Category: NJ District 6

New Jersey District 6 (NJ-06) and Texas District 7 (TX-07): The Politics of Immigration

Arman Badrei and Rohan Shah

 

In the 6th congressional district of New Jersey (NJ-06), Congressman Frank Pallone has represented his constituents since 1988, winning his elections in the last decade by large margins. The district, which covers Middlesex County and Monmouth County, has been a Democratic stronghold.

 

The 7th congressional district of Texas (TX-07) was represented by Representative John Culberson of the  Republican Party for more than a decade. In the 2018 midterm elections, Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher turned TX-07 blue.

 

Both NJ-06 and TX-07 are majority-minority districts as of 2017. Over a ten-year period since 2007, the white population decreased, while Latino and Asian populations increased in both districts. The white population decline was greater in TX-07 but the growth of the Latino and Asian populations were slightly greater in NJ-06. The foreign-born, or immigrant, populations expanded in both districts, with a 5.2 percentage point increase in NJ-06 compared to an 8 percentage point increase in TX-07.

 

We both used certain scholarly work as a framework and motive for analyzing certain factors and larger themes. In the examination of NJ-06, Chavez (2008) and Abrajano and Hajnal (2015) predicted that changes to the Asian population demographic neither caused the same negative reactions nor shifts in macropartisanship as that of changes in the Latino population. TX-07 proved to also be especially interesting under the lens of existing research.  According to research by Hopkins (2015), public opinion in areas can change as a result of “sudden, destabilizing changes” in local demographics. On a related note, Abrajano and Hajnal (2015) assert that whites living in states with more Latinos will tend to counter that growth by supporting more restrictive policymaking and movement towards the Republican Party.

 

To determine the accuracy of overlaying such research on our districts, we both conducted qualitative interview studies. The research concerning NJ-06 focused on evaluating the differences in perception to immigration news coverages of Asians versus Latinos. In exploring that significant aim, the research examined exposure to local and national news, perceived fairness of such news in respect to immigration, opinions of ethnic groups, and the effects of immigration news media on political affiliation and views. Interviews were conducted with Asian, Hispanic, Asian-Indian, and Non-Hispanic white constituents in NJ-06.  

 

Although the research on TX-07 had a media-centric angle, the study focused far more on the perception and effects of the growth of ethnic populations. Interviews were conducted with Christopher Harvey, the Legislative Assistant on Immigration for Rep. Fletcher, and Gislaine Williams, the Community Relations Director at The Alliance, a nonprofit that works with primarily refugees but also immigrants. Main topics of the interviews were the reception of immigrants, the effects of demographic changes, urban attitudes on immigration, and the political situation and attitudes of the district in general.

 

In comparing our results, we noted an intersection when evaluating the response to immigration politics in the media and demographic changes on the politics of each district. We included sample quotations that pertain to these categories.

 

In terms of media coverage, in NJ-06, interviewees held a fundamental distrust of both the local and national news media. Furthermore, media coverage of Asian immigration was seen as positive and advantageous for the American economy whereas that of the Latino population was believed to be negative and visceral. Significantly, the current immigration news coverage climate was determined to have a polarizing effect on personal political affiliation. In TX-07, both policymakers and nonprofit advocates understand the obvious influence of the media. Additionally, policymakers want to emphasize the danger of the dissemination of fake news. Now, in addition to being service providers for immigrant communities and entities for advocacy, it seems nonprofits are turning towards functioning as an instrument or facilitator in the media world too: Williams at The Alliance talked about how they “have also engaged media outlets because of that in trying to get the stories of local refugees in newspapers, in local news, local TV news, so that people are able to see refugees in a different light or are able to see a more comprehensive look into the community” and have led media training for refugee leaders to teach them how to write opinion pieces and press releases.

 

Both NJ-06 and TX-07 saw increases in the immigrant and Latino populations but our research indicates that this did not necessarily confer “white backlash” in respect to political affiliation. This is because the speed of such growth was rather constant, or perceived to be constant, and because President Trump’s politics played a more pivotal role than the issue of immigration which points to the rise in Democratic success since 2016. Polarization exists, but more so due to Trump rather than views on immigration specifically.

 

We recommend that our representatives, first and foremost, represent the views of all their constituents including citizens and non-citizens. However, we do understand the challenge in doing so. In TX-07, Harvey emphasized the difficulty in having polarity due to immigration and representing the views of a moderate district. Out of respect for the American electoral system, they should take a position that accommodates as many residents as possible. As the moderate nature of TX-07 demonstrates, simply representing based on the interests of political partisanship would ignore a large (or more specifically, half) of the electorate. Given the prevalence of immigration media coverage, representatives should actively demystify immigration policy decisions at the local and national levels to counter “fake news”, biases in the media, and transparency issues. As demonstrated with TX-07 and NJ-06, representatives should actively respond to demographic changes by having prescience about immigrant attitudes and promoting cross-cultural awareness to mitigate potential issues.

Representative Frank Pallone

Representative: Frank Pallone

District: 6th District of New Jersey (NJ –06)

Party: Democratic Party

NJ-06: 2008 -2018 Election Results

Representative Frank Pallone has continuously represented the 6th District of New Jersey (NJ-06) since 1988 and has won most of his elections by a significant margin. The 6th District of New Jersey covers Middlesex and Monmouth Counties and, importantly, townships such as Edison, New Brunswick, Ashbury Park, Long Branch, and Perth Amboy, The district is largely suburban and is home to important educational institutions such as Rutgers University, companies such as Novo Nordisk and Wakefern Food Corporation, and major medical centers such as Robert Wood Johnson. Moreover, the district is diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background.

Source:

 https://ballotpedia.org/Frank_Pallone

Political Theory Behind Immigration Policy Dynamics

A number of scholars have theorized the political foundations of immigration policy dynamics in the United States congress. Wong and others found that partisanship was the most consistent determinant of support or opposition for immigration policy. Casellas and Leal discovered that the length of tenure of the representative is a determinant of immigration policy support where shorter tenure is correlated with lower support. On the district level, Casellas and Leal also showed that a high poverty rate is negatively associated with reform legislation and positively correlated with enforcement measures. In terms of demographics, scholars showed that greater foreign-born percentage as well as greater Latino percentage were both associated with pro-immigration legislation.

Sources:

Wong (2017): http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190235307.001.0001/acprof-9780190235307

Casellas and Leal (2013): https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/21565503.2012.758588

Milner and Tingley (2011): https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2182086

Predictions on Immigration Reform

Given the heterogeneity of the 6th District of New Jersey, it is expected that the political theories have relevance to Representative Pallone’s immigration policy support. As a staunch Democrat, we expect Representative Pallone to support pro-immigration legislation in most, if not all, forms. Furthermore, since he has been a member of the House of Representatives since 1988 and is a ranking member, we also expect him to be an ardent supporter of his position on immigration because he is not liable to reelection dynamics like newer members. At the district level, the poverty rate of NJ-06 is comparable to that of the state and so we expect poverty to be unrelated to his support or opposition to immigration policy. The percentage of foreign-born is over 7% higher for NJ-06 and, as a result, we expect this to play into his support for pro-immigration policy. Since the Latino percentage is 2% higher for NJ-06 as compared to the state, we also predict that he will support comprehensive immigration reform. All of the predictions support that Representative Pallone will be a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform.

Sources:

https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/nj

https://www.census.gov/mycd/?st=34&cd=06

Actual Immigration Policy Outlook

As Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Representative Pallone is a ranking member of the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives. However, he is not as active on the front of immigration as expected. Only 4.65% of bills sponsored or cosponsored by him since 1988 have related to immigration. Moreover, immigration is only 1 of 17 issues listed on his website and does not match his priority on civil rights and energy. Recently, however, he has supported a pro-immigration position publicly on Twitter and through speaking appearances to counter the Republican anti-immigration sentiment. In addition to voting against all Trump Administration immigration policies, he has also been active in the past by being a vocal advocate for the DREAM Act. Interestingly, in 1996, he voted in support for an immigration reform bill that strengthened border security and penalized illegal immigrants. Although not as ardent a supporter as we predicted, Representative Pallone falls squarely in the Democratic camp in terms of supporting pro-immigration policy.

Sources:

https://pallone.house.gov/issues

https://twitter.com/FrankPallone?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

https://votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/26951/frank-pallone-jr/40/immigration#.XIHdd5NKhp_

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