Immigration and Electability

The southern border in the United States is again making news on PBS Newshour. Lindsay Graham has taken the opportunity of holding a presser with the whiteboard and flipcharts ubiquitous in American politics. Graham knows, as I'm sure does everyone interested in politics, that opposition to immigration is a winning issue for the GOP. With midterms due next year, we can be sure that Republicans will be beating that drum without ceasing.

I don't want to talk about how migrants and asylum seekers should be treated. I don't want to talk about policy. I want to talk about how to handle the politics from a progressive point of view. How do you negate the clear advantage that conservatives have in this area?

One option is to match the conservatives on policy and try to negate immigration as an election issue. In Australia, the Labor party tried this. It didn't work. Over the last 25 years, conservatives have been in power here for all but six years. Labor tried to cast itself as just as tough on borders - stopping boats, turn-arounds, offshore detention - but compassionate, in that they wouldn't detain children offshore. In doing so, it failed to satisfy people like me, who ended up voting Green in the senate, and still allowed the conservatives to claim they were tougher than labor.

So what to do? We know what's at stake: Trump. Is that how they should run things? Flood the electorate with attack ads about Trump and hope to overwhelm immigration as an issue?

Comments

  • You offer a third option.

    Frankly acknowledge that the situation is out of control. Name all the bears under the rug--everything from racism to fear of being overrun, fear of personal lost jobs and housing to simple fear of change, concern about economic impact and so forth, everything. Good AND bad. Get it all out there. Possibly form a commission, or a webpage, or both, etc. etc. etc. Overwhelm the issue with attention. Solicit strategies and solutions, the more creative the better. Solicit them from the general public and not just from people above sixty of the male persuasion with Evergreens lodged in their Suez Canals.

    Then in as bipartisan an effort as you can managed (may not be very, but make an effort), start trying to implement some of those ideas, carefully and slowly, a bit at a time, with plenty of time for public comment, modification, etc. Move slowly. Acknowledge mistakes and be fucking transparent. Do $ studies to measure the economic impact of different alternatives, and include options like sponsoring improvements "back home" so immigrants don't have to leave in the first place.

    Open the issue all the fucking way up. Do it to the point where the assholes (of which every population has some) are so tired of hearing about it that they beg to have it shut off. Be obnoxiously, terminally earnest and idealistic and respectful and cheerful. Do this until the subject becomes like flossing, or seeing your dentist every year (that is, something we don't want to hear about anymore, though we acknowledge the subject's worthiness).

    Really, I think the only thing you can do is tell the truth and shame the devil. And see if, in a population of 328,000,000, there might not be some bright ideas for how to improve the current dreadful mess. As well as some compassionate hearts.
  • Oh--

    flatter the hell out of them. Remind the Americans, for instance, of the massive efforts made to resettle Vietnamese immigrants here back in the 70s, 80s, 90s, when practically every church was sponsoring some family. Praise them. Encourage them to share those stories on FB etc. Run ads and encourage social media attention to "my personal family immigrant story," esp. around dates like Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick's Day, and the like (with the not-so-hidden intent of getting people to identify themselves as immigrant stock). If someone gets huffy about the incorrect green beer, etc. just roll your eyes and have them suggest something better. Being "correct" is not the goal, especially when correct means proving everybody else wrong. Being decent, sensible, kind, merciful and humble people IS.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    @Simon Toad what's a 'presser'? Is it Strine for a press conference or does it mean something quite different? It's a word I've not met before.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    Yes he means a press conference.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Oh--

    flatter the hell out of them. Remind the Americans, for instance, of the massive efforts made to resettle Vietnamese immigrants here back in the 70s, 80s, 90s, when practically every church was sponsoring some family. Praise them. Encourage them to share those stories on FB etc. Run ads and encourage social media attention to "my personal family immigrant story," esp. around dates like Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick's Day, and the like (with the not-so-hidden intent of getting people to identify themselves as immigrant stock). If someone gets huffy about the incorrect green beer, etc. just roll your eyes and have them suggest something better. Being "correct" is not the goal, especially when correct means proving everybody else wrong. Being decent, sensible, kind, merciful and humble people IS.

    Do you mean these are things you would do to get Middle America on board with immigration rights?

    If so, I think some of it might backfire. In my experience, a lot of old-stock white people ARE, in fact, aware that they come from immigrant heritage, but they frame it as: "When my grandpa came here back in the 1920s, he sure as hell didn't ask for a handout or demand that everyone change their customs to protect his feelings." That this narrative is often overstated has not made it any less popular.

    Your mention of the resettlement of the Vietnamese is interesting. In Canada, while scholars still debate just how pro- or anti-Saigon the Liberal governments of the 60s and 70s really were, it remains the case that the war was never really presented to Canadians as "our war", and was basically just seen as something the Americans were doing.

    Therefore, when the "boat people" started coming in mid-70s or so, there wasn't a huge reservoir of goodwill based around "Hey, these are the guys who fought the good fight against the Commies all those years!" As such, they pretty much got the same sort of villification that most other non-white newcomers got in Canada, with a side-helping of "They're all in gangs who stab people to death in donut shops downtown."

    I'm obviously less familiar with the American situation, though my guess would be that if you're someone who is hellbent on hating anyone from the East Asia, the Vietnamese will fit the bill just nicely.
  • stetson wrote: »
    Oh--

    flatter the hell out of them. Remind the Americans, for instance, of the massive efforts made to resettle Vietnamese immigrants here back in the 70s, 80s, 90s, when practically every church was sponsoring some family. Praise them. Encourage them to share those stories on FB etc. Run ads and encourage social media attention to "my personal family immigrant story," esp. around dates like Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick's Day, and the like (with the not-so-hidden intent of getting people to identify themselves as immigrant stock). If someone gets huffy about the incorrect green beer, etc. just roll your eyes and have them suggest something better. Being "correct" is not the goal, especially when correct means proving everybody else wrong. Being decent, sensible, kind, merciful and humble people IS.

    Do you mean these are things you would do to get Middle America on board with immigration rights?

    No, I mean that these are things you could do to make yourself and your party electible in spite of the Republican/other appeal to immigrant hate. That is, to answer the OP. One way of defusing a political issue is to hash it out to the point of death, where everybody is so freaking TIRED of it that they just want you to shut up and go away. Another way is to create buy-in, either via policies (what they usually do) or emotionally (such as the appeals I mentioned in my posts). You don't want to sweep an issue under the rug, because your opponents absolutely will not allow it to stay there, and will furthermore trumpet about your hush-hush efforts--claiming that you have no good answer, so why should people vote for you? So do the opposite. Create a huge national conversation, and provide venues for it, as many as possible, and insert as many opinions from as many people as possible in the hopes of keeping it at least partly balanced and drowning out the assholes. You'll fail sometimes, of course. But it's better than just rolling over and dying.
    stetson wrote: »
    If so, I think some of it might backfire. In my experience, a lot of old-stock white people ARE, in fact, aware that they come from immigrant heritage, but they frame it as: "When my grandpa came here back in the 1920s, he sure as hell didn't ask for a handout or demand that everyone change their customs to protect his feelings." That this narrative is often overstated has not made it any less popular.

    Yes, of course they do. You aren't going to magically convert such people. In fact, mid-recent immigrants can be the worst for criticizing new and would-be immigrants for "doing it wrong" and not being properly entitled to what they're offered.

    That, again, is why you try to get as many people as possible into the debate, so the grousers don't overwhelm everything.
    stetson wrote: »
    Your mention of the resettlement of the Vietnamese is interesting. In Canada, while scholars still debate just how pro- or anti-Saigon the Liberal governments of the 60s and 70s really were, it remains the case that the war was never really presented to Canadians as "our war", and was basically just seen as something the Americans were doing.

    Therefore, when the "boat people" started coming in mid-70s or so, there wasn't a huge reservoir of goodwill based around "Hey, these are the guys who fought the good fight against the Commies all those years!" As such, they pretty much got the same sort of villification that most other non-white newcomers got in Canada, with a side-helping of "They're all in gangs who stab people to death in donut shops downtown."

    I'm obviously less familiar with the American situation, though my guess would be that if you're someone who is hellbent on hating anyone from the East Asia, the Vietnamese will fit the bill just nicely.

    I wouldn't say that the reservoir of good will in the U.S. was primarily about "you were on our side," or "we were on YOUR side," or whatever. I think it was the pitiful images of people dying on fishing boats. But someone more qualified would have to tell us.

    Here I'm simply saying that if your country has a history of pro-immigrant actions of any sort, you ought to resurrect and praise that history.

    The U.S. historically swings between severe xenophobia and "severe" welcoming, and it is my hope that we are at last emerging (please, God, please, please?) from one of the xenophobic phases. But having a history like this at least allows you to appeal to the "rah rah, immigrants!" stuff that exists, including the Statue of Liberty imagery and poem, the usual elementary school international feasts and potlucks, the "dress up like an ancestor" stunts, the "remember when we sponsored that family?" memories, and so forth. Use it ALL.

  • RuthRuth Shipmate
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    I don't want to talk about how migrants and asylum seekers should be treated. I don't want to talk about policy. I want to talk about how to handle the politics from a progressive point of view. How do you negate the clear advantage that conservatives have in this area?

    You can't separate the two. You need to have a good policy to sell to the public. Most Americans support immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants (Vox article, citing recent poll). I think the thing to do is to take the positive feelings many Americans have about legal immigration and tie them to a policy that makes it a lot easier for people to immigrate to the US legally.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    Just popped in in response to @Enoch . Yes, Orfeo is right. It's typical Australian contraction for Press Conference, although to be consistent we should call it a "pressie". :smile:
  • We call them pressers in Saskatchewan.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    We call them pressers in Saskatchewan.

    Interesting. I don't think that's the usual term in Alberta, or at least I can't recall hearing it in 40 some years of following Alberta politics. I'm open to correction on that. (He said, knowing there are not likely to be any other Albertans reading this.)
  • Ruth wrote: »
    I think the thing to do is to take the positive feelings many Americans have about legal immigration and tie them to a policy that makes it a lot easier for people to immigrate to the US legally.

    When you hear Americans complaining about illegal immigration, they always think it's much easier to immigrate legally than it actually is. If you're an educated person with a pile of degrees and a good job, then it's not too hard. It's expensive and tedious, and pretty unpleasant, but it's doable. If you're Jose on the street in Mexico, wanting to move to the US and work in construction, or landscaping, or food service, or some other job you're intending to work hard at, there is no practical legal way for you to immigrate to the US. Unless you've got an American relative who can sponsor you for a green card, you're out of luck.
  • Ruth wrote: »
    I think the thing to do is to take the positive feelings many Americans have about legal immigration and tie them to a policy that makes it a lot easier for people to immigrate to the US legally.

    When you hear Americans complaining about illegal immigration, they always think it's much easier to immigrate legally than it actually is. If you're an educated person with a pile of degrees and a good job, then it's not too hard. It's expensive and tedious, and pretty unpleasant, but it's doable. If you're Jose on the street in Mexico, wanting to move to the US and work in construction, or landscaping, or food service, or some other job you're intending to work hard at, there is no practical legal way for you to immigrate to the US. Unless you've got an American relative who can sponsor you for a green card, you're out of luck.

    There is a point here. A medical acquaintance, Sa'udi in provenance, was on temporary work-study visas in the mid-west for almost 10 years, and his university's (very impressive and justifiably renowned) research institute spent almost US$90,000 in legal fees to enable him to stay (his wife mischievously suggested that he observe Sa'udi practice and take a second wife, a Republican senator's daughter, to help with his quest). I indicated my surprise (and I know the Canadian immigration pit) and he began to tell me other stories, of highly-qualified colleagues being offered US jobs and having to wait up to 5 years for an answer. This appeared to be in line with reporting I've seen in the NY Times over the years. When I realized the cost and trouble for highly qualified applicants, it's no wonder that working-class applicants choose informal channels. As well, the system is understaffed at consulates and immigration offices-- at times near collapse.

    I have had occasion at country club tables in Florida while visiting my mother, to note that nobody packs up their lives and leaves it behind for a lark, and that we need to respect them for their ambition for their children, but the response is not always positive (as we are being served our meals by Meso-American staff).

    But there are some good suggestions in this thread; a bipartisan commission can provide a platform for practical ideas, while assuring the uncertain that the Issue is being seriously addressed. Were on the presidential team, I would urge finding a conservative Republican to take the lead, to take some wind from the partisan sails.

    PS I've only heard the term presser in Ottawa from one of the few US reporters in town. So I quickly called a journalist friend who tells me that she's heard it around, but didn't seem to think it was important as a question. "It's a word," I was told.
  • At the moment in the UK if you are from the subcontinent (& possibly elsewhere in the commonwealth, but the group I was discussing this with were from India & Sri Lanka) & at degree educated level, by the time you've renewed your work visa a couple of times you've spent so much time, money & effort that you may as well apply for permanent residence/citizenship. So making it difficult for people to come in, as recent UK governments have done, has actually increased the number who stay.
  • RussRuss Ship-mate
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    How do you negate the clear advantage that conservatives have in this area?

    I think you're asking how to get voters to vote for something that's not in their best interests ?

    Because if it were in their best interests, explaining how - helping them to see that it is - would be the way to go about it.

    Presumably you think there's a moral duty involved, which ought to trump self-interest (if you'll pardon the expression) ?

    But you don't want to talk the language of moral duty ?

    Not the conversation you wanted, I guess.
  • Russ wrote: »
    Because if it were in their best interests, explaining how - helping them to see that it is - would be the way to go about it.

    'cause that worked so well with Brexit.

    "Immigrants are taking your jobs", although basically nonsense, is difficult to argue against. Because there is a level on which it is true. If you're a low-skilled American, then a sudden influx of lots of new low-skilled people who can do your job, but will do it for less money than you, or work harder than you, looks bad for you. That's an easy argument for people to follow. It's easy to understand.

    The argument that the number of available jobs isn't fixed, but that the economy will grow with a whole bunch of extra hard-working people in it, and so at the macro level it's probably a net benefit, is more complicated.

    Plus, it's easy to find poster children for "white American family harmed by presence of immigrants", because that's how harm works. Lots of white American families are harmed by other white Americans. Statistically, immigrants don't commit crimes at a greater rate than natural born citizens. But "my husband was killed by an undocumented immigrant driving without a license, and now my kids are hungry" can be used as propaganda, whereas nobody cares if the driver was a white American. But if the govenment hadn't let that brown guy in the country...
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    Russ wrote: »
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    How do you negate the clear advantage that conservatives have in this area?

    I think you're asking how to get voters to vote for something that's not in their best interests ?

    Because if it were in their best interests, explaining how - helping them to see that it is - would be the way to go about it.

    Presumably you think there's a moral duty involved, which ought to trump self-interest (if you'll pardon the expression) ?

    But you don't want to talk the language of moral duty ?

    Not the conversation you wanted, I guess.

    I think conservative politicians are adept at using the issue to ignite racist sentiments. Immigration, all immigration is clearly in Australia's national interest. We have a negative population growth this year, with our borders shut tight. Immigration promotes economic growth and jobs. Its negative effect in this country is the astronomical growth of house prices. I'm sure similar arguments can be made in other western countries.

    There is a moral duty cast upon Christians of course. Something something, gimme shelter? Is that Christ or Mick Jagger, @Russ ?

    I'm always up for an argument. The policy discussion I sought to avoid wasn't the rights and wrongs of the provision of asylum, but the complicated question of how to manage asylum claims. I assumed that there would be no argument on the rights and wrongs of accepting them.
  • Simon Toad wrote: »
    Russ wrote: »
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    How do you negate the clear advantage that conservatives have in this area?

    I think you're asking how to get voters to vote for something that's not in their best interests ?

    Because if it were in their best interests, explaining how - helping them to see that it is - would be the way to go about it.

    Presumably you think there's a moral duty involved, which ought to trump self-interest (if you'll pardon the expression) ?

    But you don't want to talk the language of moral duty ?

    Not the conversation you wanted, I guess.

    I think conservative politicians are adept at using the issue to ignite racist sentiments. Immigration, all immigration is clearly in Australia's national interest.

    Economically, in the short to medium term? Yes. Long term? Australia has a climate issue. More particularly it has a water issue.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    I think Ruth and LC's suggestions are excellent. My fear is that it will all be cut by "Build that Wall". Nothing else has worked.

    Is it possible in the USA that immigration can be countered as an election issue by talking about other things? Has that been tried? Trump is great at keeping the spotlight on himself, and it looks like Trumpism will be on the ballot.
  • RuthRuth Shipmate
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    Is it possible in the USA that immigration can be countered as an election issue by talking about other things? Has that been tried?

    Immigration is not always the major issue you seem to think it is. Last year the top issues in the presidential campaign were the economy, healthcare, the Supreme Court, and the pandemic, in that order.

    https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2020/08/13/important-issues-in-the-2020-election/
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    edited March 27
    ok... but that's still 61% of Trump supporters saying it was "very important to their vote" in the 2020 election. The two most important issues for GOP voters were the economy and violent crime, and violent crime is surely linked strongly to immigration policy, especially in the fact free environment of US politics.

    The thing about immigration is that it gets right wing people out because it inflames their racism/culture wars motivation to vote. That moderates don't think it is as important is beside the point when voting is voluntary. Am I misreading the Pew research?

    Immigration in Australia is a major issue when the conservatives choose to make it so. The indications are that the GOP is going to make it an issue. Did you see Ted Cruz playing Border Patroller down by the Rio Grande? They are going to use it.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    Maybe my mistake is in thinking that Democrats need to react to immigration as an issue.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    No, I mean that these are things you could do to make yourself and your party electible in spite of the Republican/other appeal to immigrant hate. That is, to answer the OP. One way of defusing a political issue is to hash it out to the point of death, where everybody is so freaking TIRED of it that they just want you to shut up and go away.

    I'm not sure that's a viable strategy. American opposition to immigration is racist in nature, and if there's anything American history has demonstrated it's that Americans never get tired of racist demagoguing. Sure, during the civil rights movement white Americans did indeed get "so freaking TIRED of it that they just want you to shut up and go away", but they did this by firmly insisting that racism wasn't a thing, everything was fine as it is, and that only "troublemakers" kept mentioning civil rights. I'm not sure what the solution is, or if there is one. I'll just note that Lindsey Graham, mentioned in the OP, was recently re-elected and won't have to face the voters again until 2026. There's every possibility that he's concentrating on "scary" immigrants because he'd much rather talk about that than any other current issue.
  • Well, I'm certainly not selling this as a cure-all. Racists gonna racist, no matter what you do. But we've spent over thirty years now introducing Asian refugees to the very people most likely to be scared of them and resistant to them, and we've had a fair amount of success. (huge amounts of the resistance is actually fear, in my opinion; anything you can do to lower the fear factor and to help a racist engage on a person-to-person level with an immigrant in a non-scary situation tends to diminish the fear and thus the racism. At least toward that group. I think I've told the story of the old racist guy who used to rant about those damn immigrants in public until we hooked him up with an immigrant family and he became godfather to their babies; the next time he ranted, it was still racist shit, but all un-noticed by him that one group had slipped over the mental border into "us" as opposed to "them." We take what successes we can get.)
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    That's great work LC. I've heard a similar story concerning refugees here and the work of a UCA prison chaplain.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    edited March 28
    It WAS funny. The man was racist, but had enough manners to try to rant only out of earshot of actual immigrants. I knew the mental change had occurred because he never would have said it to X's very-Asian face had he remembered X was an immigrant.

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited March 28
    What @Russ and @Crœsos said. Biden has to seal the border, pay ransom to Mexico and get them to get the UN in to set up camps, bribe Guatemala, Honduras. Get coldly politically real. Appealing to the idealism of the masses only works if it's the thin veneer on their overwhelming self interest. Meanwhile Christians should use the system to adopt Guatemalan kids. From offices in Guatemala. Assuming there aren't any American pre-teens and teens that need adopting...

    It was amusingly depressing how much support immigrants gave to Brexit - an immigration issue par excellence - in the English north; pulling up the drawbridge. Human nature eh?

    More importantly how's he going to the stop Jim Crow epidemic in Georgia?
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    Ending or modifying the filibuster, passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and getting a real good lawyer for the inevitable challenge. Better get a lawyer, son. Better get a realllll good one.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    I'd like to see a government minister stand up and say: "Yes, immigration has gone up. And why? Because this is such a fucking amazing place to live. And why's that? Because of our government's policies."

    I mean, it probably wouldn't be true, but defensiveness on this issue is an acknowledgement that the Little Englanders have a point.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Ricardus wrote: »
    I'd like to see a government minister stand up and say: "Yes, immigration has gone up. And why? Because this is such a fucking amazing place to live. And why's that? Because of our government's policies."

    "Yeah, your government's policies of giving free money to foreigners and forcing the rest of us to follow their religion. Of course they love it here."

    Is the reply you would get from people who hate immigration.

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