National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

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Immigration as a Wedge Issue Fades

October 31, 2008 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

This year, the Republican leadership did not use immigration as a wedge issue as it did in 2006 and as a result, there were fewer candidates using immigrants to stoke people’s fears. 

To understand why that might be, we can look at the context in which this election is taking place.  First, the use of immigration as a wedge issue in the last couple of election cycles has not particularly impressed voters.  Second, the attack on immigrants has lead to a backlash, with immigrants becoming naturalized and registered to vote in unprecedented numbers.  More on that below.  Third, the U.S. is slipping into an economic crisis that is now the number one concern of voters.  Finally, as a recent public opinion poll by NDN reports, voters in the key battleground states of Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Nevada continue to have a positive view of undocumented immigrants and favor comprehensive immigration reform.

Even before the general election season was underway, anti-immigrant initiatives were failing in state legislatures.  This year, while a few draconian measures were passed around the country, many more failed.  In fact, the Progressive States Network  published a report noting that positive, integration-focused policies outweigh punitive anti-immigrant policies in the states.  According to the group, some punitive, laws were enacted in states controlled by very conservative legislators.  However, “in states where moderates or progressives had any significant influence, the momentum for anti-immigration legislation stalled and almost all anti-immigrant legislation failed to pass.”  Their report goes on to note that the states in which most undocumented immigrants actually live have enacted policies aimed at welcoming and integrating immigrants.

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