Author: Tabitha Belshee

Immigration in CA-53: Recommendations for Susan Davis

Below is my op-ed regarding how Susan Davis should adjust her strategy to focus on local, rather than national, issues in order to represent immigrants better in her district. See the Abstract below for a comprehensive summary of my approach.

Immigration in CA-53: Recommendations for Susan Davis


Susan Davis, the congressional representative of CA-53, treats immigration as an important issue and is historically in favor of humanitarian and pro-immigration efforts. Much of the work mentioned under the “Immigration” tab on her website is in response to national immigration issues; however, there is room for improvement on support of local issues. Current scholarship indicates that districts like CA-53 — districts that are undergoing demographic changes, especially those observed in CA-53, and are close to the border geographically — are prone to intergroup tensions. I performed a media content analysis of the San Diego Union Tribune (SDUT) and concluded that San Diego, and subsequently CA-53, may be currently experiencing these tensions in line with current scholarships predictions. Davis’ support for immigration on a national level is excellent, but more emphasis on its local implications is prudent.


Existing Scholarship

Current scholarship, as well as common sense, primes immigration to be a highly salient topic in regions close to the international border (Branton et al. 2009). CA-53 has been experiencing some demographic shifts communicated to researchers in the differences between the demographics reported in 2007 and 2017 according to the US Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder. Specifically, CA-53 has experienced a large decrease in White, small increase in Hispanic or Latino, and small increase in immigrant populations. Pertinent to these changes in CA-53: scholarship indicates that changing demographics lead to intergroup tensions and increased Hispanic and immigrant populations both lead to increased hostility over immigration. (Enos 2014, Adida et al. 2018, Hopkins 2010).


Susan Davis’ Current Actions

An exploratory look into Davis’ website clearly indicates her strong support for immigration, with support for DREAMers and Middle Eastern refugees taking up the bulk of the page. On the Related News section beneath the page, only 1 out of 5 stories is decidedly local: “Congresswoman Susan Davis’ Statement on the Closing of the San Ysidro Point of Entry.” It would appear that Davis’ pro-immigration sentiments largely fall under the scope of national policy interests.


My Research

I performed a media content analysis, meaning that I took a form of media (SDUT) and wanted to compare saliency and tone of immigration in local and national scopes. Saliency here means I was interested in how often immigration was discussed in terms of local issues vs national issues. Tone here means I was looking at how negative the articles about immigration were on local vs national issues. My analysis, which can be seen in full here, indicates that immigration is an especially salient topic on a local level in CA-53, even greater than on a national level. A larger percentage of local articles on a specified topic included immigration than national articles on a comparable topic. Potentially even more impactive, sentiment of local immigration articles was significantly more negative than sentiment of national immigration articles. Understanding that media outlets pander to their viewers’ beliefs politically, these results indicate that CA-53 is in line with scholarship and is feeling intergroup tensions from the demographic change of the last ~12 years.



The scholarship indicates that districts resembling CA-53 experience negative intergroup sentiments and attitudes towards immigration. My media content analysis indicates that CA-53 is more inclined to feel local tensions pertaining to immigration on a local scale than immigration on a national scale. Both the scholarship and my research are in agreement that CA-53 constituents observe local immigration issues as more important than national immigration issues and that there is some tension regarding local immigration issues.



Davis’ existing strategy — focus on immigration at the national level — is not a bad strategy in terms of working for change. She has experienced success in this arena by cosponsoring comprehensive legislation that have gained traction in both parties. Her behavior on a national scope is in line with her constituents’ beliefs: favoring national over local immigration.

However, if Davis is interested in serving the immigrants in her district better, she should address tensions within her home district and increase her involvement in local immigration issues. These shifts would need to be done with care considering it is an approach that may make some of her constituents uneasy, but her continued success in CA-53 elections indicates that she can afford to take this stance without worrying about reelection.

Erring on the side of caution: given that increasing Davis’ presence in the local immigration conversations may be politically risky in terms of constituents feeling tension: I have included two lists of recommendations. One, entitled “Shifts,” is moderate adjustments that require little change. The latter, entitled “Changes,” is less moderate and more intense in terms of change required.



  1. Continue to advocate for immigration reform at the national level
  2. Continue to vote in favor of positive immigration reform
  3. Occasionally attend events held by — and meet with coordinators of — local immigrant activist groups (Welcoming San Diego, Ready Now San Diego, Border Angels, etc)
  4. Balance issues between local concerns/national concerns on the immigration tab of Davis’ website OR include discussion of local implications of national issues



All actions delineated above in addition to:

  1. Recruit immigrant interns/staff
  2. Regularly work to populate “Immigration Events” in the website calendar (currently none scheduled nor any past events listed)
  3. Speak publicly on the importance of welcoming immigrants in our community
  4. Standing in opposition to organizations that threaten immigrants regardless of legal status


I include eight recommendations here on two different levels of magnitude to increase the likelihood of one or two being enacted and to emphasize the importance of increasing support for local immigration efforts.


I pledge my honor this paper represents my own work in accordance with University regulations. – Tabitha Lynne Belshee

Media Content Analysis CA-53

My media content analysis was approved to be slightly different than others’ analyses in the class because I had one local source and two issues I was particularly interested in: one local and one national. I compare media’s coverage and tone of the migrant caravan issue (local) with coverage of the government shutdown (national).

The caravan and shutdown have different areas of impact, and the caravan’s local influence lends it to being representative of a local issue while the shutdown represents an issue not specific to CA-53 constituents. Note that this assignment is not meant to say that the shutdown does not affect CA-53 constituents. However, it should be emphasized that the caravan attempted to cross at the San Ysidro crossing and therefore directly and specifically affects San Diegans. In this experiment, I explore the impact of the local/non-local impact on media’s sentiment when considering the portion of the conversation that relates to immigration. Given CA-53’s proximity to the border, reporting on immigration is plentiful which is supported in the literature as well as empirically by the 10,000+ articles related to immigration published by the San Diego Union Tribune (SDUT) from the start of 2018 up until March of 2019. Both hypotheses are relevant to CA-53 based on proximity to the border (H1), demographic change (H2), increasing Hispanic population (H2), and increasing immigrant population (H2). My thought process behind both hypotheses is that the media about the caravan will elicit a media presence and sentiment more directly about the community, while the media about the shutdown will elicit a more general response.

H1: CA-53 is located very closely to the Mexico/US border and increased proximity to the border indicates increased reporting (Branton et al. 2009). I anticipate immigration will be more heavily reported when the issue being reported is local.

H2: CA-53’s demographics have been shifting towards increased Hispanic and immigrant populations, therefore I expect tension. (Enos 2014 & Adida et al. 2018 & Hopkins 2010). I hypothesize the tension will be felt stronger when the issues are local: there will be a more negative sentiment around immigrants in the caravan articles than in the shutdown articles.

My media-content analysis is similar to that of my classmates because I look at the difference between local/national but I separate locality by topic being reported and others separate locality by news source. Holding the news source (SDUT) and time frame (1/1/2018-3/1/2019) constant, I compare the subsets of articles that talk about a local immigration concern — migrant caravan – and a national issue — government shutdown. I use the keywords “caravan” to create the caravan subset and “shutdown” to create the shutdown subset. I use “immig!” within both subsets to identify the amount of articles that pertain to immigration. Within these narrowed subsets that include ‘immig!” I identified the ones that are negative (process described shortly below). I compare the subsets on two dependent variables: salience and tone. I operationalize salience by comparing the proportion of immigration articles published within the given parameters on each topic and look for a significant difference between the two. I operationalize tone by utilizing the LexisNexis Negative News feature to identify how many of the articles in each subset are classified as negative. The Negative News classifier was built to specifically identify news articles that displayed significant negative tone and language, and is likely more comprehensive than any handful of keywords to indicate tone I could create. One classifier method I attempted was to utilize the “Dictionary with opinionated words from the Harvard-IV dictionary as used in the General Inquirer software” which I had scraped and put into LexisNexis as “or” terms, but there were too many terms entered for the search to run. Therefore LexisNexis’ classifier is likely more effective because it runs within each search rather than as individual search terms and subsequently allows the classifier to take more terms into consideration as well as more complex linguistic patterns.

The Results slide communicates the size and relevant features of each subset described in the table. The information from this table is used to conduct the significance test. I use a proportion test to evaluate whether there are significant differences between proportion of articles including immigration content (H1) and negative tone in articles including immigration content (H2). The proportion test (prop.test in R) is the appropriate test because the data is binary: either an article falls into a category or it does not. Prop.test takes in a contingency table as a matrix comparing binary outcomes between two groups and indicates the significance of the difference between the groups. The matrices needed for prop.test can be seen in the code chunk screenshots included for each hypothesis in the slide.

In more detail, here is how I translated the media information for H1 into a contingency table (understood as a matrix in R):


H1 <- matrix(c(117, 63, 96, 153), ncol=2)

colnames(H1) <- c(‘Caravan’, ‘Shutdown’)

rownames(H1) <- c(‘Immigration’, ‘Non-Immigration’)


The proportion test can be carried out with the following code:

H1.results <- prop.test(H1)


The p-values of both proportion tests were <0.05 indicating evidence in favor of rejecting the null hypotheses, which is that there was no difference between salience (H1) and tone (H2) of the groups.

My experiment indicates support for the existing literature, specifically Branton et al., Enos, Adida et al., and Hopkins by supporting that local topics in media seem to produce reporting that reflects the local population’s immigration sentiments. Limitations, as mentioned in the slide, mostly have to do with the caravan:local :: shutdown:national connection. Especially when looking at salience, the caravan issue was almost exclusively an immigration issue while the government shutdown was an immigration issue as well as an abuse-of-power issue, representation issue, etc. So it could be argued that to measure salience by (immigration & caravan)/caravan is flawed because more articles will overlap between immigration and caravan than immigration and shutdown just by sheer content difference. However, I think if that were true then more than 65% of caravan articles would mention immigration, so more than immigration implications of the caravan were discussed. Nevertheless, the caravan could be replaced with any other slightly immigration-related local topic and the hypotheses’ conclusions should ideally still hold. By immigration-related I mean that using something like “charter school opening” or “local gas leak” would not be logically appropriate because they are too far removed from the immigration conversation for the lack of immigration salience to be meaningful. For future work I recommend comparing the tone regarding the migrant caravan between English and Spanish publications in San Diego. I could not find a Spanish publication with an online article archive to support this direction. I anticipate the difference between English and Spanish publications on such an immigration-salient issue to be very different in tone for a variety of reasons (authorship, audience, etc).

Despite possible limitations, the experiment indicated that local issues likely have higher proportions of immigration coverage and this immigration coverage likely has more negativity than non-local immigration coverage.








CA-53: Demographics and Their Interaction with Immigration



CA-53 and the San Diego region as a whole have been experiencing demographic shifts over the last twenty years in response to economic push/pull, urban sprawl leading to the expansion of downtown, and immigration. As seen in the table, the White population has sharply declined in the last ten years and are being replaced by small growths in minority populations. 1.7 percentage points of this growth are Hispanic or Latino residents, which is a small change in comparison to the White decline but a large change in comparison to more stable districts. This small increase is accompanied by a small immigrant increase, a sizeable decrease in undocumented immigrant presence, and a growth in non-English speaking households. The juxtaposition between CA-53 being very well educated and having a large percentage of non-English speaking households serves as evidence of the strong immigrant population base that exists in the district.

The current research on the topics is plentiful, and the more relevant conclusions for my scope fall under media and public opinion. For immigrant experience, I use Enos’ “Causal effect of intergroup contact on exclusionary attitudes.” Media coverage is represented by Abrajano and Hajnal’s White Backlash and Branton et al.’s “Slated Newspaper Coverage of Immigration: The Importance of Economics and Geography.” Public opinion is represented by Newman et al.s’  “Race, Place, and Building a Base: Latino Population Growth and the Nascent Trump Campaign for President,” Hopkins’ “Politicized Places: Explaining Where and When Immigrants Provoke Local Opposition” and Adida et al.’s “Ebola, elections, and immigration: how politicizing an epidemic can shape public attitudes.” When compiling this slide, I noticed a potential disconnect between restrictionist sentiments drawn out by increases in Hispanic, Latino or immigrant communities and the increase in Spanish language news that likely follows them there. I focus on this potential disconnect in my research proposal but it is worth noting here because the directionality of the predictions are opposite for the same changes in the same data.


The current research fits my district rather well because the Hispanic and Latino populations grew, the immigrant population grew, and the White population declined. Although the magnitude of the change is not large, the presence of the increase in minority populations primes the predictions to lean towards restrictionist predictions. The consensus of the ‘Immigrant Experience’ and ‘Public Opinion’ columns is that these changes will produce more restrictionist and conservative sentiments in CA-53; however, both articles under ‘Media Coverage’ expect more pro-immigrant rhetoric to spread. 

Notably, the research on immigrant experience and public opinion predict negative outcomes in terms of immigrant interests in CA-53, but media content still indicates positive sentiments about immigration. It is economically prudent for news outlets to appeal to the views of their consumers, so I predict that CA-53’s media content around the government shutdown — when special national attention was placed on immigration — will be largely negative across both Spanish and English news outlets. I am making a large assumption that CA-53’s large Spanish-speaking population translates into a large Spanish-news consuming population so that the results can be discussed as representative of CA-53. An obstacle I mention in the slide is that online databases, Lexis-Nexis included, do not carry any local news sources for the region below LA. The local Spanish papers — La Prensa, El Latino, and El Sol de San Diego — do not provide access to online archives of past issues. Currently I am looking at the San Diego Union Tribune, which publishes mostly in English but to a lesser extent in Spanish. I will account for the differences in sample size before I perform any tests or comparisons between the two languages. I have performed textual tone analysis using R in the past and could recreate that for the purposes of this project, or use one of the services available online; however, my concern with using a prebuilt system is its potential inability to handle Spanish. Another element I am considering is supplementing the results with a tone analysis of articles more explicitly about the migrant caravan, which had a huge impact on local communities. My logic is that the local salience of the migrant caravan will elicit a more direct response in local papers than the more broad concepts of the border/immigration/Trump.

CA-53 Susan Davis

Susan Davis

Link to higher-quality and more legible slides

CA 53 was one of the products of a redistricting effort in 2001-2002 when it was sectioned off from CA 49. Susan Davis became the House Representative for this district at its inception in 2003 after serving from 2000-2002 in District 49. Davis has represented the district since 2003 and has had no problem maintaining her seat. As seen in the plot I made using California Secretary of State data, she has won consistently with a 20% or more margin of victory.  

I chose to focus on two very CA-53-applicable pieces from the semester so far: Wong’s The Politics of Immigration: Partisanship, Demographic Change, and American National Identity from 2017 and Wong’s 2012 publication on 287(g) and local cooperation in Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. Specifically I am taking hypotheses from these texts which cover a much broader range of information than is relevant to the scope of this assignment. In Wong’s 2017 piece, a primary hypothesis is that restrictive immigration policy is negatively correlated to foreign-born population. Such that more foreign-born people would predict looser immigration policy. In Wong’s 2012 piece, he looked at multiple factors that might predict the level of cooperation with local authorities and 287(g) agreements, or local partnerships with ICE. I chose to pull two of these factors: political partisanship and growth of Hispanic/Latino population. Directionally, Democrat partisanship predicts less cooperation and Republican partisanship predicts more cooperation. A growing Hispanic/Latino population predicts more cooperation.

Applying the above hypotheses to CA 53 is a multi-step process. Data for the plot on the left comes from the US Census, including the anticipated error calculations depicted on each data point. The plot shows a steady but small climb in foreign born population in the last ten years. According to Wong 2017, CA 53 should have more relaxed policy regarding immigration now than several years ago to reflect this trend. The plot and visuals under Wong 2012 are less clear at face value because I included two of Wong’s factors to consider. The plot shows a ~5% increase in Hispanic population in the last 8 years. Wong predicts that the increasing Hispanic population will indicate an increase in local cooperation and 287(g) agreements. It can be hard to isolate CA-53 from surrounding districts, but the donkey underneath is meant to reassure viewers that CA-53 is blue on the map, indicating that the district overall is expected to have reduced cooperation and 287(g) agreements. The partisanship and growth of the Hispanic population predict contradictory directional effects according to Wong; however, partisanship is generally stronger than other factors so the overall expectation for CA-53 is low levels of cooperation and 287(g) agreements.

In reality, CA-53 and Susan Davis are not too far off expectations from the literature. Davis is a fairly average Democrat in Congress with a slightly better voting attendance (missed 1.6%) than the median lifetime Congressional average (2.0%). In terms of immigration, Davis has never differed from the results of a prediction algorithms’ expectations, indicating that her votes have been consistent with the overall vote of Democrats. Furthermore, Davis has sponsored or cosponsored 63 total bills having some relevance to immigration. As exemplified in the tweet seen here, Davis has been very vocal in her disapproval for the Trump administration’s behavior at the border as well as the resulting government shutdown. Returning to the prediction from Wong 2017, it is challenging to know if her stance on immigration has changed very much considering she has never disagreed with the Democratic Party on it. She appears to have always been and has remained a strong proponent for lax and supportive policy. Looking at the heat map on the right allows us to revisit the prediction from Wong 2012. The heat map uses 287(g) agreements and other indicators of local cooperation where green is low and red is high. CA-53 has generally low cooperation, which is consistent with the prediction. Although California has very low cooperation overall which makes it hard to compare different districts.

How California Laws Meant to Integrate Immigrants Can Open a Backdoor for ICE

I find the implications and unintended consequences of immigration policy fascinating, especially at the state and local levels which are more likely to deal with the nuances of how policies exist in practice. California’s AB 50 from 2013 allowed undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses in an attempt to improve road safety. AB 50 is not necessarily a piece of immigration legislation itself; however, the population it affects are immigrants.  The unintended consequence of AB 50 is that ICE and similar entities can obtain the information — photos, address, etc — from people who have since applied for driver’s licenses. This article features the stories of several undocumented immigrants who applied for licenses under AB 50 and were tracked down by local ICE agents using the information given to the DMV , even though they broke no laws and had established lives and families here.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are policymakers at the state level responsible for the execution at the local level? Is being responsible for the policy making the same as being held accountable? Will they be held accountable?
  2.  Should the DMV be expected to cooperate if local ICE officials ask for information on immigrants who have broken no laws?
  3. This is an example of policy implications on a local level. What about implications for related policies at the national level (I’m thinking about DACA and DAPA)?
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