At a time when federal, state, and local elections are often decided by small voting margins—with candidates frequently locked in ferocious competition for the ballots of those “voting blocs” that might turn the electoral tide in their favor—one large and growing bloc of voters has been consistently overlooked and politically underestimated: New Americans.
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, changes in federal, state, and local law-enforcement priorities and practices have had a profound impact on America’s Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians. Some of these policy shifts applied exclusively or primarily to those communities, such as the federal “special registration” program, selective enforcement of immigration laws based on national origin or religion, and expanded federal counter-terrorism efforts that targeted these communities. At the same time, a wide range of ethnic groups have been affected by the use of state and local police agencies to enforce federal immigration law, and the aggressive use of detention and deportation authority for even minor infractions and technicalities.
Across the United States, police departments and Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities have responded with varied approaches to the new post-September 11 reality. In some cities, serious tensions between law-enforcement agencies and immigrant communities have arisen. Other cities have taken steps to alleviate these tensions and promote dialogue and cooperation with immigrant communities. This report evaluates the challenges and successes of recent trust-building efforts between immigrant communities and local police departments, and the responses of each to new and proposed policies that threaten those efforts. Using the experiences of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities, the report offers insights that apply to much broader populations. It draws attention to best practices and policy solutions such as the creation of more effective channels for public dialogue and communication, public education campaigns, officer training and recruiting programs, and forms of cooperation between police and community organizations.
During the presidential primaries, candidates and the media focused a great deal of attention on the debate over how immigrants impact state economies and the fiscal balance of state treasuries. At the same time, political pundits and pollsters speculated on the electoral influence of immigrants and Latinos at the voting booth. Below is a brief analysis of the impact that both Latinos and immigrants have on the economies and electorates of the “Super Tuesday” states.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently released an estimate of the costs of the “Secure America Through Verification and Enforcement Act” (“SAVE Act,” HR 4088), and concluded that the “SAVE Act” would decrease federal revenues, increase government spending, and create an unfunded mandate for states and private employers.
Anyone who has been keeping close tabs on the immigration debate in Washington over the last five years can attest to the fact that it has all of the ingredients for the perfect political storm. For starters, U.S. immigration laws are so arcane that only a handful of legislators truly understand them. As a result, many policy makers search for simple, sound-bite driven solutions to problems that are far too complex for quick fixes. The complexity of the issue is made even more difficult by the fact that the immigration issue is not easily defined by party labels. Supporters and opponents of various immigration proposals come from both parties and span the political spectrum. This makes it difficult for party leaders to determine where, when, and how to discuss the issue. Finally, and perhaps most destructively, the topic of immigration evokes intense emotions that are easily stirred by politicians and pundits who play to the fears and insecurities of the electorate rather than deal with the issue honestly and pragmatically. It is the emotional nature of the debate that really has whipped the political winds into a fury over the last five years.
In this IPC Policy Brief, author Rob Paral uses new census data to update his earlier IPC report (Playing Politics on Immigration: Congress Favors Image over Substance in Passing H.R. 4437) on the number of undocumented immigrants in U.S. congressional districts.
Access to an independent judiciary with the power to hold the government accountable in its dealings with individuals is a founding principle of the United States. In contrast, imagine a system where there is no access to independent judgment; where, instead, the referee works for the opposing team. The House of Representatives took a step away from this founding principle by passing the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act (H.R. 4437) on December 16, 2005. A provision of the bill would erode access to independent judgment by severely restricting access to the federal courts for individuals in removal (deportation) proceedings. This provision is part of a long string of efforts by proponents of restrictive immigration policies to limit the jurisdiction of the federal courts over immigration cases.
Immigrants – and groups in which immigrants are a large percentage of the population, such as Latinos and Asian/Pacific Islanders (APIs) – are a growing portion of the U.S. electorate. In a closely contested presidential race, the growing ranks of “new citizens” – foreign-born individuals who become “naturalized” U.S. citizens – are increasingly important political players.