CCIS at the Midwest Political Science Association meeting

CCIS Director John Skrentny will be presenting “Obama and Immigration Reform: A Tough Sell for a Grand Bargain” at the meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago, March 31-April 3, 2011. CCIS Research Claire Adida will be presenting “Gender and Generosity: Problems in Islamic Integration into France” at the same meeting.

Information about the conference »

GOP drafts legislative assault on illegal immigration

Congressional Republicans want more fencing, sensors, agents and drones to keep out all illegal migrants.


Congressional Republicans want more fencing, sensors, agents and drones to keep out all illegal migrants.

BY BRIAN BENNETT   MARCH 30, 2011


A crew works on the border fence in downtown Brownsville, Texas, in January. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Reporting from Washington — Congressional Republicans are drafting legislation that would require the federal government to develop a plan to add more fencing, sensors, agents and even drones to stop every illegal entry into the United States.

The legislative effort offers another example of how a more conservative Congress has steered the immigration debate away from the Obama admini-
stration’s two-pronged push for reforms and improved
border security, and toward strict enforcement
of immigration laws.

In December, a lame-duck House controlled by Democrats passed the Dream Act, a reform that would have created a path to citizenship for some young illegal immigrants in the U.S., but it was narrowly defeated in the Senate.

The Democrats’ Senate majority means the latest legislation is unlikely to pass, but the goal may be more political. By continuing to spearhead such measures, Republicans, who feel they are in agreement with most voters, hope to force Democrats to take a position on immigration issues in advance of the 2012 campaign.

The debate’s change in tone also comes as census data show that Latinos comprise the fastest-growing block of voters, potentially a complicating factor for Republican strategists. The number of Latino voters is increasing most in states that in 2010 gained congressional seats and Electoral College votes, according to a study released in January by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Immigration skirmishes seem to excite the Republican base, said Wayne Cornelius, a professor emeritus at UC San Diego who has spent more than 40 years studying cross-border migration.

“In the short-term, they calculate they can gain more votes with these hard-liner proposals,” he said, but some may have qualms about alienating Latinos.

A Republican strategist acknowledged there was debate within the party about how to handle immigration enforcement without driving away Latino voters who might otherwise agree with the fiscal conservative aspects of the party platform. Republican activists have said they think some Latino voters support the GOP position on immigration.

But many Republicans want a modernized immigration system that is consistent with the values of an immigrant nation, and those party members who speak loudly against reforms are a “vocal minority,” said the strategist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the debate.

The U.S. has spent more than $4.5 billion to improve border security in the nine years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and critics argue that stopping every illegal crossing is an impractical goal.

“It is all just symbolic showmanship. It will never get through the Senate. It may have short-term electoral utility but will not result in any real legislation,” Cornelius said.

But Rep. Candice S. Miller, a Michigan Republican who wrote the Secure Border Act of 2011, said in an interview that “Congress needs to reflect the political will of the majority of the American people, which is to secure our borders.”

The Republican effort to push the Homeland Security Department to take a tougher stance on immigration enforcement follows a request last year by all seven Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee that asked the department to determine how much money it needed to deport every illegal immigrant the government encountered.

The Homeland Security Department has not estimated the cost, but a 2005 report by the Center for American Progress concluded it would require $206 billion over five years to deport the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally.

The Obama administration has, in practice, largely supported the argument that border security is the first priority, Cornelius said. “It is really a red herring. We will never have the border secure enough…. Making immigration reform hostage to border security is a recipe for policy paralysis.”

Miller’s proposed legislation would require the Homeland Security Department to give Congress a five-year plan to bring unlawful entries and smuggling down to nearly zero, and let Congress decide whether to fund it. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) and 10 other Republicans have agreed to co-sponsor the bill, which could be introduced as early as Thursday.

The proposal may come with such a hefty price tag that it’s unrealistic to carry out. But Republicans say cost should not be the Border Patrol’s concern. “They need to be very candid with us and tell us what they need,” Miller said. “We’re the ones passing the budgets and we have to decide amongst ourselves.”

Customs and Border Protection developed a strategic plan for securing the border by 2014, but some lawmakers say it doesn’t go far enough. The Border Patrol reported to the Government Accountability Office that by October 2010 it had control of 873 miles of the nearly 2,000 miles of the Southwest border, or 44%.

Asking the Homeland Security Department how it can stop all illegal entries is “asking the wrong question,” said Doris Meissner, former head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, because law enforcement cannot change the underlying forces — jobs and the illegal drug market — that draw migrants and smugglers to the U.S.

“Members of Congress may want to pour concrete from sea to shining sea,” Cornelius said, “but it is simply not realistic.”

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Tougher Penalties For Undocumented Immigrants Caught At Sea (KPBS)

CCIS associate director David FitzGerald and director emeritus Wayne Cornelius were quoted recently in a KPBS radio story about undocumented immigrants crossing by sea.


BY AMY ISACKSON   MARCH 21, 2011

People caught crossing into the U.S. illegally by sea face tougher penalties. Officials hope it helps prevent migrants from dying.

Smuggling people and marijuana from Mexico to San Diego by sea has become a new trend in the western-most corner of the border. Authorities caught twice as many boats last year compared to the previous one. There’s no way to know how many more vessels slipped through.

Now, U.S. Border Patrol officials say they’ll deport anyone caught entering illegally by sea. Deportation means violators could be charged with a felony and prison time if they’re caught again.

Steve Pitts, a Border Patrol spokesman, said they hope the stiffer penalty deters migrants.

“The chances for those boats capsizing out there is extremely high. And we’re trying to prevent death, so we’re trying to deter people,” said Pitts.

Two migrants drowned in San Diego last year. U.S. and Mexican civil-rights groups and researchers estimate more than 6,000 people have died crossing over land in the last 15 years.

Border researchers Wayne Cornelius and David Fitzgerald at the University of California-San Diego, who interviewed thousands of would-be migrants in Mexico, found that knowing someone who died crossing the border does not dissuade people from trying themselves. The researchers also discovered that tougher border enforcement does little to deter migrants.

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CCIS Research Associate Marisa Abrajano is publishing a new article on Black and Latino voting and same-sex marriage.

Marisa Abrajano is in the process of publishing “Are Blacks and Latinos Responsible for the Passage of Proposition 8? Analyzing Voter Attitudes on California’s Proposal to Ban Same-Sex Marriage in 2008.”

Abrajano, Marisa. September, 2010. “Are Blacks and Latinos Responsible for the Passage of Proposition 8? Analyzing Voter Attitudes on California’s Proposal to Ban Same-Sex Marriage in 2008”. Political Research Quarterly.

CCIS Research Associate Marisa Abrajano publishes two books on Latino politics


Marisa Abrajano has published Campaigning to the New American Electorate: Television Advertising to Latinos and New Faces and New Voices: The Hispanic Electorate in America.

    Abrajano, Marisa. 2010. Campaigning to the New American Electorate: Television Advertising to Latinos. Stanford: Stanford University Press.


    Abrajano, Marisa and Michael Alvarez. 2010. New Faces, New Voices: The Hispanic Electorate in America. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

CCIS Research Associate April Linton co-publishes new article on restrictive language policies.

April Linton has published “Bilingualism for the Children: Dual-Language Programs under Restrictive Language Policies in Forbidden”.

Linton, April and Rebecca C. Franklin. 2010. “Bilingualism for the Children: Dual-Language Programs under Restrictive Language Policies.” Chap. 11 in Forbidden Language: English Learners and Restrictive Language Policies edited by Patricia Gándara and Megan Hopkins. New York: Teachers College Press.

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CCIS Research Associate Claire Adida publishes new articles on Muslim integration; immigrant exclusion in Africa; Mexican migrant remittances

CCIS Research Associate Claire Adida publishes new articles on Muslim integration; immigrant exclusion in Africa; Mexican migrant remittances

Identifying barriers to Muslim integration in France, with David D. Laitin and Marie-Anne Valfort. 2010. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(52).