Tea Party’s winning xenophobia: Why a broadly popular policy is all but dead

A new report shows how immigration reform is hostage to a misinformed minority of Fox News-watching wingnuts

Topics: Immigration Reform, Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Republicans, House Republicans, Tea Party, anti-immigrant, President Barack Obama, Brookings Institute, Public Religion Research Institute, Fox News, Editor's Picks,

Tea Party's winning xenophobia: Why a broadly popular policy is all but deadMarsha Blackburn, Louie Gohmert (Credit: AP/Chris Usher/Carolyn Kaster)

The Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution have a new report out taking the public’s temperature on immigration reform, and the findings are pretty dispiriting. To put it simply: (quite nearly) everyone wants immigration reform, but it’s not happening because of the disproportionately large influence of a small, determined minority.

According to the report, a full 62 percent of America favors allowing undocumented immigrants to become citizens if they meet certain requirements. Support for that policy outcome isn’t just broad, it’s also bipartisan: 70 percent of Democrats favor it, 51 percent of Republicans, and 61 percent of independents. The opposition comes from self-identified Tea Partyers, who are split evenly between citizenship and deportation, with 37 percent backing each policy outcome.

Here’s how the report describes this oppositional group:

Americans who support deportation represent a distinct minority in the U.S., and they have a unique political, social and demographic profile. Compared to Americans overall, they are roughly twice as likely to be members of the Tea Party movement (24% vs. 12%) and significantly more likely to identify as Republican (36% vs. 23%).

Americans who favor deportation are more likely to be white and tend to be older than Americans overall. Nearly 8-in-10 (79%) Americans who say immigrants in the U.S. illegally should be deported are white, while 10% are black and only 2% are Hispanic. Close to 6-in-10 (57%) Americans who support deportation are over the age of 50, compared to 46% of Americans overall.

You Might Also Like

Also worth noting is the report’s finding that trust in Fox News tends to be a fairly strong predictor not just of support for mass deportations, but also for enmity toward immigrants and misinformation about immigration policy in general. According to the report, “the most trusted news source for deportation supporters is Fox News, with more than 4-in-10 (41%) saying it is the television news source they trust the most to provide accurate information about politics and current events.” The report also found that people who trust Fox as their go-to news source are more likely to believe that immigrants are a burden on American society and a threat to American culture.

Old, white, Tea Party Republicans who love Fox News want to deport immigrants rather than give them a path the citizenship, and they are the group whose interests are impeding progress on reform. The House Republican leadership may evince a (verbal) commitment to immigration reform, but the rank-and-file are all about enforcement, and their opposition is rooted in the belief that border security and deportations will be given short shrift in any reform proposal.

The truly sad part about all this is that the White House also played to the concerns of this minority and boosted the rate of deportations to levels never before seen. The human cost of the policy was steep, but President Obama made the political calculation that being tough on enforcement would get him the political support he needed from Republicans and conservatives to move a reform bill through Congress. He was wrong, and he’s paid for it. According to the PRRI/Brookings report, Obama’s approval rating among Hispanics has plummeted over the past year, dropping from 72 percent to 51 percent.

Now, with immigration reform officially off the House agenda for June, prospects for passing any sort of legislation are essentially nil. The tragic policy choices and extended political wrangling meant to placate an implacable minority of conservatives has been all for naught, and the only thing the major political players have to show for their efforts is diminished approval ratings.

Simon Maloy

Simon Maloy is Salon's political writer. Email him at smaloy@salon.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SimonMaloy.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...