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.

Immigrant Charter Schools

The recent passage of Arizona's SB 1070 has shed due national light on immigration as an issue that affects all Americans and needs to be addressed.  At NDN, we have said for five years now that our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed.  That it has taken a draconian measure such as the passage of this bill to give this important issue the attention it deserves is unfortunate but not surprising.  The legislative arm of our government has had a beefy calendar trying to address healthcare, jobs and the economy, environmental concerns, and education. 

In a democratic bureaucracy that was designed to work slowly so as to prevent any person or group from taking over quickly or easily, we must strategically inspire our leaders to take action.  Issues such as education, which affect more people more directly, are often addressed in a timelier manner because constituents put more pressure on their leaders to do so.   In the Fall of 2008, according to the Census, 55.8 million children were enrolled in elementary school through high school - that's nearly 20% of the population. 

The slow rate at which our government works is not its only downfall.  In addition, issues such as education and immigration are often addressed with tunnel vision, eliminating the chance to account for factors outside the issue's scope.  Most education policy only directs money towards schools.  Most proposed immigration policy focuses on toughening the border, providing pathways to citizenship for immigrants already in the country, and managing future flow.  The DREAM Act is an exception that takes a two pronged approach, providing an educational incentive for immigrants by qualifying undocumented youth to be eligible for a six-year long conditional path to citizenship that requires the completion of a college degree or two years of military service. 

The recent wave of education activists that have pioneered immigrant charter schools provide another example of efforts that address the multi-dimensional world in which we live.  These schools, such as the Twin Cities International Elementary School in Minneapolis, MN and the Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School in Philadelphia, PA work to provide a rigorous education in a culturally sensitive environment.  In Stanford University's 2009 study of charter school performance in 16 states, results suggested that over a third of charter school students performed at a lower level than their public school counterparts.  While this is somewhat disconcerting considering the increasingly substantial role of charter schools in education reform, there were two subgroups in the nationally pooled sample that fared better in charter schools than in the traditional system: students in poverty and English Language Leaners (ELLs).  It should be noted that not all ELL students are immigrants and that the study did not focus solely on immigrant charter schools, but even with these variables, one can reasonably hypothesize that immigrant charter schools would likely be a good place for immigrant students. 

After teaching two years of elementary school, I feel I can say that, students at the elementary school level need more nurturing than those in middle or high school.  As with most people, if they are uncomfortable for any reason, they are less likely to reach their full learning potential.  It seems, then that these immigrant charter schools are a fantastic idea - but only to a certain point.  In the middle school years, when most children are more influenced by their peers than by their teachers, it would be limiting and perhaps debilitating for students to remain in an immigrant charter school.  If we want our children to achieve their dreams in this country, they must not only be able to read, write, and compute.  They must also be woven into the cultural fabric of American society.  There is no better way to do this than to be immersed in it, and an immigrant charter school seems not to be able to provide that opportunity.  Additionally, if this model became pervasive, wouldn't we face the danger of once again segregating our schools?

Ultimately, I believe in doing what it takes for students to succeed, and I support immigrant charter schools.  However, I encourage policy makers, education activists, entrepreneurs, and the like to approach these innovative models with a long term focus and to lead periodic conversations, reflect on positive and negative implications of their work, and make adjustments as they are necessary.

NDN in the News on Immigration

Simon was recently quoted in Christina Bellantoni's piece for Talking Points Memo "Inside Democrats' Election-Year Immigration Push," Walter Shapiro's Politics Daily piece "Immigration Fight: Has Arizona's Get-Tough Law Changed Everything?" and Dick Polman's The Philadelphia Inquirer Piece "The American Debate."

Also be sure to check out Andres' thoughts in Anjeanette Damon's piece for the Reno Gazette Journal "GOP immigration views may cost Hispanic votes."

My Fox appearance from this morning with Former Congressman and US Senate candidate J.D. Hayworth is forthcoming!

Major Baseball Players Come Out Against Arizona Immigration Law

Talk about a home run...

New York, NY, Friday, April 30, 2010 ... The following statement was issued today by Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner regarding the immigration law recently passed by the state of Arizona.

"The recent passage by Arizona of a new immigration law could have a negative impact on hundreds of Major League players who are citizens of countries other than the United States.  These international players are very much a part of our national pastime and are important members of our Association.  Their contributions to our sport have been invaluable, and their exploits have been witnessed, enjoyed and applauded by millions of Americans.  All of them, as well as the Clubs for whom they play, have gone to great lengths to ensure full compliance with federal immigration law.
"The impact of the bill signed into law in Arizona last Friday is not limited to the players on one team.  The international players on the Diamondbacks work and, with their families, reside in Arizona from April through September or October.  In addition, during the season, hundreds of international players on opposing Major League teams travel to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks.  And, the spring training homes of half of the 30 Major League teams are now in Arizona.  All of these players, as well as their families, could be adversely affected, even though their presence in the United States is legal.   Each of them must be ready to prove, at any time, his identity and the legality of his being in Arizona to any state or local official with suspicion of his immigration status.  This law also may affect players who are U.S. citizens but are suspected by law enforcement of being of foreign descent.  
"The Major League Baseball Players Association opposes this law as written.  We hope that the law is repealed or modified promptly.  If the current law goes into effect, the MLBPA will consider additional steps necessary to protect the rights and interests of our members.

"My statement reflects the institutional position of the Union.  It was arrived at after consultation with our members and after consideration of their various views on this controversial subject."

On Immigration Reform, Somethin's Comin'

Anyone who thought immigration was dead should check out this week's headlines:

John Stanton over at Roll Call has a piece entitled "Senate Democrats Crafting Democrat-Only Immigration Reform Plan," Suzanne Gamboa at the AP has a piece up entitled "Democrats want border security before legalization," and The Washington Post's David Broder does a retrospective just in time for the introduction of a new framework in his piece "How Congress botched immigration reform."

Keep your eyes peeled for the forthcoming summary.  Something is brewing... just what that is remains to be seen.


Hispanics Rising, 2010

At an event today, our affiliate, the New Policy Institute will release "Hispanics Rising, 2010", an updated version of a report we last released in 2008.  Join us in person or live on the web to see the presentation, and look for the full report on our website later today.  I offer up this executive summary of the report as a little appetizer:

Fueled by huge waves of recent immigration from the Americas and the Caribbean, the rapid growth of the U.S. Hispanic community is perhaps the most important American demographic story of the 21st century. At 15% of the US population today, Hispanics are now America’s largest “minority” group. One in ten Americans today is of Mexican descent, and the US now has the 2nd largest Hispanic population of any nation in the Americas. Over time this fast-growing population will grow to almost 30% of the total U.S. population, and will be the central driver in turning America into a “majority minority” nation by 2050.

Not surprisingly, this very rapid and profound population change is shifting political alignments in the U.S. Early in this decade George W. Bush’s remarkable success with this new community and electorate was critical to both of his Presidential victories. In 2005, however, the national Republican Party repudiated the modern, successful Hispanic strategy championed by the Bush family, and adopted a much more anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic strategy. This approach was instrumental in fueling the massive immigration rallies in the spring of 2006, and swinging Hispanics significantly to the Democrats and increasing their turnout in the 2006 elections. The Republican Party’s gains in this critical new part of the American electorate were lost.

The 2008 cycle saw a continuation of this new potent dynamic – an anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic national GOP, and a Democratic Party embracing, tentatively, the new demographic realities of the 21st century and one of its most visible battlegrounds – immigration reform. Once again the Hispanic electorate stayed with the Democrats and increased their share of the overall electorate. This emergence of a new, highly energized and pro-Democratic Hispanic electorate had an enormous impact on the 2008 presidential election. In six battleground states critical to the Electoral College - Colorado, Florida, Indiana, New Mexico Nevada and Virginia – increases in Hispanic turnout and a significant vote swing to Democrats helped tip these states from Republican to Democrat. This swing of Latino votes—as it was for George Bush in 2000 and 2004—was instrumental in electing Barack Obama to the White House in 2008.

In the span of just the last three Presidential elections, the Hispanic share of the American electorate has grown 80 percent, from 5 percent in 2000 to 9 percent in 2008, a sweeping and historic development.

The evidence of the rising political and cultural influence of America’s growing Hispanic population is all around us. In the 2008 Presidential election, each political party conducted an entire Presidential debate in Spanish, the Democratic Party fielded the first major Hispanic Presidential candidate, added a heavily Hispanic state, Nevada, to its early primary mix, and held its convention in Denver, a central spot in the new Southwestern Latino battleground. In 2009 the first Hispanic in American history, Sonia Sotomayor, was appointed to the Supreme Court. President Obama has appointed a record number of Hispanics to his Administration, including prominent Cabinet positions. Florida Senator Mel Martinez recently served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez now runs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Spanish is now commonly spoken and used by leading politicians and their offices across the country. After years of protest, Time Warner had the good sense to remove Lou Dobbs, the most virulent anti-immigrant voice in mainstream media, from CNN. America’s relationship with Mexico—a country which has now provided so much of our population but long been distant in the American imagination—is going through an historic warming period. The coming reapportionment and redistricting will further shift political power to Hispanic regions of the country, and Hispanic regions within states.

Data from this election cycle show that the Hispanic community is still with President Obama and the Democrats and still wary of the GOP, but their intention to vote this fall trails far below the national average. For a community that has voted in very high numbers in recent elections, this is a change, and perhaps a sign of their disappointment in Washington’s continued inability to resolve the issue so close to their communities and their families – immigration reform. How the two political parties manage this issue this year and in the years ahead—particularly given the fuel a new law in Arizona has added to the fire—will be critical to shaping the Hispanic population’s future political path, and, given their numbers, perhaps the nation itself. This next chapter of “Hispanics Rising” has yet to be written, but may be the most important yet.

Update: Here is the full report.

Right Leaning Arizona Republic Condemns New Immigration Law

EJ Dionne found this nugget from an Arizona Republic editorial on the new law:

The broad anti-immigrant bill passed by the Legislature this week makes it a crime to be in the country illegally and gives local cops the job of demanding documentation if they have reasonable suspicion someone lacks it.

The need to carry proper ‘papers’ falls squarely on Arizona's Latino population -- including those born and raised in the Grand Canyon State. The bill invites racial profiling and ignores the fact that Latinos are an intrinsic part of Arizona's history and its future. Arizona's senators should know that.

The bill . . . is bringing thundering bad publicity that will echo for years to come. It will lead to lost economic-development opportunities, lost tourism and lost opportunities to expand our trade and commercial ties with Mexico.

As those who have seen the remarkable documentary film, 9500 Liberty, the people of Arizona do have every reason to be concerned about the long term impact to their state.   As this film, which will be premiering in Arizona this weekend (more on that soon), documents, the cost to a local DC county in Virginia of implementing similar statute was economically and culturally devastating.

For those in the Boston area, 9500 Liberty is screening today at the Boston Independent Film Festival.  See it if you can.  It is one of the most powerful films I have ever seen.

Of course all this just goes to remind us how important it is that the Federal government acts to fix our broken immigration system.  Soon. 

And to learn more about the growing power of the US Hispanic population, watch or attend our event in DC this Tuesday.

In Arizona, History Repeating

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is poised to sign the toughest immigration bill in the country.  It is intended to terrify Arizona's undocumented immigrants, but the consequences of Arizona Senate Bill 1070 aren't limited to any one community. SB 1070 attacks and demeans the civil rights of every hard-working, tax-paying American citizen.  And like every piece of Draconian legislation before it, SB 1070 has the potential to ignite and empower the very community it seeks to disable.

On its face, SB 1070 is bad and impractical policy: the legislation makes it a misdemeanor for foreign nationals to lack proper immigration paperwork in Arizona.  But since it's impossible to identify a foreign national by sight, it effectively mandates that all individuals in Arizona carry papers.  That's right: you, American citizen, can't walk your dog or buy milk from the grocery store without having papers on you that confirm your legal residence.  If you take your kids to the park and forget your documentation at home, you can be held in police custody until your information is verified, even if you're a U.S. citizen.

The legislation directs police officers to inquire as to immigration status on a "reasonable suspicion" that a person might be undocumented.  Forget that this turns local police into immigration enforcers, and that the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police opposes the bill, contending it will likely erode already waning trust with immigrant communities.   What exactly does reasonable suspicion look like?  Driving the wrong car?  Having the wrong haircut?  Speaking to your children in Spanish?  How many Latinos could be reasonably suspected of not belonging?

The passage of this legislation will have a devastating impact on Arizona, but those realities will pale in longevity to the political consequences of Governor Brewer making it law.  The House vote on SB 1070 divided along partisan lines: all 35 ayes came from Republicans, and all 21 nays came from Democrats (four Democrats did not vote).  Although the frustration and anger of Arizona's immigrant, Latino and activists communities will likely spill over to the national Democratic leadership, which is perceived as being ineffective in getting the job done on comprehensive reform, history teaches us that the real political downfall will be Republicans', and Republicans' alone.

In 1994, California Republicans led a fight to pass Proposition 187, the "Save Our State initiative," which was designed to prohibit undocumented immigrants' access to social services, health care, and public education.  Just as with SB 1070, Prop 187 smacked of xenophobic motives, and just as with SB 1070, it was introduced and promoted by Republicans, including Republican Governor Pete Wilson.  And just as the Republican Party's advocacy for Prop 187, and its galvanizing affect on the state's Latinos (augmented - of course - with a gold-standard voter registration campaign) marked the decline of the party's fortunes in California, passage of SB 1070, if matched with proper organizing, will define the political legacy of the Arizona Republican Party.

In the short term, Governor Brewer signing her name to this legislation will likely help her maintain support within her party, but in the long term, she will go down in history as the executor of the Arizona Republican Party's demise.

This is cross-posted from Latinovations blog.

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