Immigrant-Friendly Policies Make Most Whites Feel Welcomed, Too

Only Caucasian conservatives feel uncomfortable in a state that welcomes immigrants.

Immigration policy in the US has grown increasingly contentious, seemingly pitting different communities and ideologies against each other. But a new study suggests that a large majority of Americans appreciate a welcoming policy toward immigrants. Only a specific minority—white conservatives—generally feels otherwise. And the effect isn’t limited to policy, as it influenced whether citizens felt welcome in the place that they lived.

The research, performed by a collaboration of US-based researchers, focused on New Mexico and Arizona. These states have similar demographics but radically different policies toward immigrants. Arizona has state policies that encourage police to check the immigration status of people they encounter; controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio ended up in trouble with the court system in part due to how aggressively he pursued this program. New Mexico, by contrast, will provide state IDs and tuition benefits to immigrants regardless of their documentation status.

The researchers reasoned that these states would provide a reasonable test as to how immigration policies align with the feelings of the public. So they surveyed nearly 2,000 residents of the two states, including immigrants, naturalized US citizens, and people born in the US, focusing on the states’ Caucasian and Hispanic populations.

The work used a phone-based survey that suggested that the state’s representatives were considering new immigration-focused legislation. Participants were randomly given a description of one of two types of legislation, either pro- or anti-immigrant (examples included English-only laws and bilingual state documents). Those surveyed were asked how they felt about the proposed legislation but were also asked questions about how they felt about the state—whether they felt at home there and whether they intended to move elsewhere. The intent was to get at whether immigration-focused policies in a state made people feel more or less at home.

By John Timmer for ARS TECHNICA
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