Slide 1: Since Sheila Jackson Lee’s election to office in 1994, she has won every election for TX-18’s representative seat. In the most recent elections (2008-present), Lee has won with a significant margin (between 42.9 and 57.0 points) over the Republican candidate. This suggests that TX-18 is a consistent Democratic and – coupling this with its high minority and immigrant population as well as its urban focus of Houston – progressive district.
Slide 2: Extant research has discovered many factors that are significantly related to representative’s votes in favour of restrictive/permissive immigration policy. While a high unemployment rate, being in the South, and having a Republican representative is correlated with supporting restrictive legislation, the following characteristics are associated with representative support for permissive policy: immigration-related protests in the area, recent influx of immigrants, a large share of agricultural jobs in the district, a large population, and a non-White representative. The employment factors imply that constituents’ job threat is a motivator for representatives supporting restrictive policy while agriculture businesses’ concerns about their immigrant day labourers / cheap labour push representatives to support permissive immigration policy. The physical presence of new immigrants and their political presence in protests (along with their allies) also push representatives to supporting permissive policy to protect and lift up their constituents. Further, the characteristics of the representative are understandably influential over their stances; namely, being a non-White representative is correlated with support for permissive policy (since non-Whites are likely to be more sympathetic/supportive of immigrants) while being a Republican (a de facto conservative party) is correlated with support for restrictive policy. Finally, the geographic context of the district plays a role too: the historically conservative and anti-minority South is predictably indicative of restrictive policy support.
Slide 3: Looking at the characteristics of TX-18 in relation to the determinants discussed in the previous slide, we can see that it is likely that Sheila Jackson Lee will be a supporter of permissive policy and an opponent of restrictive policy. Despite Houston being in a Southern state with no agriculture industry and relatively high unemployment, the determining factors on the other side of the story more strongly indicate the likely support of Lee for pro-immigrant policy. Firstly, as a liberal Democrat, she is of an ideology that is more welcoming of immigrants and, as a non-White representative she is more likely to push back against the ‘White America’ rationale that often pervades restrictionist thought. Secondly, the political protests that took place in Houston last year and in 2006 (as part of a national movement in response to HR 4437), along with the recency of a lot of the immigration into the district, is indicative of the constituent population’s needs and wishes that would drive Lee’s permissive policy support. The weighing up of both sides leads me to believe that Lee is more likely to support permissive policy than restrictive.
Slide 4: On Sheila Jackson Lee’s website, she dedicates one page to the issue of immigration. On this page, which represents 1 of 11 pages for miscellaneous issues and 6.4% of their overall substantive content, Lee describes her stance and actions concerned with immigration; namely, how she desires to protect Dreamers, find a path to naturalization for the existing undocumented immigrants in the county, protect families at the border, diversify the incoming immigrants, and prevent terrorists from entering the country. Regarding her actions on the matter, her press releases shed light on her work against the family separation occurring at the Southern border, her condemnation of Trump’s tweets and the GOP’s xenophobic remarks, her work towards comprehensive reform, and her efforts to secure temporary protected status for international victims of civil war and natural disasters. Despite this platform, her website contains no resources for immigrants and her campaign website contains no mention of immigration whatsoever. On Lee’s Twitter she is a frequent poster of pro-immigrant content and often posts anti-Trump messages which opposes his actions on immigration policy; beyond her own tweets, she retweets other representatives and pages that share messages of a similar nature. Lee’s bill-sponsorship record is indicative of her website and Twitter: they reflect efforts of comprehensive reform, anti-border wall, and national security. This is all demonstrative of the research findings from earlier slides.