right course for this country,” Romney continued. “His course is extraordinarily foreign.”

Again, the key words the cue nativist attitudes: “nature of America” and “foreign”.

I’m not saying this to criticize. At any given time, somewhere between 40%-60% of the country responds in public opinion polls that they believe that “our American culture and way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence.” The interesting thing is that in addition to responding to Spanish-language TV and Muslim mosques, many with nativist attitudes also link “foreign” with President Obama. This is largely due to elite rhetoric like the kind we’re observing today. 

In an election where the winner will likely owe his victory largely to a faithful turnout from his partisan base, emphasizing pre-existing beliefs about the President Obama, for better or worse, is smart politics.

Supreme Court decision on AZ immigration law

All in all not a bad showing on the part of the Supreme Court:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down key parts of an Arizona law that sought to deter illegal immigration, but let stand a controversial provision that allows police to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws. …

While concluding that the federal government has the power to block the law, the court let stand one of the most controversial parts — a provision that lets police check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws if “reasonable suspicion” exists that the person is in the United States illegally. …

Provisions struck down included:

— Authorizing police to arrest illegal immigrants without warrant where “probable cause” exists that they committed any public offense making them removable from the country.

— Making it a state crime for “unauthorized immigrants” to fail to carry registration papers and other government identification.

— Forbidding those not authorized for employment in the United States to apply, solicit or perform work. That would include illegal immigrants standing in a parking lot who “gesture or nod” their willingness to be employed.