Category: Advocacy reports

PA 4 Advocacy Report

Summary:

I recently reached out to ACLAMO, a Hispanic immigrant advocacy organization based in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. I wanted to share some of my research results and make some observations/suggestions for how to be most effective in immigrant outreach moving forward. After comparing news sources from Montgomery County and Norristown, an urban region within the larger county, I argue that Norristown has a more positive social view of immigrants compared to Montgomery County as a whole. Norristown is also more immigrant-dense, so it likely also has stronger immigrant ties. Although at first one may be inclined to give more support the densely Hispanic immigrant populated region (Norristown), I argue that it would be most effective to offer outreach to the rest of Montgomery County where immigrants tend to have weaker social ties. Past research shows that Hispanic immigrants have weaker ties in all areas but “informational support.” Because advocacy groups most often use education and teaching—which are still extremely valuable—I argue that ACLAMO would be more effective by creating communal areas for people with similar identify backgrounds to interact. These interactions may allow the immigrants living in a sparsely populated area with a more anti-immigrant sentiment to form close connections with others. Other research shows that social ties are important to not feel isolated and to share a communal narrative with others. ACLAMO has dedicated itself to helping Montgomery County’s Hispanic and immigrant population, and I believe that focusing on areas outside of Norristown with the intention to form social ties not necessarily through education is the most effective possible next step.

 

Full Text:

 

Immigration is rising globally—leading to a larger amount of migrants and a potential problem for how to best handle societal integration. In order to best help immigrants feel comfortable in their new homes, immigrant advocacy groups often play a central role. Because of this, it is essential that they are acting most effectively in order to help the immigrants who need it most.

I decided to research Pennsylvania District 4—which includes most of Montgomery County. I wanted to reach out to ACLAMO to thank you for your dedication to the Latino community, and to share some of the results from the research that I conducted on the region. In addition, based on my results and data from other studies, I will offer some observations and recommendations for future initiatives for your consideration.

In my study, I looked at two newspapers—Norristown’s The Times Heraldand Montgomery County’s Montgomery Media—in order to determine public opinion on immigration in the two regions. I hypothesized that because Norristown has a higher immigrant and Hispanic population than the rest of Montgomery County as a whole, then the newspaper based in Norristown would be more supportive of immigration though article tone and framing (Wong 2014;BURNS & GIMPEL, 2000). Frames are a heuristic cue that helps people reach a particular conclusion based on the way the information was presented. After conducting a media content analysis of both papers from December 2018 to January 2019, the hypothesis was found to be correct. Norristown’s The Times Herald tended to have a more positive tone towards immigration and also tended to use frames more closely associated with immigration support when compared to Montgomery County’s Montgomery Media.

One’s inclination may be to focus limited resources on areas of higher population. My suggestion, however, is to focus more attention on regions outside of Norristown which are less urban. Although there may be fewer people to appeal to in those areas, immigrants who reside in the rest of Montgomery County may face a more negative attitude from natives (assuming that local media coverage is representative of the native population). In addition, although immigration advocacy and support is important in more urban areas with a higher percentage of immigrants and Hispanics, support outside of an urban center may be even more important. Patricia Fernández-Kelly, a Princeton professor who is a part of the Center for Migration and Development, is studyinghow different immigrant children cope with living in a new environment. She primarily conducts qualitative interviews with residents of Princeton and Trenton in order to understand their thoughts on integration in their new homes. To give context, Trenton tends to have fewer resources and advocacy groups which help support immigrants in comparison to Princeton. She found that students report a higher amount of negative racially pointed language in Trenton, but also view their story as if they are the “protagonists” attempting to overcome discrimination. The children in Princeton, however, tend to feel more isolated and view themselves as outsiders. This situation is somewhat different than in PA, however, because Princeton is less immigrant dense yet more immigrant supportive. Trenton has a larger share of immigrants, yet there is a stronger anti-immigrant sentiment perceived by immigrant children. In PA, Montgomery County is less immigrant dense, but less immigrant supportive than Norristown in particular (according to my findings).

Immigrants from a high concentration area (Trenton) were found to hold a more universal central narrative among the interviewed children than in the low concentration area; and the high concentration area in PA (Norristown) already holds a more positive social view of immigration than Montgomery County. Both of these factors lead me to predict that there is less marginal benefit in conducting more outreach in Norristown, and possibly more benefit in reaching out to the immigrant population residing in suburban/rural Montgomery County. Norristown already has a positive public opinion and an opportunity for immigrants to have strong social ties due to the high concentration. Outreach in Trenton may be logical because of the more hostile social environment, but Norristown—although still requires some outreach—can likely do well with comparatively less.

Although outreach to the rest of Montgomery County has the potential to become ineffective and leave residents isolated (like in the case of Princeton), because of the comparatively anti-immigrant social opinion I argue it is more important to provide systemic support. Hispanic immigrants within suburban/rural Montgomery County likely have much weaker ties than people living in Norristown both because of the decreased proximity to others who share similar ethnic backgrounds, and the smaller percentage of people who identify as Hispanic. Because the immigrant community in Princeton does experience feelings of loneliness and isolation, I suggest that the most effective way of promoting a positive experience for immigrant children is by focusing to expand their social network of people with similar backgrounds, in addition to many of the services that advocacy organizations like ACLAMO traditionally provide such as education, case management, etc. Although those other services are of a high importance, researchers such as Edna A. Viruell-Fuentes have found that Hispanic immigrants have fewer social ties compared to non-Hispanic natives except for “informational support”. Oftentimes, advocacy organizations promote educational opportunities—which is most definitely still useful—but sometimes it may be more effective to simply facilitate a common place where people who may feel marginalized can congregate and potentially form connections. These connections, as seen by Fernández-Kelly’s research, are extremely important in creating a unifying identify so that new immigrant groups do not feel isolated and fearful.

Again, I want to thank everyone at ACLAMO for your service, and I hope that this information may be of use. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Chris Callegari

LA-3 Advocacy Report

Summary:

Based on my Assignment 3 research, I found that negative attitudes towards immigrants in LA-3 did not seem to be based on actual immigrant/Latino population size/growth. This was due to the extremely small population of immigrants present in my region. Instead, I theorized that negative attitudes could be largely informed by anti-immigrant rhetoric from politicians (at the national and local level) as well as in the media. The scope of the studies we’ve examined doesn’t quite extend to my population of interest (White residents of LA-3). For instance, Abrajano and Singh examine the correlation between individual and media attitudes within Latinos, not on Whites (2009). Meanwhile, Newman et al. report the link between Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric and increased salience, but don’t explicitly discuss its effect in the near-complete absence of immigrants (2018). However, I believe that both of these effects could potentially extend to the local population and inform their immigration views. If this is true, I theorize that the impersonal means of acquiring these views means that negative attitudes may be malleable (as compared to negative impressions formed through actual contact). Based on this, I recommend to a local advocacy group, the St. Frances Cabrini Immigration Law Center, that they increase education of White locals in the area. Work by Adida et al. and Enos encourages the idea that exposure to and education about immigrants could potentially increase inclusivity and support. Thus, I recommended increased local education, with the hopes of fostering a friendlier community for immigrants.

Full report:

Advocacy Recommendation: Promoting Local Inclusivity Through Education

One of the hallmarks of President Trump’s bid for the Republican nomination was his staunchly anti-immigrant rhetoric. With his visit to Southern Louisiana impending, as per Congressman Higgins’ most recent press release, one might worry about the President re-inflaming latent anti-immigrant sentiment in the region. However, after examining the demographics and public attitudes towards immigration in Louisiana’s 3rd congressional district (LA-3), I believe that it may be possible to, at least to some degree, turn around prevailing local anti-immigration attitudes. In order to create a more hospitable environment for immigrants, it is necessary to not just help immigrants on the road to naturalization, but also to educate the surrounding community, who currently lack positive representations of immigrants. Current anti-immigrant opinions in the district appear to be informed by passive consumption (i.e. political and media cues) rather than by negative experiences with immigrants: by supplying positive information about immigrants to local residents, it may be possible to amend their current views on immigrants and foster a more inclusive community.

Most current literature on anti-immigrant attitudes in the US focuses on the effects of local immigrant population size or growth. However, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, the foreign-born population in LA-3 was only 3.13%, representing a 10-year change of only 0.73 percentage points. At least according to traditional models, residents of LA-3 have little reason to be afraid of or upset with immigrants or, as they are often conflated with, Latinos. However, my own research, using Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) data from 2016 has shown that a majority of White residents of LA-3 are opposed to legislation relating to amnesty or the DREAM Act, and supportive of deportation and increased border patrols. Notably, LA-3 natives are on average more anti-immigrant than the average American. The fact that these pervasive anti-immigrant stances exist, despite there being few immigrants nearby to trigger them, must then be explained otherwise. Some research indicates that elite cues, in the absence of local group contact, may be responsible.

It has long been recognized that the relationship between Americans and the media they consume is a two-way street. But at least in recent years, it seems as if the increasingly polarized media is at times deciding the population’s political views rather than informing them. For instance, one study found that for Latinos, consuming media from outlets less friendly towards immigration correlated with holding more anti-immigrant views. There is also reason to believe that media outlets in Louisiana specifically will tend to lean anti-immigrant, as another study found that news organizations closer to the US-Mexico border tend to report both more often and more negatively about immigrants. If we can extend these findings to residents of LA-3, it is not unreasonable to think that they may be swayed into anti-immigrant attitudes based more on the media than by any personal experience. Similarly, the rhetoric espoused by political leaders, such as President Trump and Congressman Higgins may have a noticeable effect on the salience of immigration for locals. A recent study found that Trump’s inflammatory remarks about immigration in June of 2015 (e.g. his comments about Mexican “rapists” and “criminals”) primed his voter base to mentally prioritize immigration. In LA-3 there is certainly no lack of vocal anti-immigration politicians who could trigger similar concerns. Between the media and political elite cues, it is not unreasonable that locals could develop anti-immigration attitudes without much personal foundation.

The fact that these viewpoints developed without personal contact may at first seem discouraging, but I believe there is a reason for optimism: views about immigrants may be malleable. One experiment showed that when study participants were asked to take the perspective of Syrian refugees, they were more likely to participate in supportive behaviors. Notably, this effect was observed in both Democrats and Republicans, indicating that this effect could cross party voting lines. In an experiment on intergroup contact, everyday encounters with Latinos over a course of weeks initially resulted in greater exclusionary attitudes, but gradually seemed to lead towards more inclusive beliefs. While the results of either study are not strongly conclusive, there is some reason to believe that learning about the plights of immigrants can foster sympathy and actual contact with immigrants over time can slowly engender more positive, inclusive feelings. While this does not address exactly how more information about immigrants can be distributed to locals in LA-3, it does seem to suggest that greater education and increased contact could help decrease current intolerance for immigrants.

Life for immigrants is certainly not easy anywhere, and Louisiana may be a particularly challenging state to settle in – due restrictionist policy regimes, the increasing presence of ICE as local detention facilities are filled with asylum-seekers, and of course the anti-immigrant rhetoric that Trump and other politicians may impart on locals. However, having a more welcoming local populace would go far towards improve immigrant outcomes and integration. Thus, I hope that you will consider, in addition to the critical work you do providing education and assistance to immigrants, the potential benefits of educating local residents. In increasing positive attitudes towards immigrants, it may be possible to not only create a larger network of supporters, but also to improve immigrant outcomes and build a more welcoming community.

The Florida Immigrant Coalition’s Role After Florida’s Ban on Sanctuary Cities

Summary:

On May 2, the Republican-controlled legislature sent a bill to the governor’s desk that would ban sanctuary cities state-wide. In sanctuary cities, the county police declines federal requests to hold undocumented immigrants in jail due to their undocumented status. While interest groups including the Florida Immigrant Coalition have fought long and hard against this legislation, these harsh immigration policies can present a unique moment of political opportunity for voter mobilization going forward, especially in areas like South Florida that are made up of such a large percentage of non-white and foreign born residents. Research conducted by Ariel White shows that policies that specifically target undocumented immigrants can lead to a 2-3 percentage point increase in Latino voter turnout. Further, the results of this study are directly applicable to Florida’s new sanctuary cities legislation. In addition, there is also evidence of the powerful impact that such racially targeted policies can have on white voters as well. Shaun Bowler, Stephen P. Nicholson, and Gary M. Segura study how even though individual partisan changes are infrequent and difficult to force, racially charged policies that specifically target immigrant communities can have the effect of creating partisan change within the white racial majority. Lastly, interest groups such as the Florida Immigrant Coalition is a unique position to create this partisan change. García-Castañon et al show that mobilization can be through repeated, more intense contact, co-ethnic contact from those within the immigrant community, and through non-partisan actors.

Full text:

On May 2, as Florida’s 60 day legislative period was drawing to a close, the Republican-controlled legislature sent a bill to the governor’s desk that would ban sanctuary cities state-wide. In a state where 1 in 5 residents is an immigrant, Florida will soon enact one of the strictest sanctuary city laws in the country. The final governor’s signature is all but certain, given that Florida’s new Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, made banning sanctuary cities a key campaign promise.

In sanctuary cities, the county police declines federal requests to hold undocumented immigrants in jail due to their undocumented status. One of Florida’s largest sanctuary cities was, for a long time, Miami, which makes up a large portion of Florida’s 24th congressional district, a district that is 44% foreign born and 39% Latino. The final version of the bill passed by the Florida legislature requires local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, making it so that detained undocumented immigrants would need to wait for ICE to begin the deportation process after being detained for a crime, instead of being released after their criminal proceedings finish.

While interest groups including the Florida Immigrant Coalition have fought long and hard against this legislation only to be faced with a disappointing and disheartening result, these harsh immigration policies can present a unique moment of political opportunity for voter mobilization going forward, especially in areas like South Florida that are made up of such a large percentage of non-white and foreign born residents.

Research conducted by Ariel White shows that policies that specifically target undocumented immigrants can lead to a 2-3 percentage point increase in Latino voter turnout. This study is unique, as it shows a direct link between policies that only directly affect undocumented immigrants on the political actions of citizens, who by definition cannot be deported for undocumented status. Further, the results of this study are directly applicable to Florida’s new sanctuary cities legislation. White studies the effects of the Secure Communities program, which also increased local-federal immigration cooperation over undocumented immigrants. She identifies two mechanisms to explain increased voter turnout. First is feelings of personal threat, where Latino citizens feel threatened because deportation impacts the Latino community as a whole, not just the individuals. Second, activist mobilization grew in the wake of these policies. Interest groups similar to the Florida Immigrant Coalition used the Secure Communities policies to target Latino voters and encourage turnout. Both of these mechanisms are present in a Florida that just passed legislation that will increase deportations and making immigrant communities less safe, and interest groups such as the Florida Immigrant Coalition should turn these political threats into political action.

In addition, there is also evidence of the powerful impact that such racially targeted policies can have on white voters as well. Shaun Bowler, Stephen P. Nicholson, and Gary M. Segura study how even though individual partisan changes are infrequent and difficult to force, racially charged policies that specifically target immigrant communities can have the effect of creating partisan change within the white racial majority. In this study, three propositions during the 1990s in California restricting the rights of undocumented immigrants have the effect of violating the norm of racial equity and creating backlash within the Republican party, resulting in greater Democratic party identification. This research calls into question the long term strategy of the GOP in Florida. The ban on sanctuary cities may fit the short-term political needs of a highly politicized issue, often referenced by President Trump to stoke fear of immigrants within his base. However, similar to the case that Bowler et al studied, it is possible that the GOP will not benefit in the long term from raising the salience of immigration with such clearly racialized policies.

Lastly, interest groups such as the Florida Immigrant Coalition is a unique position to create this partisan change. A wide collection of research focuses on the unique role that interest groups can play in voter mobilization. Marcela García-Castañon, Kiku Huckle, Hannah Walker, and Chinbo Chong offer methods through which interest groups allow these voter mobilization efforts to be successful. The research shows that a key difference in the impact of the mobilization process between political parties and interest groups is the focus on organization. Interest groups often teach immigrants not just to be politically active, but rather teach how to participate and build a framework for sustained civic engagement. This can be achieved, they show, through repeated, more intense contact, co-ethnic contact from those within the immigrant community, and through non-partisan actors. The Florida Immigrant Coalition can utilize these strategies to have a tangible impact on voting behaviors in the wake of the sanctuary cities ban.

The legislation passed by the Florida legislature is disappointing and cruel for undocumented immigrants and their communities. However, going forward, the Florida Immigrant Coalition should use this political moment to rally support for the immigrant community. By using targeted voter mobilization efforts and reminding voters of the attacks on immigrant families from Florida legislators, we have an opportunity to fight back in the future.

© Copyright 2019 The Trustees of Princeton University
The McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning resides within the Office of the Dean of the College
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