David Coates

Crossing Arizona: Stalemate in the desert

The Arizona initiative (S.B. 1070) continued to provoke a fierce response throughout May from both supporters and opponents. Memorial Day weekend saw rallies in Phoenix – several marching against the bill, and a similar number attending a stadium rally in support. Copy -cat legislation began to emerge in at least 18 states, including here in North Carolina.

Survey data gathered by the New York Times and CBS found an overwhelming majority of Americans favoring a full overhaul of US immigration policies but also – by a clear majority – supporting the Arizona initiative. There was a clear generational divide in the respondsents. Americans aged 45 and over were more likely than those under 45 to fell that the Arizona initiative was ‘about right’; and also more prone to argue that no newcomers should be allowed in. A parallel Brookings Institution report (The State of Metropolitan America) found a similar generational gap, and found it particularly pronounced in states like Arizona and Florida to which many more affluent Americans have retreated to retire/work. Reporting these findings, The New York Times “found that Arizona has the largest ‘cultural generation gap’….between older Americans who are largely white 983 percent in Arizona’s case) and children under 18 who are increasingly members of minorities (57 percent in Arizona’s case). Florida ranks sixth on [the] cultural generation gap list, with a 29 percentage point difference between the percentage of white people among its older residents and the percentage of whites make up of its children.” (Damien Cage, “A Generation Gap Over Immigration”, May 17, 2010). The full report is at http://www.newgeography.com/content/001571-the-real-state-metropolitan-america

Doris Meissner, the former commissioner of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, wrote a fascinating piece in The Washington Post, May 2, 2010 on what she termed “5 Myths about Immigration”, disputing the claims that

l.  Immigrants take jobs from American Workers

2. Immigration is at an all-time high, and most new immigrants came illegally

3. Today’s immigrants are not integrating into American life like past waves did

4. Cracking down on illegal border crossings will make us safer; and

5. Immigration reform cannot happen in an election year.

Data on 1-4 can be found in David Coates and Peter Siavelis, Getting Immigration Right: What Every American Needs to Know (Potomac Books, 2009). The Meissner essay can be accessed at http://www.statesman.com/opinion/meissner-5-myths-about-immigration-665627.html

May 5: President Obama told a White House reception that he wants to begin work this year on comprehensive immigration reform, but that getting legislation through Congress would be difficult. May 25: possibly laying the ground for that  by reaching out to Republicans, the President announced he would send up to 1200 more National Guards to the border with Mexico – solely to combat drug smuggling – to the visible despair of Representative Luis Guitierrez who is leading the fight for comprehensive immigration reform in the House. “Sound-bite driven politics” was his angry response (quoted in The New York Times. May 28 2010). Given the track record on bipartisanship ijn the 111th Congress, he has a point! His position on immigration is at http://www.gutierrez.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=456&Itemid=30

(image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fromrocks/6488377/

David Coates holds the Worrell Chair in Anglo-American Studies at Wake Forest University. He is the author of Answering Back: Liberal Responses to Conservative Arguments, New York: Continuum Books, 2010.

He writes here in a personal capacity.

One Response to “Crossing Arizona: Stalemate in the desert”

  1. Immigration and the Problem of the Two-Legged Stool « David Coates Answering Back says:

    […] [10] For earlier overviews, see http://www.davidcoates.net/2010/05/05/chapter-7-may-2010-update/ and  http://www.davidcoates.net/2010/06/05/crossing-arizona-stalemate-in-the-desert/ […]

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