Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?

It has long been speculated that much of the motivation that has fueled the increased anti-immigration rhetoric coming from certain political leaders, and their calls for more restrictive policies to protect our "broken borders", has had far more to do with political expediency than actual concern for national security, job loss, or economic stress put on society by increased immigration. Although the aforementioned rationales are commonly given by these "closed border" advocates, a new analysis of Congressional voting patterns by The American Immigration Law Foundation shows that those representing districts least likely affected by the influx of undocumented immigrants are the first to champion restrictive immigration policies.

An analysis of the Congressional representatives who supported HR4437 reveals that those representing districts with the fewest number undocumented immigrants generally supported the restrictive immigration plan, while those with large numbers of undocumented immigrants in their districts were more apt to oppose it.

More after the fold:

Representatives From Districts With Fewer Than 5,000 Undocumented Immigrants Were Most Likely To Support The Bill

There are 96 congressional districts that have fewer than 5,000 undocumented immigrants. Most of these districts are largely rural and located in sections of Appalachia, the Midwest, and the Mississippi Valley that are experiencing little economic growth and low levels of immigration in general. Constituents in many of these districts face tough economic times, but the cause is not immigration. Immigrants are attracted to regions of economic dynamism and job expansion. This is why greater numbers of undocumented immigrants are found in western states that have agricultural, livestock, fishing, and tourist economies that need the kinds of less-skilled labor that undocumented immigrants often provide.

Undocumented immigrants in the 96 lowest-immigration districts make up no more than 0.8 percent of the population (each of the 435 congressional districts has roughly the same total population: about 650,000 as of 20001). The votes on H.R. 4437 in these districts tell you something about immigration politics in the United States today. The supposed threat from undocumented immigration is enough to rally voters and move levers of power even in areas where the actual impact is miniscule. Among representatives from districts with the smallest populations of undocumented immigrants, 74 percent (71 out of 96) voted for the bill: 90 percent of Republicans (56 out of 62) and 44 percent of Democrats (15 out of 34)


Representatives From Districts With More Than 50,000 Undocumented Immigrants Were Most Likely To Oppose The Bill


The voting pattern of the representatives from the 61 congressional districts with 50,000 or more undocumented immigrants tells a different story. These districts for the most part are located in densely populated urban areas such as New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and are relatively small in geographic size compared to rural districts that include many counties. In these high-immigration districts, the undocumented alone can account for as much as one-fifth of the total population. As a result, representatives who hail from these areas are familiar with undocumented immigrants and their impact on local communities. Among representatives from districts with the largest populations of undocumented immigrants, a mere 5 percent (3 out of 61) supported the bill: none of the 53 Democrats and only 3 of the 8 Republicans.

The inverse relationship between support for H.R. 4437 and the actual presence of undocumented immigrants in a representative’s district represents a widespread voting pattern. Among all Democrats, those who voted in favor of the bill had roughly 10,000 undocumented immigrants in their districts. Democrats who opposed the bill, on the other hand, had about 37,400. Among all Republicans, the same pattern holds: those voting for H.R. 4437 had an average of 14,500 undocumented immigrants in their districts, while those who voted against the bill had an average of 30,800


Overall 67% of all those who supported the bill from both parties came from districts with fewer than 15,000 undocumented immigrants while 62% of those opposed came from districts with more than 15,000.


As this pattern illustrates, the constituencies of most representatives who supported H.R. 4437 experience relatively little impact from undocumented immigration. As a result, these representatives are free to ignore the need for genuine immigration reform and focus instead on fostering a public image of being “tough” on undocumented immigrants.


Given these statistics, it becomes obvious that those who are most likely to take a hard line on immigration are doing so more out of a need to find a new "enemy" on which to scapegoat the failures of the present administration and its policies. Those from these generally rural and economically depressed areas find it much easier to blame the nonexistent undocumented immigrants in their districts for the economic woes of their constituents than to deal with the macro economic issues of globalization and loss of manufacturing jobs due to shifting economic realities.

Just as the right wing created a phantom boogieman out of the Gay community in the last election cycle to supply themselves with a wedge issue on "family values", they are once again setting up a divisive issue to distract and misdirect the American people away from the real issues that effect them.
Veiw more from Manning the Barricades

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