Posted on May 2, 2007

Black Lawmakers Combat Anti-Immigrant Attitudes

Jonathan E. Kaplan, The Hill, May 1, 2007

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) plan to create a task force to study immigration issues and provide information about the impact of immigration reform on the black and Hispanic communities.

The CBC last week invited Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), chairman of the CHC’s immigration task force, to speak about immigration reform at the group’s weekly meeting; the small task force will include three yet-to-be-named members from each caucus.


The task force is designed to help the two groups coordinate efforts to pass an immigration reform bill while opponents of immigration reform attempt to stir up anti-immigration sentiment among black Americans.

A recent survey by the University of Chicago’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture found that 48 percent of black young adults agreed that “the government treats most immigrants better than it treats most black people in this country.”


Some black lawmakers are concerned about the prevalence of anti-immigration attitudes within the black community and the potential impact on immigration reform legislation.

“I do worry. I encounter [anti-immigration sentiment] from progressives, anti-discrimination advocates,” Davis said. “A point I make is that every 20 or 30 years there is a fight over immigration. The pro-immigration faction ends up winning.”

He added that the “mean-spirited faction is not helpful” because “one day it is immigrants [being attacked], the next week it could be black Americans.”


Polling conducted by the GOP-leaning Tarrance Group and Democratic-leaning Lake Research Partners for the National Immigration Forum found that more than 70 percent of white, black and Hispanic voters equally favor immigration reform.

The National Immigration Forum’s poll also showed that if immigration reform does not pass, 16 percent of voters would blame congressional Democrats and 12 percent would fault President Bush.

House and Senate Democrats have said they want to pass an immigration reform bill this year. But underscoring the tension surrounding the issue, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), chairman of the conservative Senate Steering Committee, asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to allow for a one-week review period before a bill is considered on the Senate floor.

Reid has said he wants to bring an immigration bill to the Senate floor by May 14. To {snip}

Washington, DC—Interest in passing comprehensive immigration reform among all voters has increased since last year, and voters are poised to reward lawmakers who support such reforms. These are among the findings of a new nationwide poll conducted by Democratic polling firm Lake Research Partners and Republican polling firm The Tarrance Group on behalf of the National Immigration Forum and the Manhattan Institute, released today in Washington.

“There is a dramatic surge in interest in Congress resolving the immigration issue this year across all categories of voters,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum. “Voters are clearly laying this issue at the feet of Congress and will not accept gridlock or partisan bickering. Doing nothing is not an option.”

75% support comprehensive immigration reform

Fully three-quarters (75%) of American voters support a comprehensive immigration reform proposal that contains the following elements:

* Greatly enhanced border security;

* Much tougher penalties on employers who hire illegally;

* Allowing more foreign workers to come legally to work on a temporary basis;

* Creating a system in which currently undocumented workers can come forward and register with the government, pay a fine, and receive temporary legal work status;

* Allowing temporary workers a multi-step, multi-year process to earn citizenship if they get to the end of the line and satisfy certain criteria such as remaining crime free, learning English, and paying taxes.

The poll found just 17% opposed to such a plan. That compares to 71% support and 23% opposition when this same plan was presented to voters in a July 2006 poll by the same pollsters.

This level of support is observed across all categories of voters: white (75%), African-American (70%), Hispanic (74%), strong Republican (76%), strong Democrat (74%), voters in swing congressional districts (72%), very conservative (75%), liberal (75%), white conservative Christians (78%), born again Christians (78%), voters who attend church weekly (76%), seniors (73%), and daily listeners of talk-radio (76%), for example.

Voters want action

“This is an issue in which voters are clearly out in front of their elected leaders,” Sharry said. “Many members of Congress worry about the ‘A’ word or being challenged in a primary by some hothead spewing sound bites. When are they going to get that the American people are sending a loud and clear message to fix it, do it now, and get it right? It seems that some in Congress are hoping this issue will just go away. But it isn’t going away until elected policy makers in both parties respond to the public demand for a solution.”

The pollsters over-sampled voters in key congressional districts, including the 60 districts that voted for Bush in 2004 but voted for a Democrat in 2006, which many see as the key battlegrounds that will determine the contest for Congress in 2008. The support for the proposal was consistently high and desire for action by Congress consistently intense. Voters in two congressional districts where immigration was a central campaign issue and which were won by freshmen Representatives in 2006, Illinois-06 and Arizona-05, showed solid and similar support for the proposal.

In head to head, comprehensive reform trounces “attrition”

Voters were given a choice between comprehensive reform with a path to citizenship and what opponents of comprehensive reform call “attrition.” Here’s how it was described in the poll:

“Some people say that we don’t need to offer illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, that’s amnesty & rewarding them for breaking our laws. By enforcing the law more strictly, it will become so hard to live & work here that they will go back where they came from.”

Only 26% choose this option. A robust 65% support comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.

“The opponents of immigration reform are pitching what they call ‘attrition’ but the voters aren’t buying it,” Sharry said. “People want change, not more of the same. Voters want substantive solutions, not simplistic slogans.”