IIL Banner 2013
Issue 2.3    
In this Issue:
Immigrant Voter Rights


California Gives Expanded Rights to Noncitizens

Jennifer Medina
September 20, 2013 
New York Times

The New American Electorate
Peter Spiro
October 14, 2010
Immigration Policy Center


GSSW Latino Leadership Initiative
October 2013
BC Chronicle
Read More Here > >


Milan, Italy

November 3rd-7th, 2014

19th Metropolis International Immigration Conference



We hope to connect practitioners with researchers through the contribution of academics working across multiple disciplines. The ILL focuses on the role social policy and social work can play in promoting immigrant integration.

The Immigrant Vote

Associated Press in Austin wrote:


As the Republican Party watches their traditional Anglo base shrink, Republican candidates find themselves in a dilemma over whether to play the long or short game. To win in a 2014 primary, they must take a hard line on illegal immigration, yet to attract converts to their party in the long run, they must adopt a more nuanced position.


First- and second- generation immigrants have the potential for enormous electoral impact but the issues need vast research and analysis.


This month, both the New Jersey and the Virginia gubernatorial races were determined by the immigrant vote. Gov. Christie (R) defied his party and went for Spanish language ads and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, handily winning the election over a candidate who compared immigrants to rats.  Terry McAuliffe's (D) win in VA can be attributed to an anti-Cuccinelli vote by Latinos who protested his effort to change the U.S. Constitution by ending jus soli, birthright citizenship.


Perhaps immigrants represent a third party in the U.S playing a role similar to that played by immigrants in Israel, who occupy a space on the political spectrum between the Likud and Labor Parties.  Though positioned across every spectrum individually and even ethnically, there is aggregate pro-family, pro-values, pro-military conservative elements mixed with pro-national healthcare, pro-pathway to citizenship, pro-labor protection and pro-universal education elements. Generally, immigrants in the U.S. share a common pragmatism and appear to be looking for champions of their needs and their love of America.


Consider also that minority participation in recent electoral races, such as Boston's mayoral election, indicate that the absence of "someone who looks like me" significantly reduces voter turn out. The state legislatures of America are comprised of less than 1% immigrants (though 276 Latinos now hold state office) and are therefore, not representative of the racial or ethnic diversity of the community. Furthermore, the 13% of Americans born abroad are not directly represented in politics, especially in Congress which has only two immigrants. The complexity of representation is perhaps best exemplified by Senator Ted Cruz, born in Canada and who won the support of Cuban Americans and the Tea Party. His positions are hardly those of progressive American politics but support for him can be interpreted as a hunger for 'ethnic/immigrant leadership' over pro-immigration reform candidates.


Immigrants are politically active and though thy do not collectively embody one voting bloc, or one group in 'identity politics', they are engaged.  A recent study by J. McCann of Purdue University finds that immigrants are not strangers to political movements. Even among non-citizens, 1 in 8 immigrants has actively participated in rallies or protests and more than half are reach out to friends who can vote about specific candidates.


From within the IIL, we perceive voting to be part of socialization. The act of voting springs from awareness and is part of what Bob Putnam includes in his definition of 'social capital.'  Jones-Correa of Cornell University details that women lead in voting participation while men lead in ethnic organizing (valuing old loyalties longer). Efforts to gain the political engagement of newcomers may be more informed by what assists newcomers in overcoming their losses- their displacement- more than what label or what ideology is expressed by a campaign.


Civic engagement is an essential building block of democracy. It seems obvious that full participation should be a shared goal of all elected officials, but the nature of primaries and the mobilization of one's base can have the opposite effect and seeks to eliminate those who differ in opinion. In the span of a year, 180 voter-restrictive bills were introduced in 41 states, revealing the reality that those who value inclusiveness are often not heard in campaign politics. The Brennan Center comments "One is more likely to be struck by lightning than to come across an actual case of voter fraud." However, massive efforts are made to discourage newcomers who must carry proof of citizenship and added proof of identity and must deal with burdensome registration procedures.  Offering civics education and making voter registration available in high schools for seniors would vastly improve New American political participation as would simultaneous motor vehicle and voter registration and Election Day registration.


Strides are being made as evidenced by the 22% increase in Asian voters in the past four years. Some places are pursuing pre-naturalization voting. Given that 20% of California, for example, is ineligible to vote in any election, giving local taxpayers a vote in municipal elections would reinvigorate the process of social inclusion and democratic values. Vermont allowed 'alien suffrage' until 1977 in state elections so recent history can inform new thinking.  There are many operating models of political empowerment and more cities are exploring the option of resident taxpayer voting each year.


Immigrants remain the future of the nation. Learning about their inclusion, exclusion, hopes and needs, and power and powerlessness will make for rich study and a healthier civic life. 


Westy Egmont, Director 

BCGSSW Immigrant Integration Lab


Mobilize the Immigrant Vote (MIV), California


Made up of five non-partisan coalitions that represent over 100 community-based organizations, MIV is a state-wide effort to register, educate and mobilize immigrant communities for electoral participation. MIV addresses barriers to participation by producing and distributing information such as the Voter Rights palm cards and voter guides. By establishing partnerships with community-based organizations MIV works to strengthen immigrant community leadership and promote activism for social change.


In California, immigrants make up one-quarter of all residents, yet voting rates are not proportional to their current population.  It is estimated that there are over 3 million immigrants that are eligible to naturalize. Regardless of immigration status, MIV involves all immigrants to be active community leaders and educates them on the importance of the electoral process. Rather than focusing on elections cycles MIV conducts year-round civic engagement projects to link election cycles to the ongoing work of organizations. MVI's long-term goal is to build the political power within immigrant communities and the future citizens and residents of California.


Read more about MIV > >


Do Social Ties Encourage Immigrant Voters to Participate in Other Campaign Activities?

Casey A Klofstad & Benjamin G. Bishin

Social Science Quarterly, Volume 47, Issue 1 (Spring 2013)

The growth in the immigrant population in the U.S. has not occurred in tandem with an increase in political participation. Immigrant communities are significantly less likely to become politically active than their native born counterparts. In this article, the authors analyze data from the Miami-Dade county in Florida in order to assess the association between social ties and political activity. Findings suggest that while immigrants and the native born engaged in the same amount of political discussion and had similar ties to community organizations, these social ties increased participation in campaign activities only for native-born populations and not for immigrant populations. It is concluded from these results that social ties only impact political behavior once voters have acquired personal resources and have become assimilated into American political culture. 

Read More Here > >


Opinion Climates and Immigrant Political Action: A Cross-national Study of 25 European Democracies
Aida Just & Christopher J. Anderson
Comparative Political Studies, XX(X), (May 2013)

The nature of immigrant civic participation often differs depending on their social and political context. In this article, authors Just and Anderson propose a model of immigrant political action, which highlights the connection between personal motivation for political action and the relative openness or hostility of the receiving community. Societies that are characterized as positive opinion climates promote civic participation by reducing the social-political costs associated with action and increasing the perceived efficacy of such action. Using data from the European Social Survey (ESS) 2002 to 2010 in 25 European democracies, Just and Anderson conclude that positive opinion climates stimulate immigrant uninstitutionalized political action at the state and regional level. 

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Does What Happens in Los Mochis Stay in Los Mochis? Explaining Postmigration Political Behavior
Sergio C. Wals
Political Research Quarterly, Volume 64, Issue 3 (September 2011)

Many factors impact immigrant political involvement in their receiving country. Literature often discusses the role of language, ethnicity, income and level of acculturation in immigrant political engagement. But does an individual's pre-migration political socialization impact his or her post migration political activity? In this article, author Sergio C. Wals seeks to understand how the pre-migration political experiences impact an immigrant's view of his or her receiving community and his or her subsequent political behavior. Using survey data from Mexican immigrants living in the United States, Wals indicates that attachment to a political party in one's sending country increases the likelihood of political involvement in the receiving country. Likewise, the perceived trustworthiness of government in the sending country was found to directly correlate with trust in the government of the receiving country. 

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Funding Immigrant Organizations: Suburban Free Riding and Local Civic Presence

Els De Graauw, Shannon Gleeson, & Irene Bloemraad

American Journal of Sociology, Volume 119, Issue 1 (July 2013)

Immigration to the US has increased dramatically both in size and scope during recent decades. Immigrants are no longer confined to traditional gateway cities. Rather, latest immigration trends indicate that many immigrants now live in the suburbs surrounding major metropolitan areas. In light of these trends, authors de Graauw, Gleeson and Bloemraad explore how perceptions of immigrants impact the funding for immigrant-serving organizations. Using data from 142 interviews as well as documentary evidence, the authors conclude that continual migration positively impacts the creation of norms of inclusion. These norms may then influence government's willingness to form public-private partnerships with the intent of serving immigrant communities. Through this research the authors advance the idea of 'Suburban Free Riding', by which suburban governments rely on the immigrant-serving public-private partnerships formed in central cities rather than funding their own. 

Read More Here > >



Noncitizen Voting and American Democracy

Stanley A. Renshon (2009): Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

"Most Americans today take it for granted that immigrants should be required to reside in the U.S. for several years and to learn English and the basics of American history before they are allowed the right to vote. But this traditional understanding has recently been challenged by immigrant advocates, and a few communities have abandoned citizenship requirements in certain elections. In this brief, lucid, and lively book, Stanley Renshon provides a powerful critique of these radical proposals, and enriches our understanding of what American citizenship is (and should continue to be) all about."

- Stephan Thernstrom, Harvard University


Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Voting Rights in the U.S.

Ron Hayduck (2006): CRC Press

Democracy for All is the most thoroughgoing exploration we have of non-citizen voting in the United States, past and present. The issues raised by Hayduk's book - particularly at a time of high rates of immigration - ought to inform public debate in communities across the nation.

-Alexander Keyssar, Professor of History and Social Policy, Harvard University


Asian American Political Participation: Emerging Constituents and Their Political Identites

Janelle Wong, S. Karthick Ramakrishnan, Taeku Lee, & Jane Junn (2011): Russell Sage Foundation

Asian American Political Participation provides a revealing and nuanced analysis of the political attitudes and voting preferences of the rapidly growing, highly diverse, and increasingly influential population of sixteen million Asian Americans. Based on the first-ever large-scale, multilingual national survey, this work is a must read for all who study or participate in American electoral politics, the politics of race and ethnicity, and the political acculturation of immigrants. The team of Janelle Wong, S. Karthick Ramakrishnan, Taeku Lee, and Jane Junn has made an exceptional contribution to public knowledge and research about the growing impact and visibility of Asian American voters, donors, activists, and politicians. 

-Don T. Nakanishi,  University of California, Los Angeles


EDITORS: M. Bennett, E. Broderick, W. Egmont, C. Goldstein-Walsh, and A. Young