What We Can Learn from the Generational Divide on Immigration

For those who follow NDN's demographic research or the work of our amazing fellows Mike Hais and Morley Winograd, you won't find many surprises in Damien Cave's New York Times piece "A Generation Gap Over Immigration" (aside, of course, from the surprise of having someone actually write on immigration using a generational lens: thank you Damien Cave!)

Inspired by recent polling, which reflects a generational gap in support for AZ SB 1070, as well as larger questions of current and future flow, Cave's interviews and analysis boil down to some of the most basic and obvious generational characteristics:  Millennials' are shaped by the group-centric, diverse worlds in which we were raised, while Boomers, as Cave writes, "came of age in one of the most homogenous moments in our country's history."  Thus, it is hardly surprising that Millennials would be more progressive on an issue like immigration than an older generation. 

In Cave's article, some argue that this divide might slow reform.  I believe, to the contrary, that studying this divide might hold the key to refining a pro-reform message.  We will likely never get Boomers as a whole to Millennials' place of acceptance, but we can more effectively message to this older generation by speaking to their resistance - namely that the America they know and love will change as a consequence of allowing a new group of immigrants to earn citizenship- rather than avoiding the root of their resistance simply because it makes us uncomfortable or angry.