The Republican Party and Immigration Policy

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Alissa_Sal's picture
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The Republican Party and Immigration Policy

The Republican Party’s tough immigration policies are encouraging immigrants to become citizens and vote for Democrats. - Slate Magazine

For years now, Republicans have successfully fought for legislation making life hard for immigrants. Laws on the books bar immigrants from receiving public benefits and obtaining government jobs, threaten them with deportation for minor offenses, and in some instances encourage police harassment. But the GOP should tread more carefully when it comes to immigration?and not only because some of the party?s positions might offend Latinos. Ironically, the Republican push for laws designed to encourage ?self-deportation? have accomplished something entirely different; they have created a politically significant bloc of naturalized citizens who are deeply motivated to vote out those politicians who enacted these laws in the first place.

Much has been written about the record turnout of Latinos in the 2012 election, which has put immigration reform back on the political agenda. Mostly overlooked is the newfound electoral strength of naturalized citizens, who also care deeply about immigration reform, but who cannot simply be lumped together with the Latino vote. Naturalized citizens comprise more than 8 percent of eligible voters, two-thirds of whom are not Latino. They constitute a discrete, and increasingly powerful, voice in favor of immigration reform.

Of particular interest are the newly naturalized citizens?those who became Americans in the last decade?because surveys show that both their choice to pursue American citizenship and their subsequent voting behavior are influenced by the politically charged atmosphere surrounding immigration. Immigrants can be denied many of the public benefits available to citizens, such as access to Medicaid, food stamps, and welfare. Newly naturalized citizens report that one of the main reasons they chose to become American citizens is to acquire the civil and legal rights of citizens. Foreign-born Americans are also at special risk for harassment under the new ?show-me-your-papers? laws in Alabama and Arizona, which allow the police to ask for proof of citizenship from anyone who they have ?reasonable suspicion? to think is in the United States illegally.

Most seriously, even legal immigrants who have lived in this country for nearly their entire lives are at risk of deportation for minor crimes. (Exhibit No. 1 is Adrian Moncrieffe, whose case is before the Supreme Court. Moncrieffe has been a legal resident of the United States since he arrived with his family at age 3 in 1984 and yet is now threatened with deportation for possessing three cigarettes? worth of marijuana.). The recent spate of state immigration laws were intended to scare immigrants into returning to their countries of origin. But they have backfired on their supporters?pushing immigrants to naturalize and then seek their revenge at the ballot box.

Once they earn the benefits and protections of citizenship, these new Americans put their rights to work. A recent report from the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration at the University of Southern California found that voting rates among the newly naturalized increased during periods ?charged by political tensions around immigration.? Data from the 2008 presidential election show that newly naturalized immigrants are registering to vote at higher rates than in the past. The report?s authors suggest that the politics of immigration reform inspire these new citizens to participate in the political process. In other words, the louder the anti-immigration rhetoric, the more likely these new citizens are to register and vote.

As has been widely recognized, Latino voters strongly supported Democrats in 2012, but the naturalized vote shouldn?t be confused with the Latino vote. Only a third of naturalized voters are Latino, another third is Asian, and the rest are non-Hispanic whites and blacks. This racially and ethnically diverse group of foreign-born citizens supports Democrats over Republicans. Indeed, 73 percent of Asians voted for Obama in the 2012 elections, a higher percentage than the 71 percent of Latinos who did, and in much higher numbers than Asians supported Democrats in the past. Two-thirds of Asians are naturalized citizens, and thus it appears that the GOP?s hostility to immigrants alienated these voters just as it did other naturalized citizens.

Of course, even in their increased numbers, naturalized citizens make up a small fraction of the current electorate. But we live in an era in which state and federal elections are decided by razor-thin margins in battleground states?states where many of these new Americans reside. In the November 2012 election, for example, newly naturalized citizens constituted 6 percent of the voting-age population in Florida?a state that Barack Obama won with just a .88 percent margin of victory. Likewise, the newly naturalized make up 5.1 percent of the eligible voters in Nevada and 3.5 percent in Virginia?both states that narrowly favored Obama over Mitt Romney. These voters may also have made the difference in the close Senate races in Virginia, in which Democrat Tim Kaine beat Republican George Allen by only 5 percent, and in Massachusetts, where Elizabeth Warren defeated Scott Brown by a similarly narrow margin in a state in which 5 percent of the voting-age population was naturalized since 2000.

The trend is sure to continue with the help of immigrant rights groups seeking to harness the power of the naturalized vote. On Nov. 26, 2012, the New Americans Campaign kicked off its effort to push the nation?s 8 million eligible immigrants to naturalize. Headed by Doris Meissner and James Ziglar?both former Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioners who served under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively?the New Americans Campaign will donate $20 million to promote naturalization in major metropolitan areas. Existing groups, such as the Oregon Voice New American Voters Project, provide voter registration at naturalization ceremonies, and the New Americans Democracy Project promotes voter turnout among the immigrant community. As these organizations well know, naturalized citizens are a powerful voting bloc in favor of immigration reform.

After the 2012 elections, Republicans appear willing to consider legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States. So far, however, they have been reluctant to provide undocumented immigrants with a path to citizenship, in part because they fear that these new citizens will vote against them in upcoming elections. Left out of this calculus is the voting power of naturalized citizens, who don?t have to wait for immigration reform to seek retribution at the polls.

Bolding mine. Given the recent attention that has been paid to the GOP's anti-immigration record and how this may have harmed them in the last election, do you think that they will soften their stance on immigration and immigrants in the future? Should they?

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4116

Ya maybe the Republican Party should soften their stance on abortion too, after all a higher percentage of black babies are aborted than white, and more black people vote Democrat.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

I'll take that as a no. LOL!

I think they're in a hard position, actually. I think that (like Gloria) their base constituency wants to continue on a hard line approach, but I think it's easy to understand why that approach is alienating to groups that might otherwise respond to their message. A lot has been made about how many Latinos might naturally fall along more conservative lines; many are religious, socially conservative, et cetera. However, many Latinos also have a ton of empathy for immigrants since many of us have a history of immigration within our own families and circle of friends.

It will be interesting to see how the party responds, or if they do, to the changing demographics of the US.

mom3girls's picture
Joined: 01/09/07
Posts: 1535

The GOP is going to have to come up with some comprehensive immigration reform that will allow for people to come here more easily. Then they will have to be better about how they sell the message. Right now they are doing a horrible job of it and allowing the Democrats to send the message that the GOP is against all immigration, not just illegal.
I do not know a single conservative that is against immigration, all the ones I know just want people to come here legally and then obey our laws or go back.

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

I agree with Lisa. I'm very much for immigration reform but what is presented is too narrow. They need to work in places where it is hard to get here legally and we can't be deporting people that are naturalized citizens or legal residents for small infractions.

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

"GloriaInTX" wrote:

Ya maybe the Republican Party should soften their stance on abortion too, after all a higher percentage of black babies are aborted than white, and more black people vote Democrat.

This is so very Margaret Sanger of you, Gloria!

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4116

I can tell you what would change minds about amnesty. Close the borders! Until we stop more people from coming over illegally anything we do is just encouraging more people to come. Hire more border agents, use the military, national guard or whatever it takes. It would not only solve that problem but also keep more drugs from coming into the country and make us safer from terrorists. THEN it would make it a lot easier to solve the problem of those that are here.

Funny though maybe its because we are closer to the border but most of the Mexicans in this area aren't very sympathetic to those that come through illegally. Maybe that's why they are heading further north.

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

"GloriaInTX" wrote:

I can tell you what would change minds about amnesty. Close the borders! Until we stop more people from coming over illegally anything we do is just encouraging more people to come. Hire more border agents, use the military, national guard or whatever it takes. It would not only solve that problem but also keep more drugs from coming into the country and make us safer from terrorists. THEN it would make it a lot easier to solve the problem of those that are here.

Funny though maybe its because we are closer to the border but most of the Mexicans in this area aren't very sympathetic to those that come through illegally. Maybe that's why they are heading further north.

I agree with this! And the reason they aren't sympathetic is because they are rich and did it "right" because they could afford to. I was just reading about them.

The New

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

I had no idea most of the Mexicans in Texas were rich! Maybe I should move to Texas....:lol:

If Mexicans looking down on Mexicans is a regional thing, I'm glad I live in Denver. If I had to guess though, just based off of my own family and the other families I know, I would have guessed, SES aside, it's more of a generational thing. My grandparents and aunties and uncles wanted to be Good Mexicans and part of being a Good Mexican is looking down on Bad Mexicans. I could go into the insidiousness of internalized racism here, but I won't because I've done it before, got all emotional, and didn't make a dent in anyone's thinking. Wink

Gloria - I don't know that we really have to spend all of that money to slam shut the border unless we just want to because it makes us feel good.

http://www.pewhispanic.org/files/2012/04/PHC-04-23a-Mexican-Migration.pdf

GloriaInTX's picture
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"Potter75" wrote:

I agree with this! And the reason they aren't sympathetic is because they are rich and did it "right" because they could afford to. I was just reading about them.

"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

I had no idea most of the Mexicans in Texas were rich! Maybe I should move to Texas....:lol:

Wierd. I live in Texas and none of the Mexicans I know are rich. About half of my extended family are married to Mexicans and none of them are rich either.

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4116

"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

Gloria - I don't know that we really have to spend all of that money to slam shut the border unless we just want to because it makes us feel good.

http://www.pewhispanic.org/files/2012/04/PHC-04-23a-Mexican-Migration.pdf

The problem is that we don't really know how many people are still coming across. They just base the numbers on how many that are caught and say xxx number must have gotten through based on that fact that we caught xxx number of people. I have heard border agents say that they have been discouraged from catching people just so it will look like less people are coming over. I sure haven't seen the birth rates for illegal immigrants going down at Parkland. In fact they have become so overcrowded that they haven't been able to keep up.

Parkland emphasizes care over nationality, is top hospital in noncitizen births in Texas | Dallas-Fort Worth Communities - News for Dallas, Texas - The Dallas Morning News
Parkland Hospital, Major Healthcare Provider For Latinos, Risks Medicare Funding Due To Negligence

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

Birth rates shouldn't matter - people born here are legal citizens, just like me and you! Smile

We're getting a little far afield from the original topic, so I meant to ask you before. If you don't believe that immigration is a harmful topic for the GOP, is it because you are discounting the immigrant vote as being too small to matter, or because you believe that immigrants aren't voting for the GOP for reasons other than their immigration stance?

For example, per the article I posted, 73% of Asians supported Democrats over Republicans in the last election, and 2/3's of the Asian population are naturalized citizens. That paints a pretty clear picture that the Republicans aren't attracting the Asian vote, and probably a lot of the Asian vote is from naturalized citizens. Do you think the reason that they aren't attracting this demographic is over their immigration policies, or for some other reason? If you think it's another reason, what is that reason?

Same with the Latino vote - 71% of Latinos voted Democrat (that number doesn't specify how many are native born citizens vs naturalized citizens) so that seems like the GOP isn't really reaching Latino voters, even though, as I have said before I think a lot of them might feel a sort of natural fit with the Republican party because IME they tend towards being religiously and socially conservative. Do you think that the problem for Latino voters is the GOP's immigration policies, or do you think it's something else? If so, what?

ETA: PS - I also meant to say that if you read the report, it isn't just reporting on deportation records. It also pulls records from the Mexican census which talks directly about who has left to go to the US, and who has returned, and who has never left to go to the US. According to those data points, the number of people who aren't going to the US is up, as is the number of people who have been to the US but returned and have no plans to go back. All this is an aside because I really want to talk about the GOP, but I couldn't resist responding to that part of your post. Wink

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

I don't think parties should change their stances period. If need be create a NEW party.. it happened with the Republicans, there was a need and the party filled it and took people from the other parties to create it. It happened once it will happen again. Stick to party lines, don't waiver, and let the populous decide what they want. Don't cater to the populous.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

"Rivergallery" wrote:

I don't think parties should change their stances period. If need be create a NEW party.. it happened with the Republicans, there was a need and the party filled it and took people from the other parties to create it. It happened once it will happen again. Stick to party lines, don't waiver, and let the populous decide what they want. Don't cater to the populous.

While I can see where you are coming from, I do not necessarily agree. Opinions can and do chance. Slavery was once very much accepted and a political issue. Woman did not used to be able to vote. There are some major issues that public opinion changes majorly on over time. If someday the Democratic party changes its stance on Abortion they would still be Democrat. Immigration is not one of my big issues that I am loosing sleep over, but I do think a Parties platform can change over time.

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

"Rivergallery" wrote:

I don't think parties should change their stances period. If need be create a NEW party.. it happened with the Republicans, there was a need and the party filled it and took people from the other parties to create it. It happened once it will happen again. Stick to party lines, don't waiver, and let the populous decide what they want. Don't cater to the populous.

Really? The populace IS the party. This view boggles my mind. For instance, I know Lillie loved Ron Paul. The unfortunate reality of our party system is such that if she actually voted for the person she loved, she actually voted for Obama, in that she took a vote away from Romney. This sounds all nifty "oh just start a NEW party"........but have you seen the BILLIONS of bucks it takes to actually run a legitimate campaign as a "new party"? Please explain how exactly you envision this working in the real world.

Joined: 05/31/06
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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

Wierd. I live in Texas and none of the Mexicans I know are rich. About half of my extended family are married to Mexicans and none of them are rich either.

I'm just posting facts. If you don't know them that doesn't mean that they don't exist.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

While I can see where you are coming from, I do not necessarily agree. Opinions can and do chance. Slavery was once very much accepted and a political issue. Woman did not used to be able to vote. There are some major issues that public opinion changes majorly on over time. If someday the Democratic party changes its stance on Abortion they would still be Democrat. Immigration is not one of my big issues that I am loosing sleep over, but I do think a Parties platform can change over time.

Slavery issue led to the creation of the Republican Party. That is the biggest issue I can think of where that happened. It was the Anti-slavery Party, they took people from the Whigs and the Democrats.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
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"Potter75" wrote:

Really? The populace IS the party. This view boggles my mind. For instance, I know Lillie loved Ron Paul. The unfortunate reality of our party system is such that if she actually voted for the person she loved, she actually voted for Obama, in that she took a vote away from Romney. This sounds all nifty "oh just start a NEW party"........but have you seen the BILLIONS of bucks it takes to actually run a legitimate campaign as a "new party"? Please explain how exactly you envision this working in the real world.

Yes I do understand what it "takes" but I do not think a party should change their party line because a small percentage of their constituants view things differently. Stick to the party line, let the voting change it... WE are getting there we are getting more and more support in lower offices for 3rd party candidates. Just because something is "HARD" doesn't mean it isn't right.. regardless of the new party position. If that was so we would all still have slavery.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

"Rivergallery" wrote:

because a small percentage of their constituants view things differently.

A small percentage no, but if the majority opinion changes, the party should reflect the values of the majority of their constituents.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
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"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

A small percentage no, but if the majority opinion changes, the party should reflect the values of the majority of their constituents.

Majority of constituants, not the majority of population, sure. I am not sure there is a case in American history that the majority of a party has broken party lines though on a specific issue. We do have shiftings with more liberal or more conservative views with the individuals we elect, heck I am not saying Republicans in power aren't breaking their own party line right now by overspending in social programs specifically and have been. But, I see that as a separate issue.... maybe it isn't? Historically even when major parties such as the Republicans were formed, the majority of the Whigs nor the majority of the Democrats at the time wanted to stop the Kansas Nebraska Act. The Republicans took minorities from the other parties and some of their own and became a majority. Does this make sense?

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
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"Potter75" wrote:

I'm just posting facts. If you don't know them that doesn't mean that they don't exist.

The fact that there are a FEW wealthy Mexicans coming over? How does that fact affect anything?

He has joined a small exodus of wealthy Mexican migrants weary of fearing for their lives and battling corrupt officials for business interests. The flight may mean a brain drain for Mexico and a boon for regional Texas economies. Many of these well-to-do immigrants are foregoing traditional destinations such as San Antonio and San Diego in favor of big business markets in Dallas and Houston.