Who Are the Opponents of Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

By Tom K. Wong, tomkwong@ucsd.edu, @twong002 

While members of the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) spent yesterday inside the Dirksen Senate Office Building marking up the bipartisan Senate “gang of 8’s” comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill, some Republican members of the House of Representatives gathered outside of the Capital Building to declare their opposition to reform efforts. These Representatives have been described as a “veritable all-star team of anti-‘amnesty’ activists.”

While the House has yet to formally take up debate on immigration reform, the group of 8 Representatives who made their opposition known yesterday – particularly with respect to a pathway to citizenship – provides an opportunity to evaluate the early predictions made related to support and opposition to CIR in the House.

The 8 Representatives who gathered yesterday in opposition to CIR are listed in Figure 1. The figure also plots the predicted probability of each of the representatives. As the figure shows, the representatives are correctly predicted as “solid no” votes. The predicted probabilities range from a low of .07, which means a 7% chance of voting yes on CIR to .24, which means a 24% chance of voting yes. The average predicted probability of voting yes on CIR for these 8 Representatives is .13, or only 13%.

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It is no special feat to predict that a Representative such as Steve King (IA-4), who has a long history of anti-immigrant voting and other antics, will vote no on CIR. But what this retrospective shows is that the group that assembled yesterday is not alone.

In looking at all of the Representatives with predicted probabilities of less than .13, the results indicate that there are 101 other Representatives who may join this “all star team of anti-‘amnesty’ activists.” Figure 2 plots the predicted probabilities for all of these Representatives. They are spread across 17 states with the largest concentrations in Texas and Florida. While the predicted probabilities in the figure reflect the assumptions of the statistical models, when viewed from a different perspective we see that there are 31 Representatives who share immigration voting records that mirror the “anti-‘amnesty’ gang” (they are represented by the orange dots).

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The road to CIR is a long one. And while the wheels are currently turning in the Senate we know that the road to final passage runs through the House. What remains to be seen is how many Representatives will join together in efforts to block CIR from passage – which makes it all the more interesting to see which Representatives will stand up to counter these efforts.

Tom K. Wong, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of political science at UC San Diego. He is an expert on immigration politics and policy. He is a research associate at CCIS and beginning in fall 2013 he will be Director of the International Migration Studies Program at UC San Diego.