May 2010

By Ken Klukowski

This week Republican senators—including John McCain—told President Obama that there would be no talk about amnesty or a guest-worker program for illegals until his administration secures the border and enforces the law. But despite saying he’ll send 1,200 troops to the border, Obama doesn’t want to secure it, because his blueprint calls for keeping illegals here, and for fighting Arizona’s new law.

In the wake of Mexican President Calderon condemning Arizona’s new law—enthusiastically joined by American President Obama—many on the left are saying that Arizona’s new so-called “immigration law” will be struck down as unconstitutional.

It shouldn’t be struck down, because it’s not an “immigration” law. If any of them bothered to read the 16-page law, they’d understand that.

In April, the state of Arizona enacted a law making it a crime for illegal aliens to be in the state of Arizona. Immediately pundits across the left flooded the airwaves to object. And predictably, people who never went to law school suddenly because constitutional scholars, waxing eloquent to proclaim this law dead on arrival, filling your TV screen to share their collective lack of understanding with you.

They’re wrong.

First, the lawsuits that have already been filed should be dismissed. For starters, the plaintiffs lack standing in federal court, because none of them have suffered any concrete personal injury that’s different from an “injury” of indignation suffered by the public at large.

Besides that, these cases are not ripe for judicial review. “Ripeness” requires the facts to be fully-developed before a court will consider a case. These plaintiffs allege that police officers will use racial profiling to stop suspected illegals and demand to see papers. Since the law expressly forbids such police actions, these lawsuits are not ripe until the law goes into effect, and then someone alleges that they were subject to abuse.

But once enforcement begins, Arizona should still win on the merits any constitutional challenge.
It’s true that the Constitution vests immigration policy exclusively in the federal government. Article I gives Congress complete control over who can enter this country, stay in this country, or become an American citizen. This power is not shared with the states.

If this Arizona law were an immigration law, then it might be unconstitutional. But it’s not an immigration law. It’s a police-power law, and that’s why Arizona should win.

As I explain in my new book, “The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency,” the Supreme Court has made clear that states wield police power, and that the Constitution denies police power to the federal government. Police power is the power to make laws for public safety, public health, general public welfare, and social morality.

Arizona’s new law recognizes that foreigners in this country illegally pose a public safety, social morality, and general welfare concern when they enter the state. It violates Arizona labor and employment laws to be working for a business in Arizona if you are here illegally. Such work also involves identify theft and document fraud, which are crimes. And many illegals without gainful employment are instead engaged in drug-dealing or other crimes, or are incarcerated at state expense, or are even living off of welfare programs.

All these issues trigger Arizona’s police power, enabling Arizona to make it a crime to be in that state illegally. It would be unconstitutional for Arizona to try to deport someone, but it’s perfectly constitutional for Arizona to uphold the rule of law within its own borders.

If this law targeted someone based on national origin or race, then it would be subject to “strict scrutiny,” under which the law would be struck down unless a court finds it narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling public interest.

The Arizona law tries to cover its bases in that regard, referring to Arizona’s “compelling” public interests. That very smart legal drafting isn’t surprising, given that Kris Kobach—a brilliant law professor who’s a rising star in the Republican Party, who happens to be running for secretary of state in Kansas—helped write the law.

But this law doesn’t target those protected classes of race or nationality, because it only concerns whether you’re in this country legally, regardless of whether you are a citizen, where you were born, or your skin color. As such, it’s subject to “rational-basis review,” under which the law is upheld if it’s related to advancing any legitimate public interest. All the police-power matters cited above are legitimate interests.

Like most laws, there are ways that this law could be abused that would violate people’s rights, and if so then those who suffer such abuse could hold those responsible to account. But the law, especially the amended version as it is now written, can be fully implemented in ways that don’t violate anyone’s rights.

It’s unfortunate that Arizona had to be forced into this situation by the federal government’s failure to address this problem. But whether it’s good policy is irrelevant. Arizona’s actions are permitted by the Constitution.

But the Obama administration’s actions are not permitted by the Constitution. The president is responsible under Article II for taking care that the laws be faithfully executed. As Ann Coulter has pointed out, the state of Arizona can sue to try obtaining a federal court order compelling the director of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), John Morton, to process referrals of illegals from Arizona, since Morton has said he’s inclined not to do so in retaliation for Arizona’s law. The Obama administration cannot refuse to enforce U.S. law.

However, as explained in The Blueprint, there’s a reason President Obama refuses to secure the borders, and insists that the only way to stop illegals from entering this country is to give them all amnesty. (Which makes no sense at all.) He ultimately wants to create 12 million new voting citizens who lack the language or skill set to thrive in this country. Why? So that he and his party can create a massive new voting bloc of lower-class or impoverished citizens beholden to him, who will vote for every handout imaginable, paid for by taxes on the middle class and business owners.

It’s a cynical form of pandering. It’s politics at its worst. But President Obama needs those votes to help survive the political backlash coming from the voters, and his blueprint calls for doing whatever it takes to get them.



(Comment from the Left)

Opponents of Arizona’s draconian immigration enforcement law are hoping that federal courts will rule the measure unconstitutional, heading off a spate of “copycat” legislation elsewhere.

If only it were so simple. In fact, a growing number of state immigration laws are being upheld by federal courts – and as improbable as it sounds – Arizona’s dangerous new law could survive also.

What makes opponents so confident that laws like Arizona’s are unconstitutional? It can all be summed up in a single word: “pre-emption”. That’s the legal principle that appears to reserve sole authority for immigration policy to the federal government, and that “pre-empts” state laws that run counter to that authority.

But therein lies the rub. Many states, including Arizona, aren’t claiming to exercise an “inherent” state authority on immigration policy. Instead, they’re claiming to be upholding existing federal law. And they’re even citing past supreme court precedents – like the famous De Canas decision of 1976 – to suggest that their law-making is expressly permitted by the constitution.

In fact, Arizona passed an immigration enforcement law in 2007 that most legal observers at the time assumed would be overturned – but it wasn’t. Despite legal challenges, federal courts twice upheld that law, and it remains on the books today.

What happened in 2008 is instructive. Current employer sanctions law, passed as part of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, penalises businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants with monetary fines. But many states are dissatisfied with the law, because the fines are nominal and because employers are not really required to verify that a worker is in the country legally.

So Arizona decided to write a law that would penalise Arizona’s businesses that hired illegal workers with something far more severe – a suspension of their business licence. It also required that employers use a voluntary federal programme known as “E-Verify” to determine whether prospective workers were in the country legally.

Critics howled that Arizona had no right to pass its own employer sanctions law because the feds had “pre-empted” states from doing so. Moreover, since E-Verify was still in development, and not yet officially the law of the land, Arizona was exceeding its authority to mandate that E-Verify be used in Arizona.

But two federal courts, including the 9th circuit court of appeals, ruled that Arizona did have that right. According to the court, the 1986 IRCA law, while specifically pre-empting state laws that would fine businesses, had not extended that same authority to licensing, since, as the court noted, states, not the federal government, typically have responsibility for this area.

The 9th circuit court also defended Arizona’s use of E-Verify, noting that while Congress hadn’t mandated its use, “that does not, in and of itself, indicate that Congress intended to prevent states from making participation mandatory”. In other words, unless Congress explicitly pre-empted it, Arizona could tailor E-Verify to suit its own needs.

The 9th circuit court precedent is not the only cause for concern. There’s also a little-noticed Bush administration legal finding from 2002 that overturns past executive branch policy on the question of a state’s “inherent authority” to make immigration policy. The Bush-era finding is not the law of the land, and many legal observers consider it tendentious, and indeed, at odds with the constitution.

But it could have a major impact on whether the Obama administration actually moves forward with its threat to challenge Arizona’s new enforcement law in court. Presidents are notoriously reluctant to do that if there is a current legal finding that would not support such action. Obama, in effect, would have to issue a new legal finding first, which in the current pre-election climate is considered highly unlikely.

In any event, Arizona’s new immigration enforcement law, like its employer sanctions law, is based, in part, on current federal law. Arizona already has an agreement with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency under Section 287 of the Immigration and Nationality Act which allows it to arrest illegal immigrants and hold them in local jails until ICE can pick them up, and process them for deportation. It’s supposed to be applied primarily to “criminal” aliens – hard core felony offenders – but in practice it has swept up aliens suspected of even minor offences, including traffic infractions.

Which raises the same problem seen earlier with employer sanctions: if Arizona’s role in routine immigration law enforcement is already federally mandated, how could the feds move to pre-empt that role now?

Arizona will argue they can’t. However, those suing the state will say that Arizona is exceeding federal authority by defining an illegal alien’s “unlawful presence” as a state crime – trespassing. Under current federal law, unlawful presence is a civil violation, not a crime – federal or otherwise. Civil violations are not punishable with criminal sanctions, such as jail time. Those caught are simply deported. But in theory, those Arizona detains under its new enforcement law would be subject to uniquely state criminal penalties – a legal first.

But does that mean Arizona’s law is unconstitutional? Not necessarily. Federal law may define “unlawful presence” as a civil violation, but paradoxically, it also defines the prior act of “illegal entry” as a crime, not a civil violation. Arizona might end up claiming that the dividing line between the two is meaningless. Moreover, the feds have never expressly forbidden states from imposing their own criminal sanctions on aliens.

And what of the much ballyhooed issue of “racial profiling”? It turns out it’s not a slam dunk, either. Arizona’s law not only expressly prohibits racial profiling, but it’s likely to be implemented in a way that insulates police from charges of profiling. The simplest way? The police simply ask anyone they pull over for proof that they have a legal right to be in the United States – white conservative-looking Anglos and brown-skinned Spanish-speakers alike. Sound preposterous? It’s worked before.

In the end, if Arizona can convince the courts that its state law is consistent with federal intent – albeit tailored to Arizona’s special concern, as a border state, with rampant illegal entry – its controversial new enforcement law could well survive.


A British passport is being handed to a foreigner every three minutes after figures hit a record high

A total of 203,790 people were granted citizenship last year following a 58 per cent jump on the previous 12 months. It was the highest level since records began in 1962 and will be partly due to a rush in applications before tough new rules on earning a British passport come in to effect next year.

The Home Office figures mean more than 1.5 million foreign migrants became Britons under Labour fuelling concerns over the effect on the population of the last Government’s open door on immigration.

Separate projections by the Office for National Statistics yesterday showed some parts of the country will see population levels rise by up to a fifth in the next eight years, driven mainly by immigration.

However, more Eastern European migrants are now returning home than arriving in the UK – the first time that has happened since the EU was expanded to the former Eastern Bloc nations, such as Poland, in 2004.

It is the first time citizenship approvals has passed the 200,000 mark and dwarfs the previous high of 164,635 in 2007. It is also more than five times the 37,010 approvals in 1997 when Labour took power.

A new regime of “probationary citizenship” comes into effect next year when migrants will have to have been in the country for up to eight years before being granted a passport, instead of the current five years. There will also be a points-based system that will require immigrants to demonstrate that they are of benefit to the community.

There is also little sign of any slowing down in the rush for citizenship before the new rules come in to effect. There were 5,320 applications in the first three months of this year, the highest since 2007.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: “Grants of citizenship, the main measure of long term immigration from outside the EU, are up by 58 per cent in a year.

“This is the legacy of the mass immigration encouraged by the previous government. It underlines the need for the new government to get a grip of immigration without delay.”

The figures were part of a series of immigration and population statistics released by the ONS and Home Office.

Overall, the number of immigrants arriving in the UK and looking to stay for more than a year fell by nine per cent last year but still stood at 503,000 – the equivalent of more than 1,300 a day – while emigration levels also fell to 361,000.

It meant net migration – the difference between those arriving and leaving – stood at 142,000, which was an 11 per cent drop on the previous year but is still well above the “tens of thousands” figure the Conservatives have pledged to bring levels down to.

The flow of migrants from Eastern Europe also went in to reverse for the first time after 45,000 arrived last year – a drop of 5 per cent – but 57,000 left.

The new Government has committed itself to introducing a cap on non-EU immigration, although the level has yet to be set.

Damian Green, the immigration minister said: “These figures illustrate the scale of the immigration challenge facing the new Government. “It is now our duty to control immigration for the benefit of the UK and that is what I am determined to do. “I believe that immigration has been far too high in recent years which is why we will reduce net migration back down to the levels of the 1990s – to tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands.

“Over the coming weeks and months the public will see us tackle this issue head on by introducing a wide range of new measures to ensure that immigration is properly controlled, including a limit on work permits, actions on marriage and an effective system of regulating the students who come here.”


Most of whom arrived illegally. And with 20% unemployment, Spain does have a real problem

The food bank in Vic, 40 miles north of Barcelona, occupies an old bakery in a side street. Each day hundreds of unemployed stream in to collect handouts of bread, milk, pasta and other necessities. The overwhelming majority are immigrants, predominantly Moroccans and sub-Saharan Africans who flocked to Vic in the past few years to work on building sites or in the huge pig farms and meat factories that surround the town and give it its distinctive smell.

At least 10,000 came, swelling Vic’s population by a quarter. They did the hard, dirty work and were welcomed. Not any more. Half lost their jobs when Spain’s construction bubble burst in 2008 and brought the good times to an abrupt end.

A deeply unpopular €15 billion (£12.7 billion) austerity package rushed through parliament yesterday will make life even harder. On top of that, the immigrants are now the target of Platform for Catalonia, Spain’s equivalent of the BNP, which is based in Vic. “Control immigration — stop the crisis,” its leaflets proclaim.

“They insult us. They say maybe we’re the cause of the crisis, that we take their jobs. It’s not fair and it’s not nice,” said Mercy Omoroagbon, 30, as she collected her handout. She arrived from Nigeria in 2002, lost both her cleaning jobs last year and now lives off the charity of friends.

“They say the Spanish can’t work because of the immigrants. It’s not true. We did the work the Spanish didn’t want or wouldn’t do,” said Joy Ekechukwu, 33, another Nigerian who came to Spain 11 years ago, lost her factory job and now struggles to support her two young children.

Our previous stop was Bergamo, in the foothills of the Italian Alps. An early-morning flight from Milan took us to Vic, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, but the similarities end there. Bergamo is a rich city waiting for the hard times to begin. Vic is already in deep distress.

Unemployment is 16 per cent, which is better than the national average of 20 per cent because meat is Vic’s biggest industry and people have to eat. Property prices have slumped 30 to 40 per cent, 500 homes have been repossessed and new houses and apartments stand empty.

“The economy here is pretty dreadful,” said Xavier Troy, a bar manager.

The new austerity measures will cut the pay of Vic’s 400 civil servants, stop the council taking out bank loans for building projects and freeze state pensions. The town’s revenues fell 10 per cent in 2009 and were set to fall another five points this year even before this latest belt tightening.

Locally and nationally, trade unions are planning strikes and demonstrations, saying that Spain must reduce its 11 per cent budget deficit, but that the rich should bear the burden.

“It’s class war here. Those who earn more should pay more in taxes,” said Miguel Sánchez, leader of the Workers Commission in Vic.

More ominously, the Platform is using the crisis to foment hostility towards immigrants, threatening Spain’s reputation for tolerance.

“We call it an invasion,” says Josep Anglada, 50, the Platform’s president, a snappily dressed former property salesman who is one of his party’s four councillors in Vic and one of nineteen across Catalonia.

He does not mince his words. Sitting outside a bar in Vic’s elegant old Plaza Mayor, he blames immigrants for rising crime, drug trafficking and delinquency, and for all manner of antisocial behaviour because “they are used to living in the jungle.

“Immigrants bring nothing positive. They receive much more than they contribute to the State,” he says. All illegal immigrants should be expelled and the long-term unemployed repatriated.

Spain has had little time for hard-right parties since General Franco’s dictatorship ended in 1975 but the Platform’s foes admit that it is gaining strength. They will stage an anti-racism demonstration in the Plaza Mayor tomorrow.

“There’s been a rise in tension and there’s potential for xenophobic confrontation,” said Antoni Iborra, a lawyer working with Vic’s immigrants who says they have been barred from some bars and discos.

Josep Burgaya i Riera, Vic’s deputy mayor, said: “They’re using the crisis to try to whip up anti-immigrant feeling. They throw petrol on the fire. There’s no violence on the streets but there’s a sense of bad feeling.”

The economic crisis is acute. The unions are mutinous. Racial tensions are rising. In every sense Vic, like Spain, faces a long hot summer.


US National Guard troops being sent to the Mexican border will be used to stem the flow of guns and drugs across the frontier and not to enforce US immigration laws, the State Department said Wednesday.

The clarification came after the Mexican government urged Washington not to use the additional troops to go after illegal immigrants.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday authorized the deployment of up to 1,200 additional troops to border areas but State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters, “It’s not about immigration.”

He said the move was “fully consistent with our efforts to do our part to stem, you know, violence, to interdict the flow of dangerous people and dangerous goods — drugs, guns, people.”

He said the extra troops would be used to free up civilians engaged in support functions so that law enforcement personnel can be increased along the 2,000-mile-long (3,200 kilometer) border.

Nearly 13 million Mexicans live in the United States, more than half of them illegally.

“We have explained the president’s announcement to the government of Mexico, and they fully understand the rationale behind it,” Crowley said.

Obama’s announcement came less than a week after a state visit to Washington by Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who asked for greater US backing for a bloody three-year-old war on drug cartels.

Drug violence has claimed the lives of nearly 23,000 people over the past three years.


Even the Left-leaning writer below can see that

TONY Abbott’s embrace of the Pacific Solution to deter boat arrivals will be popular but it affirms the deeper story about the Coalition: it is smart on politics but weak on governing credentials.

Its new hard line on boat people is a “trust us” declaration that invokes the John Howard brand. This is a case of Abbott being Howard, hence his remark that “my values are very, very similar to those of John Howard”. Because this statement is true, Abbott’s pledge that his policy “is about stopping the boats” will resonate deeply.

Liberal Party research shows boat arrivals remain a red-hot issue. Much of the sentiment is ugly, hostile and deep-seated. As usual, Abbott has taken an absolutist stance: facing a complex challenge he offers populist purism. “We’ve done it before, we will do it again,” he said. “Stop the boats, we must. Stop the boats, we will.” The message: Kevin Rudd is weak on boat arrivals and Abbott is strong. That’s it. Roger, over and out.

It is a variation of his stance on the resource super-profits tax. “This great big new tax has already put all investment decisions on hold,” Abbott said in his budget reply. “The Coalition will oppose the mining tax in opposition and we will rescind it in government.” No debate, no qualifications. No concession that taxing profits is the superior principle in a resource tax regime. Abbott’s stance is policy must not hinder politics. Indeed, he told 2GB’s Alan Jones this week that miners “are paying more than their fair share of tax”, a claim much of the industry doesn’t even make in its self-defence.

Such absolutism gives Abbott a cut-through quality that maximises his mobilisation of anti-Labor sentiment. People know what he stands for. But it raises another question: is running Australia this simple? Julia Gillard said yesterday that on boat people Abbott had “a slogan, not a solution”. The day before Rudd dismissed Abbott for having no resources tax policy whatsoever despite his campaign.

The opening Labor seeks is obvious: Abbott can coin a slogan but you wouldn’t want him running the country. In a sense the more progress Abbott makes the more Rudd depicts him as motor-mouth but not a viable prime minister. During a campaign Rudd’s capacity to mount a disciplined argument that he is better able to manage the challenges of office should not be discounted.

Beneath Abbott’s populism lies his obsession with values. Policy is hard; values are easy. Policy is about balancing competing interests; values are about taking stands. Such tensions are accentuated in the asylum-seeker debate; this is difficult policy but lends itself to populist hyperbole.

Rudd is susceptible because he tried to find a compromise (protecting the borders but softening Howard’s repression of asylum-seekers) only to face a resurgence of boats.

So far in 2009-10 there have been 104 boats carrying 4893 people, the highest number on record.

This triggers an iron law of Australian politics: any prime minister is vulnerable if unable to halt the flow of boats. Put another way, every PM needs to show credibility as a border protectionist. Much of the media either cannot grasp or cannot accept this logic but it has complex and legitimate roots in our political culture.

In a tactic to intensify the heat, Abbott and his immigration spokesman Scott Morrison have unveiled a revised policy resting on three principles: where possible the Coalition will turn back the boats; all unauthorised arrivals will be processed offshore and this means negotiating “to establish an offshore processing detention centre in another country” to supplement Christmas Island because it is now at capacity; and restoration of temporary protection visas for unauthorised arrivals, with such people having no family reunion rights and no right to re-enter the country if they depart, thereby allowing the Coalition to lift Labor’s discriminatory treatment of Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum-seekers.

How such pledges would work in practice is highly speculative. Abbott and Morrison know their policy is riddled with uncertainty. Turning back the boats requires another nation’s co-operation, usually Indonesia. Immigration Minister Chris Evans says under Howard only seven boats were returned and none after 2003. As former foreign minister Alexander Downer said, Jakarta was prepared to allow some tow-backs after the Tampa crisis but this was kept as quiet as possible. Scope to revive this technique seems most improbable with Indonesia hardly a willing conscript. Morrison concedes prospects rest entirely on regional relations.

The Coalition’s position on offshore processing duplicates Howard’s Pacific Solution. This arose in 2001 because Howard refused to have the Tampa people processed in Australia and his government intimidated and bribed agreements with Nauru and Papua New Guinea for detention and processing facilities.

Morrison refuses to nominate which country an Abbott government would favour for such a deal. Obviously, it could only be revealed in office. The policy says “processing in another country provides the necessary deterrent to discourage illegal boat arrivals”. It means intercepted boats would be “taken to non-Australian territory”. This equates to a tactic of permanent boat diversion.

Could an Abbott government strike such an arrangement? The Coalition wants the International Organisation for Migration to operate the facility with support from other regional nations.

In this sense it would be an expensive regional solution difficult to negotiate. Coalition policy says Australia would accept some refugees from such offshore processing but “we will not take blanket responsibility for all those transferred to this facility”.

Abbott has drawn a fresh line in the sand. “At the moment the Rudd government is bringing illegal arrivals onshore,” he said. “That must not happen.” Delivering this declaration relies on truly heroic assumptions: that a willing nation can be found and other parties will agree to Australia’s conditions. Abbott’s claim he sees no reason why negotiations would not succeed is blind optimism.

How smart is the Coalition to revive the Pacific Solution? It faced no compulsion to do this. While the public wants the boats stopped, the Pacific Solution is hardly calculated to win mass applause. The political lesson, however, is that once the boats flow the winner is the leader taking the toughest stand. This is the essence of Abbott’s tactic. Rudd cannot out-tough Abbott on this. For Labor, Howard’s Pacific Solution was the most detested of all his border protection measures, so its revival maximises the differences between Coalition and Labor.

A similar argument applies to the Coalition’s commitment to temporary protection visas. The evidence under Howard is they had a poor record as deterrents or as workable policy instruments. Yet they put more product discrimination between Labor and Coalition over boat people.

This week’s events will shape the election campaign. The Coalition plans an intense and researched assault in the campaign proper around asylum-seekers, surely with paid advertising as Abbott matches Howard’s border protection message. If a series of boats arrive in the week before the vote, the effect will be inflammatory and unpredictable.

This policy release sets the scene. Morrison said: “We have had 60 boats arrive this year. They are arriving at a rate of more than three per week where in the last six years of the Coalition government they were arriving at a rate of three per year.”

While last Thursday’s Coalition policy must have been released with an eye to the weekend Newspoll, its long-run purpose is more important. The lesson is that Abbott will wipe the floor with Rudd as a populist. Labor needs to grasp this and act on it. Its strategy must be to present itself as the more capable, responsible and disciplined team for government.


I don’t have access to the full article behind the abstract below but it seems rather brainless. Unless it is a very bad abstract, it would appear that no distinction was made between legal and illegal immigration. Since most critics of illegal immigration have no problem with legal immigration, the study perpetrates a total confusion of two different things.

So what the heck do their results mean? Very difficult to say. Nothing, probably. But their weaselly conclusion that their findings are “consistent with” opposition to immigration being caused by “ethnocentrism” is demonstrably wrong.

Why? Because “ethocentrism” is a theory masquerading as a concept and the theory is demonstrably not true. Liking for one’s own group has NOTHING to do with dislike of other groups. Surprising to the simple minds of Left-leaning academics though that might be, that is what the research has repeatedly shown See e.g. here. Awareness of the existing psychological literature on the subject would not seem to be a strong point of the authors below.

Attitudes toward Highly Skilled and Low-skilled Immigration: Evidence from a Survey Experiment



Past research has emphasized two critical economic concerns that appear to generate anti-immigrant sentiment among native citizens: concerns about labor market competition and concerns about the fiscal burden on public services. We provide direct tests of both models of attitude formation using an original survey experiment embedded in a nationwide U.S. survey. The labor market competition model predicts that natives will be most opposed to immigrants who have skill levels similar to their own. We find instead that both low-skilled and highly skilled natives strongly prefer highly skilled immigrants over low-skilled immigrants, and this preference is not decreasing in natives’ skill levels. The fiscal burden model anticipates that rich natives oppose low-skilled immigration more than poor natives, and that this gap is larger in states with greater fiscal exposure (in terms of immigrant access to public services). We find instead that rich and poor natives are equally opposed to low-skilled immigration in general. In states with high fiscal exposure, poor (rich) natives are more (less) opposed to low-skilled immigration than they are elsewhere. This indicates that concerns among poor natives about constraints on welfare benefits as a result of immigration are more relevant than concerns among the rich about increased taxes. Overall the results suggest that economic self-interest, at least as currently theorized, does not explain voter attitudes toward immigration. The results are consistent with alternative arguments emphasizing noneconomic concerns associated with ethnocentrism or sociotropic considerations about how the local economy as a whole may be affected by immigration.

American Political Science Review (2010), 104:61-84

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