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Opinion | The 'Third Rail of American Politics' Is Still Electrifying – The New York Times



Although public polling on immigration shows a strong shift to the left, survey responses in that vein mask a far more complicated reality. Over and over again, immigration has proved to be politically problematic for Democrats. As far back as 2007, when he was chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Rahm Emanuel warned that immigration had become the new “third rail of American politics.”

Mary C. Waters, a sociologist at Harvard whose work focuses “on the integration of immigrants and their children, the transition to adulthood for the children of immigrants, intergroup relations, and the measurement and meaning of racial and ethnic identity,” concisely described the immigration paradox in an email:

There is a large intensity difference. In 2020 support for immigration was the highest it’s ever been since 1965 when Gallup first asked the questions. But the people who are opposed to immigration are really opposed.

While those “who favor immigration favor a lot of other issues,” Waters continued,

those who are deeply opposed see immigration as an existential threat. As a national issue immigration motivates anti-immigrant voters in a single-minded way, but pro-immigration voters have a long list of things they support. In that way it works for the right.

Waters is chairman of the National Academy of Sciences panel on the integration of immigrants into American society. Americans, she points out,

are more open to immigration than either the left or the right assumes. But as soon as the issue is framed around race, it can become more polarized. I don’t think liberals understand that as well as they should.

The reality of the politics of immigration stands in contrast to the more positive Gallup findings that the percentage of people describing immigration as a “good thing” grew to 75 percent in 2021 from 52 percent in 2001, and the percentage describing it as a “bad thing” fell to 21 percent from 31 percent. Over the past 20 years, the percentage of voters who say immigration should be increased grew to 33 percent from 10 percent, while the share who said it should be decreased fell to 31 percent from 43 percent. The percentage saying immigration levels should be left unchanged remained relatively constant over these two decades, ranging from the mid-30s to the low 40s.

Despite these ostensible leftward trends, however, there is no question that immigration has become a worsening problem for President Biden and that surging illegal border crossings are weighing down his administration. “A record 1.7 million migrants from around the world, many of them fleeing pandemic-ravaged countries, were encountered trying to enter the United States illegally in the last 12 months, capping a year of chaos at the southern border,” two of my Times colleagues, Eileen Sullivan and Miriam Jordan, reported on Oct. 22.

The percentage of adults who disapprove of Biden’s handling of immigration grew from 39 percent when he took office to 59 percent in late September, according to YouGov tracking surveys. The disappointing showing of Democrats up and down the ticket on Tuesday in Virginia, in Pennsylvania judicial races and in the closer-than-expected New Jersey governor’s race collectively signal substantial problems for Democrats going forward.

The predicament immigration poses goes well beyond politics. Roger Waldinger, a professor of sociology at U.C.L.A., described the broader implications in an email:

Immigration is an inescapable dilemma for all advanced economies: because they need immigrants; because the rewards for immigration are great (where one lives has a more important impact on income than what one does); and because development puts migration at reach for a growing segment of the world’s population.

As the Gallup world poll has repeatedly shown, Waldinger continued, “a very large share of the world’s population has an interest in migrating abroad,” especially to countries “where migration yields a very significant payoff.”

The incentives are not limited to economics:

In passing from poorer to richer countries the migrants also move to reasonably well functioning societies, where everyday security is taken for granted, the rule of law is observed, officials are generally not corrupt, bureaucracies function in predictable ways, elections are generally honest, and the country’s economic wealth allows for investment in public goods and the maintenance of a safety net that compensate for the material shortcomings of the deprived, even if in ways that fall greatly short of the potential or the desirable.

All of these factors, Waldinger added, “are compounded by the effects of climate change and the political insecurities that are driving displacement worldwide.”

These forces, in turn, work to the advantage of the political right, Waldinger continued, and “unfortunately for the left, I don’t see how it can altogether avoid immigration.”

Waldinger notes:

Many international events, all beyond the control of U.S. presidents or politicians, bring immigration questions to the fore, whether having to do with epidemics (e.g., Zika, Ebola and now Covid), terrorist attacks abroad (the killings in Paris), the Syrian civil war and now the fall of the U.S. regime in Afghanistan. No U.S. president or politician can prevent desperate migrants from suddenly massing at a bridge at Del Rio. When such events happen under a Democratic president (as happened with the unaccompanied-minor surge under Obama) they are good for the right, but terrible for the left, since the governmental response is inevitably and necessarily far less generous than the humanitarian/cosmopolitan left would prefer.

At the same time, Waldinger argues, there is a hidden

universal consensus over the fundamental goals of immigration policy — namely, that migration should be controlled, not open, and that states rightly exclude the many people who would benefit from migration and select those that the citizens prefer. That consensus, which is shared by majorities across the world, is hidden as a result of differences over what are the details of policy, namely, just how many people should be admitted and by what criteria should immigrants be selected.

The United States, more than any other nation, cannot avoid the conflicts and disputes provoked by immigration. This country not only has the most immigrants of any country in the world but also is the first-choice destination of most potential immigrants and, possibly most confounding, it has become inextricably dependent on foreign-born workers to perform essential tasks.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics published data in the May 2021 bulletin establishing that

Foreign-born workers were more likely than native-born workers to be employed in service occupations; natural resources, construction and maintenance occupations; and production, transportation and material-moving occupations.

The bureau reported that significantly higher percentages of foreign-born than native-born workers are employed in health care, food preparation, farming, construction and extraction occupations.

A Nov. 12, 2019, headline in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel captured the situation succinctly: “Wisconsin’s dairy industry would collapse without the work of Latino immigrants — many of them undocumented.”

Evidence of the dependence on immigrant workers became glaringly apparent during the Covid pandemic.

An April 2020 study, “Immigrant Workers: Vital to the U.S. Covid-19 Response, Disproportionately Vulnerable,” released by the Migration Policy Institute stated:

While the foreign born represented 17 percent of the 156 million civilians working in 2018, they accounted for larger shares in some frontline occupations: 29 percent of physicians, 38 percent of home health aides and 23 percent of retail-store pharmacists.

A December 2020 study, “Immigrant Essential Workers Are Crucial to America’s Covid-19 Recovery,” put together by the pro-immigrant group, showed that

immigrants represent a substantial, and thus critical, part of America’s essential Covid-19 work force combating the pandemic. Numbering nearly 23 million people, these medical, agricultural, food service and other immigrant essential workers make up nearly 1 in 5 individuals in the total U.S. essential work force.

René D. Flores, a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago who studies American attitudes toward immigration, offered further insights. In response to my inquiry, he wrote by email that in survey and focus group research, he and his colleagues have observed that “just mentioning the term ‘immigrants’ is a negative prime among U.S. individuals. It leads them to express more restrictionist views.”

Compounding the problem for pro-immigration Democrats, Flores wrote, is that “exposing U.S. individuals to positive messages about immigration has no effect on their policy attitudes” because when “individuals read negative messages on immigrants, they become motivated to express restrictionist views, particularly conservative and low-educated individuals.”

Democrats, Flores said, carry “a bigger burden” in the debate over immigration:

Due to the pervasive negative stereotypes of undocumented immigrants, they must try to redefine who these immigrants are perceived to be. That’s why they rely on stories of exceptional immigrants to try to change the narrative, but this is hard given people’s automatic associations. You basically must change these deep-seated cultural representations of perceiving immigrants as a threat and as undeserving. There’s mixed evidence of whether providing individuals with accurate information can shape their views.

In a recently presented paper, “The American Immigration Disagreement: How Whites’ Diverse Perceptions of Immigrants Shape Their Attitudes,” Flores and Ariel Azar, a graduate student in sociology at the University of Chicago, found that white people’s attitudes toward immigrants could be broken up into “five main classes or ‘immigrant archetypes’ that come to whites’ minds when they respond to questions about immigrants in surveys.”

The authors, describing in broad outline the various images of immigrants held by whites, gave the five archetypes names: “the undocumented Latino man” (38 percent), the “poor, nonwhite immigrant” (18.5 percent), the “high status worker” (17 percent), the “documented Latina worker” (15 percent) and the “rainbow undocumented immigrant” (12 percent).

Two groups elicit the highest levels of opposition to immigration, the authors write:

We find the “undocumented Latino man” archetype is predicted to increase the probability of wanting to decrease immigration flows by a whopping 38 points, plus or minus 7 points. This archetype is joined near the bottom by the “rainbow undocumented immigrant” — “from every region in the world” — which increases that probability by 29 points.

The authors identify the survey respondents who are most resistant to immigration:

These respondents are the oldest of any class and possess many of the traits typical of conservative Southern whites. Many live in small towns or rural areas in the U.S. South and identify as Republicans. Further, many of them are retirees with low levels of education. Interestingly, these respondents live in the least diverse communities relative to all other classes as judged by the presence of few immigrants and ethnic/racial minorities in their ZIP codes, which highlights the subjective nature of immigrant archetypes.

A coming paper in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, “Intervening in Anti-Immigrant Sentiments: The Causal Effects of Factual Information on Attitudes Toward Immigration,” by Maria Abascal, Tiffany J. Huang and Van C. Tran, sociologists at N.Y.U., the University of Pennsylvania and CUNY, reveals an additional hurdle facing pro-immigration Democrats.

The authors conducted a survey in which they explicitly provided information rebutting negative stereotypes of immigrants’ impact on crime, tax burdens and employment. They found that respondents in many cases shifted their views of immigrants from more negative to more positive assessments.

But shifts in a liberal direction on policies were short-lived, at best: “In sum,” the authors wrote, the effects of the stereotype-challenging information “on beliefs about immigration are more durable than the effects on immigration policy preferences, which themselves decay rapidly. These findings recommend caution when deploying factual information to change attitudes toward immigration policy.”

The conservative shift to the right on immigration policy raises another question. The Republican Party was once the party of big business and the party that supported immigration as a source of cheap labor. What happened to turn it into the anti- immigration party?

Margaret E. Peters, a political scientist at U.C.L.A. and the author of the 2017 book “Trading Barriers: Immigration and the Remaking of Globalization,” argues that corporate America’s need for cheap labor had been falling before the advent of Trump and that that decline opened to door for Republican politicians to campaign on anti-immigrant themes.

In a March 2020 paper, “Integration and Disintegration: Trade and Labor Market Integration,” Peters succinctly describes the process:

The decision to remove barriers to trade in goods and capital flows have had profound effects on immigration. Trade has meant the closure of businesses in developed countries that rely on low-skill labor. When these firms closed, they took their support for low-skill immigration with them. The ability of capital to move intensified this trend: Whereas once firms needed to bring labor to their capital, they can now take their capital to labor. Once these firms move, they have little incentive to fight for immigration at home. Finally, increased productivity, as both a product of and response to globalization, has meant that firms can do more with fewer workers, again decreasing demands for immigration. Together, these changes have led to less business support for immigration, allowing politicians to move to the right on immigration and pass restrictions to appease anti-immigration forces.

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats, in the view of Douglas Massey, a sociologist at Princeton, have failed to counter Republican opposition to immigration with an aggressive assertion of the historical narrative of the United States

as a nation of immigrants, tapping into the fact that nearly all Americans are descendant from immigrants who arrived into a land they did not originally populate, and that despite epochs of xenophobia and restriction, in the end the U.S. has been a great machine of immigrant integration that has benefited the United States and made us an exceptional nation.

Unfortunately, Massey continued,

the intertwined forces of climate change, state failure, violence and criminal economics will greatly complicate efforts to create a counternarrative by producing surges of asylum seekers and refugees, which could be managed with effective immigration and border policies, but which under current circumstances instead serves to produce images of chaos along the southern border.

Ryan Enos, a professor of government at Harvard, has a different perspective. He argues that

until Trump campaigned on his Muslim ban and his largely symbolic issue of the border wall, there was mostly a consensus among Republican and Democratic politicians allowing for a continued welcoming of immigrants into the United States and keeping reactionary anti-immigrant politics off the table. There was also largely a consensus among most Democratic and Republican voters supporting this.

This consensus, Enos contends, still holds, but it is fragile:

The question for the future of the broader consensus on immigration is whether Republicans can continue to be successful despite the anti-immigrant pandering that is largely out of step with the broad American consensus on immigration. If they are electorally successful — and there is reason to believe they will be, given forecasts for Democratic losses in 2022 — then this broad consensus might break down permanently and a large portion of the American public may follow their Republican leaders toward more fully adopting anti-immigrant ideology.

As Democrats have continued to struggle to reach agreement on major infrastructure and social-spending bills, they have been forced to rapidly shift gears on tax hikes without fully addressing potential unintended consequences. Party members remain tentative, at best, in their willingness to challenge the Senate filibuster rule, and senior House Democrats are retiring in an early warning signal that the party may face severe losses in November 2022.

There are potentially tragic consequences if the Democratic Party proves unable to prevent anti-immigration forces from returning to take over the debate, consequences described by U.C.L.A.’s Waldinger:

The average undocumented immigrant has been in the U.S. for 10 years. The problems of the undocumented spill over onto the large population of U.S. citizens, who are the children, mates, relatives of the undocumented and whose lives are adversely affected by the increasingly repressive policy environment.

Put differently, Waldinger continued, “the ever-greater embeddedness of the unauthorized population increases the legitimacy of their claims.”

In other words, for all intents and purposes, most undocumented immigrants — and perhaps especially the Dreamers — are Americans deserving of full citizenship. But these Americans are on the political chopping block, dependent on a weakened Democratic Party to protect them from a renewal of the savagery an intensely motivated Republican Party has on its agenda.

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Biden and Putin to hold video call on Tuesday, will discuss Ukraine



U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a video call on Tuesday to deal with military tensions over Ukraine other topics.

Biden wants to discuss U.S. concerns about Russia’s military buildup on the Ukraine border, a U.S. source said on Saturday, as well as strategic stability, cyber and regional issues.

“We’re aware of Russia’s actions for a long time and my expectation is we’re going to have a long discussion with Putin,” Biden told reporters on Friday as he departed for a weekend trip to Camp David. “I don’t accept anybody’s red lines,” he said.

The two will also talk about bilateral ties and the implementation of agreements reached at their Geneva summit in June, the Kremlin said on Saturday.

“The conversation will indeed take place on Tuesday,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters. “Bilateral relations, of course Ukraine and the realisation of the agreements reached in Geneva are the main (items) on the agenda,” he said.

More than 94,000 Russian troops are massed near Ukraine’s borders. Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Friday that Moscow may be planning a large-scale military offensive for the end of January, citing intelligence reports.

Biden will reaffirm the United States’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the U.S. source said. The exact timing of the call was not disclosed. The White House declined to comment.

The U.S. president on Friday said he and his advisers are preparing a comprehensive set of initiatives aimed at deterring Putin from an invasion. He did not give further details, but the Biden administration has discussed partnering with European allies to impose more sanctions on Russia.

Moscow accuses Kyiv of pursuing its own military build-up. It has dismissed as inflammatory suggestions that it is preparing for an attack on its southern neighbor and has defended its right to deploy troops on its own territory as it sees fit.

U.S. officials say they do not know yet what Putin’s intentions are, adding while intelligence points to preparations for a possible invasion of Ukraine, it is unclear whether a final decision to do so has been made.

U.S.-Russia relations have been deteriorating for years, notably with Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, its 2015 intervention in Syria and U.S. intelligence charges of meddling in the 2016 election won by now-former President Donald Trump.

But they have become more volatile in recent months.

The Biden administration has asked Moscow to crack down on ransomware and cyber crime attacks emanating from Russian soil, and in November charged a Ukraine national and a Russian in one of the worst ransomware attacks against American targets.

Russia has repeatedly denied carrying out or tolerating cyber attacks.

The two leaders have had one face-to-face meeting since Biden took office in January, sitting down for talks in Geneva last June. They last talked by phone on July 9. Biden relishes direct talks with world leaders, seeing them as a way to lower tensions.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Russian Foreign Minister ” Sergei Lavrov in Stockholm earlier this week that the United States and its European allies would impose “severe costs and consequences on Russia if it takes further aggressive action against Ukraine.”

(Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in WashingtonEditing by Heather Timmons and Alistair Bell)

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Meet the recipients of the new Women in Politics scholarship – The Signal



Dalhousie award created to encourage more women to enter male dominated field

Having more women at the decision-making table is important for Claire Belliveau.

“If we have male dominated rooms, we’re going to have male dominated issues, as easy as that,” said Belliveau.

Belliveau, along with Charlotte Bourke, are the first recipients of the new Women in Politics scholarship at Dalhousie.

Belliveau is in her fourth year at Dalhousie, studying political science and law, justice and society. She has been involved in politics since she was 18, working for Environment Minister Tim Halman. Belliveau is the community outreach co-ordinator at Halman’s constituency office.

Being a young woman in politics has not always been easy for Belliveau. She recalls instances where people questioned her abilities due to her age and times when male peers would take credit for her ideas.

Despite these challenges, Belliveau has found support among other women in the field. One thing she found interesting was how women in politics support each other despite party alliance.

“It’s so nice to see how much these women want to see other women succeed, in a male dominated field,” she said.

Belliveau would like to pursue a career in government as an analyst, contributing to policy development in education and the environment.

Bourke is also a fourth-year political science student with an interest in environmental politics. Her main research interests are social and environmental policies and she is studying ways to create fairer climate adaptation plans.

Bourke is unsure about her plans after graduation, but she knows it will involve politics, social issues and the environment.

Charlotte Bourke walks up the steps to the Henry Hicks Building, where the political science department is located, on Nov. 13, 2021.   Gabrielle Brunette

The scholarship serves to encourage, support and inspire young women in their political aspirations. It was established by Grace Evans and Sarah Dobson, co-authors of On Their Shoulders: The Women who Paved the Way in Nova Scotia Politics.

The book addresses the gender gap by showcasing the first and only 50 women at the time, to have served as MLAs in the province. The book highlights the importance of female representation in municipal politics and all proceeds go towards funding the new scholarship.

In 2021, women and gender-diverse people make up only 36 per cent of the legislative assembly in Nova Scotia.

Of 55 MLAs, 19 are women, one is gender-diverse and 35 are men.

“People often don’t want to enter a realm where they can’t see themselves reflected. I think it’s hard for young women to become interested in politics if they don’t see their peers there,” Evans said.

The scholarship will run for as long as there is funding. Every year, two students will be awarded $1,000 each.

“There’s not a lot of scholarships, to my knowledge, geared specifically towards poli sci students, let alone women in poli sci,” Bourke said.

Evans said they are looking to expand the scholarship beyond funding to create a network of people. She and Dobson have been working in politics for a few years and have made many connections they would like to share with the recipients.

Receiving the scholarship was rewarding for Bourke, who felt like all her hard work was being acknowledged.

“It’s kind of just like a relief and a push forward to be like, oh wow I am being recognized, this is really cool, people actually think that I’m good enough, or they actually want me here. It feels sort of welcoming,” she said.

Charlotte Bourke is a fourth-year political science student, minoring in environmental studies.   Gabrielle Brunette

Belliveau was honoured to receive a scholarship designed to encourage women, like herself, who want a career in politics.

“It was just really motivating, especially from Sarah and Grace, knowing how much they care about young women in politics, knowing how much they care about the history and seeing more young women join the field,” she said.

“They’re acknowledging how important it is to have those voices at the table.”

For both women, winning the scholarship has given them a boost of confidence.

Belliveau said it has pushed her to apply for other opportunities, something she hopes other young women in politics will be encouraged to do as well.

“Apply for every scholarship, apply for fellowships, apply for the jobs you don’t think you qualify for because … men are doing it and they get them all the time, so why shouldn’t you?” she said.

“So, take advantage of everything you can and just enjoy the ride, stand your ground and don’t be afraid to speak up.”

Gabrielle Brunette

Gabrielle is a journalist for the Signal at the University of King’s College. She completed her BAH in political studies at Queen’s University.

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Playing Politics With Democracy? – Forbes



On December 9 and 10, President Biden will host the first of two Summits for Democracy to “set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today.” How do Americans see the threat to democracy in the US now? And do partisans see the health of our democracy differently?

In October, Grinnell College asked them this directly. Fifty-two percent said American democracy was under a very serious threat and 29% under a minor threat. Only 14% perceived no threat. Other polls with differently worded questions produce similar impressions of a democracy in need of serious rehabilitation. In a November poll, Monmouth University pollsters found that 8% thought the US system of government was basically sound and needed no improvement, 35% basically sound but needing some improvement, 26% not too sound and needing many improvements, and 30% not too sound and in need of significant changes. And a late October–early November poll of 18–29 year olds from Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP) finds that 7% of them describe US democracy as healthy, 27% somewhat functioning, 39% as in trouble, and 13% as failed.

In 2018, 2019, and again in 2021, Public Agenda, as part of the Daniel Yankelovich Democracy Initiative, asked people identical questions about democracy’s health. In the May 2021 poll, 14% said American democracy was doing well, 50% facing serious challenges but not in crisis, and 36% in crisis. The results were similar to their 2018 and 2019 polls.  

In all of these new polls, Democrats were more positive about democracy’s health than were Republicans. In the 2021 Public Agenda survey, Democrats were less likely to see a crisis than Republicans, 25% to 48%. However, in their 2018 and 2019 polls taken during the Trump years, far more Democrats than Republicans said the system was in crisis. In the October 2021 Grinnell poll, 71% of Republicans compared to 35% of Democrats saw the threat as major. In the Monmouth poll, partisans in both parties thought improvements were necessary, but twice as many Republicans as Democrats (38% to 15%) said the system was not sound at all and needed significant changes. In the Harvard IOP poll, 18–29 year old Democrats were more optimistic about democracy, too. There is a clear disconnect between Democratic elites in the media and academia who regularly opine about a US democracy’s decline and the views of rank-and-file Democrats.

This pattern is reversed when we look at questions about the events of January 6 and subsequent investigations as the new edition of the AEI Polling Report shows. Democrats profess much more concern than Republicans about what happened that day and are more eager to see the work of the January 6 congressional committee continue. In a mid-October online Morning Consult/Politico poll, 81% of Democrats compared to 18% of Republicans approved of the special congressional committee to investigate the events that occurred at the US Capitol on January 6. And in a mid-October Quinnipiac University poll, 40% wanted to hear more, but 56% said enough was already known about what led to the storming of the Capitol. Fifty-nine percent of Democrats wanted to hear more compared to 22% of Republicans and 38% of independents. Still, it is significant that nearly four in 10 (38%) Democrats said enough is known already, indicating some fatigue with the investigation.

There are some obvious reasons Democrats would feel better about our democracy than Republicans. They control both chambers of Congress, there’s a Democrat in the White House, and expressing confidence in American democracy is a way of showing support for the party and the president as the polls above suggest. And Democrats will continue to hammer away at anything to do with Donald Trump.

The polls suggest that concerns about democracy have not diminished people’s willingness to participate in the system — at least in terms of voting. Eighty percent in the Grinnell poll said they would definitely vote in the 2024 election for president and other offices and only 7% said they probably would not. What’s more, 91% of Democrats and 88% of Republicans in the survey said that it was very important for the United States to remain a democracy. Five percent nationally said it was fairly important, 4% just somewhat, and 3% not important. When you care deeply about something as Americans do about democracy, you worry at its erosion. But today, this concern has a deep partisan overlay.

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