Can we overcome public ignorance about immigration?

Posted on 25. Apr, 2017 by .


taken from thewashingtonpost.com –


Widespread political ignorance is a serious problem, and affects public opinion on many issues. Immigration figures prominently on the list of those issues. During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump effectively exploited public ignorance about the number of immigrants and their effect on the crime rate. Similar ignorance likely had an impact on the Brexit referendum in Britain. One of the most pernicious aspects of political ignorance is that many people, both right and left, tend to reject new information that conflicts with their preexisting views. Such “motivated reasoning” is particularly likely on emotionally charged issues, such as immigration. That reality makes it difficult to break through misinformation when it does arise. Even otherwise intelligent and knowledgeable people tend to process new political information in a highly biased way.

But new research by economists Alexis Grigorieff, Christopher Roth, and Diego Ubfal suggests that combating public ignorance about immigration may not be as hopeless a task as it might seem. Sam Bowman of Britain’s Adam Smith Institute summarizes the new findings:

Here’s a cool new paper. It tests whether people are willing to substantially shift their opinions about immigration policy when they’re given more information about it. The results suggest that people may be doing less ‘motivated reasoning’ about immigration policy than many think, and that there’s real value in trying to highlight the facts to the public….

First, it looks at the Transatlantic Trends Survey, which polled 19,000 people in 13 different countries and, among other things, asked whether they thought there were too many immigrants in their country. People almost always overestimate the proportion of their country’s population that are immigrants, in the UK by a factor of two. But, here, half of the respondents were told the true proportion….

In most countries surveyed, especially in the UK, the ‘treatment’ group that was given the correct figure gave substantially less anti-immigrant responses than the ‘control’ group that was not given any figure. In the UK there was an 18 percentage point gap, which was the difference between a majority saying there were too many immigrants among the group that wasn’t given the correct numbers and a minority in the group that was….

The second part of the study was based on a poll of Americans who were given information not just about the proportion of the country that are immigrants, but their characteristics – their propensity to commit crimes or be imprisoned compared to natives, their English-speaking rate, their unemployment rates and how many of them were illegal versus legal. Again, this had a pretty big effect (0.25 of a standard deviation) in changing people’s attitudes and beliefs about immigrants for the better, though they were much less likely to shift policy positions.

Maybe this was just a temporary effect? Four weeks later, there was very little change in either group’s responses. The new information actually stuck!

As Bowman notes, the biggest changes were seen in the attitudes of right of center survey respondents, who tend to be the ones most opposed to immigration in the first place.

The study does not show – and I certainly don’t claim – that reducing public ignorance about immigration will cause everyone to become as pro-immigration as I am. Far from it. Even if everyone were well-informed, there would still be plenty of room for disagreement.

But increased knowledge would likely make much of the population more favorable to immigration than they themselves otherwise would be. Many anti-immigration attitudes are driven by misinformation about the numbers of immigrants, their supposed propensity to go on welfare, their political views, their impact on the crime rate, and other factors.

While some people are so dug in to their views that no new facts are likely to change their minds, the research discussed by Bowman suggests that many are not. Some people on all sides of the political spectrum are hopelessly biased partisans or bigots. But others just haven’t taken the time to explore the relevant evidence or consider opposing points of view.

I am not quite as optimistic as Bowman is. While, new information can potentially change many people’s minds, it is often difficult to get voters to take the time to learn it, given that political ignorance is actually rational behavior for most of them. If your only reason to learn about immigration (or any political issue) is to be a better voter, that’s not much of an incentive at all, given that the chance of your better-informed vote will influence electoral outcomes is infinitesmally small. When people participate in a survey, the researchers can get them to focus on whatever information they want to present (at least for a time). It’s much harder to achieve that in real life, where there are many competing demands on people’s time and energy.

Still, the new evidence shows that many people are more open-minded about immigration than most experts might have thought. That’s an encouraging sign, even if does not lead us to any quick and easy solution to the problem of public ignorance on this issue.

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Pope Francis is leading the Catholic Church Against Anti-migrant Populism

Posted on 25. Apr, 2017 by .


Taken from washingtonpost.com –

As politicians around the world including President Trump take an increasingly hard line on immigration, a powerful force is rallying to the side of migrants: the Roman Catholic Church led by Pope Francis.

Catholic cardinals, bishops and priests are emerging as some of the most influential opponents of immigration crackdowns backed by right-wing populists in the United States and Europe. The moves come as Francis, who has put migrants at the top of his agenda, appears to be leading by example, emphasizing his support for their rights in sermons, speeches and deeds.

The pro-migrant drive risks dividing Catholics — many of whom in the United States voted for Trump. Some observers say it is also inserting the church into politics in a manner recalling the heady days of Pope John Paul II, who stared down communism and declared his opposition to the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The Vatican is standing in open opposition to politicians like Trump not just on immigration but also on other issues, including climate-change policy.

But the focal point is clearly migrant rights.

Eritrean migrants sit on a Proactiva Open Arms rescue boat in the Mediterranean Sea, about 56 miles north of Sabratha, Libya, on April 6, 2017. (Bernat Armangue/AP)

In the United States, individual bishops, especially those appointed by Francis, have sharply criticized Trump’s migrant policies since his election. They include Newark Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, who last month co-led a rally in support of a Mexican man fighting deportation. Tobin has decried Trump’s executive orders on immigration, calling them the “opposite of what it means to be an American.”

In Los Angeles, Archbishop José H. Gomez, the first Mexican American vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which leads the U.S. church, described migrant rights as the bishops’ most important issue. He has delivered blistering critiques of Trump’s policies, and instructed his clerics to distribute cards in English, Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese informing migrants of their rights in 300 parishes.

Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, one of Francis’s closest allies in the U.S. church, has issued orders that if federal immigration authorities should attempt to enter churches without a warrant in search of migrants, priests should turn them away and call the archdiocese’s lawyers. Catholic school principals were given the same instructions by the archdiocese, which Cupich said was an attempt to respond in a way that was firm “but not extreme.”

He said Francis has helped bishops shape their response.

read more here

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Churches Figuring Out How To Protect Immigrants And Themselves

Posted on 25. Apr, 2017 by .


Hundreds of churches across the country are taking part in the “new sanctuary movement” by offering refuge to undocumented immigrants to protect them from deportation, but not without obstacles.

The following dialogue is between  Jeanette Vizguerra, who is currently living in a sanctuary church in Colorado, and the NPR host Michael Martin



We’re going to spend the next few minutes talking about what’s being called the new sanctuary movement. We’re talking about churches, congregations across the country that are committed to supporting undocumented immigrants who are facing possible detainment or deportation. People like Jeanette Vizguerra. She’s currently living in a sanctuary church in Colorado.

JEANETTE VIZGUERRA: (Through interpreter) Even though it’s been eight long years up to this point, I know that this is not the point to give up, and my fight is going to continue.

MARTIN: And that was Jeanette speaking with the help of a translator at a press conference inside the First Unitarian Church in Denver. That was earlier this year. We’ll hear more about her a little later. NPR reporter Adrian Florido spoke with her during his reporting on the new sanctuary movement for the Code Switch podcast, and he’s with us now to tell us more.

Welcome, Adrian. Thanks so much for joining us.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Hi, Michel. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So what exactly are we talking about here? Are we talking about congregations that are actually offering refuge to people like Jeanette or are we talking about something else? How many congregations are we talking about?

FLORIDO: So we’re talking about hundreds of churches that have stepped up in the last few months to say that they’re going to provide some kind of protection to immigrants living in the country illegally. In a lot of cases, that’s just supporting them in ways like food or accompanying them to meetings that they have with immigration and customs enforcement where they feel they may be deported. In other instances, it’s actually inviting immigrants to live in the four walls of the congregation as a way to protect them from immigration agents.

MARTIN: Can law enforcement officers go into churches to detain these refugees? Is there some legal impediment to doing that?

FLORIDO: So technically it can, but it hasn’t because several years ago, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency adopted a policy that it doesn’t make deportation arrests inside what it calls sensitive locations. So that’s places like schools, places like churches, and that’s what opens up the possibility for immigrants to come in and say I need to take refuge in this church. The idea is that they will be protected from deportation.

MARTIN: The other question I think that many people will be asking is can churches be prosecuted for harboring someone who is technically in violation of the law?

FLORIDO: So that’s one of the big questions sort of looming over all of this work right now. The most recent time that it was a sort of a major movement in the United States was in the ’80s when churches and other congregations stepped up to protect immigrants from Central America.

At that time, clergy members were prosecuted by the government successfully for doing this work. And so as churches and other congregations right now are beginning the process of learning how to become sanctuary churches, a big question that they have is will we be prosecuted? How do we protect ourselves against that?

MARTIN: So let’s go back to Jeanette Vizguerra who’s currently living in a church in Colorado, as we said. We heard a bit from her earlier. Why did she feel the need to take this step? I mean, she has three children who are all born in the United States. She’s still kind of trying to raise them even though she’s living in the church and they aren’t. Why would she do something so drastic?

FLORIDO: So Jeanette Vizguerra’s story’s very interesting because she has lived in the U.S. illegally since the ’90s. In 2009, she was convicted for using fake documents to get a job. That could have resulted in her deportation, and she did get a deportation order as a result. But through the years of the Obama administration, she was never actually deported because the government didn’t consider her a priority for deportation. So she was allowed to stay as long as she regularly checked in with immigration agents.

Under the Trump administration because of his recent executive order that prioritizes a much larger category of immigrants for deportation, she was afraid that if she showed up for this scheduled ICE check-in, that she would be deported. She didn’t want to take that risk, so she took sanctuary in this church.

MARTIN: I would imagine that there’s a balancing act within congregations. People might say I don’t want to be put in the position of breaking the law. Who is this person? Did that come up in your report?

FLORIDO: I mean, this is absolutely an internal balancing act as well. I had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting that the board of a church was having where they were talking about how far are we willing to go to protect someone? Who are we willing to take in? If someone has a criminal record, is that OK? If it is OK, how serious of a criminal record, right? Because all these things become things that members of the congregation raise concerns about. It’s very clear that as churches are gearing up to do this kind of work, they’re wrestling with all this tricky messy stuff.

MARTIN: That’s Code Switch reporter Adrian Florido. You can hear more of his work by going to npr.org/codeswitch. He was kind enough to join us here in our studios in Washington, D.C. Thanks, Adrian.

FLORIDO: Thanks, Michel.

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Pro Immigrant Policies Are Making Communities Safer

Posted on 15. Apr, 2017 by .


Offering Driver’s Licenses To Immigrants Here Illegally Makes Roads Safer

Taken from npr.org –

Researchers at Stanford University this week published a study that may bolster the argument that policies aimed at encouraging immigrants to come out of the shadows actually improve public safety. They found that a 2013 California law granting driver’s licenses to immigrants in the country illegally reduced hit-and-run accidents by 7 to 10 percent in 2015, meaning roughly 4,000 fewer hit-and-runs. In that same year, 600,000 people got driver’s licenses under the law.

gettyimages-84674999-007e1087ce70c919126a6e6ca8980b00ddfe9be0-s700-c85It was the first time researchers had studied the effectiveness of such driver’s license laws, which have generated significant controversy nationally. Opponents have argued that granting licenses to immigrants in the U.S. illegally is dangerous.

It’s a rhetorical cudgel often wielded by those opposed to offering protection or other forms of help to immigrants in the U.S. illegally, and it frequently relies on a notion that immigrants without legal status are more prone to violence and other forms of delinquency. President Trump has often argued that those who oppose a federal government crackdown on illegal immigration do so at the expense of public safety.

This idea was central to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement last month that the federal government intended to withhold federal funds from cities that adopt so-called sanctuary policies aimed at shielding immigrants in the U.S. illegally. “These policies,” he said, “endanger the lives of every American.”

In fact, research has generally shown that cities that adopt sanctuary policies tend to be safer than those that don’t, because immigrants not fearful that a routine interaction with their local police could end in their deportation are more likely to report crimes in their communities.

Nonetheless, claims that such policies endanger public safety are common, as they have been surrounding the debate about driver’s licenses.

“In many of the countries from which illegal aliens come, it is not uncommon for motorists involved in accidents to flee the scene,” the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for immigration restrictions, says on its website, making it “probable that if more illegal aliens were encouraged to drive by issuing them driver’s licenses, it would lead to more accidents caused by uninsured motorists and more would be hit and run.”

Yet the Stanford researchers said their findings show no evidence for those claims.

“Rather, our results suggest that, if anything, providing unauthorized immigrants access to driver’s licenses reduced their incentives to flee the scene of an accident,” authors Hans Lueders, Jens Hainmueller and Duncan Lawrence wrote, adding that their findings may help inform the debate over whether other states should grant driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants. Twelve states and the District of Columbia already do.

In California, the licenses are available to immigrants who cannot prove they are legal residents of the U.S. Though markings on the ID card indicate to police that it is one of these special licenses, the 2013 law that approved them also prohibits police from reporting license holders to immigration agents.

The researchers suggest that “consequently, unauthorized immigrants with a valid form of in-state driving authorization have weaker incentives to flee the scene after an accident, because they are less likely to fear deportation.” Their study also found that the license law did not increase the number of traffic accidents overall, as opponents had claimed it would. It did not decrease the number either. But the decline in hit-and-run accidents was a positive sign, the researchers wrote.

“Overall, the findings suggest that providing driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants led to improved traffic safety,” they said.

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Walking in the Footsteps of Migrants

Posted on 15. Apr, 2017 by .


Taken from ncronline.org by Tony Magliano –

Recently I was given a unique opportunity to taste some of the bitter hardships endured by fellow human beings fleeing drug-gang violence, oppressive poverty and economic injustice south of the U.S. border.CNS-Nogales wall c_0

The day after a talk I gave at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Parish in Tucson, Arizona, I entered into a migrant immersion experience starting with a team of Tucson Samaritans.

These Samaritans are a faith-based group who regularly patrol very remote areas of the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona. They leave jugs of life-saving water along hot rugged terrain traveled by very poor migrant children, women and men seeking a safe, decent place to live in the U.S.

Because there are relatively few legal visas issued annually by the U.S. government for much needed low-skilled laborers, undocumented migrant workers are forced to dangerously trek through the desert hoping to reach a U.S. workplace.

My journey with the Samaritans took me close to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Donning backpacks loaded with first-aid supplies, water and nutritional food bars, we hiked four hours up into the Las Guijas Mountains looking for unchartered migrant trails.

On top of a 4,000-foot steep desert mountaintop, we paused to try to determine where our overgrown trail continued.

As I looked out in all directions, I could easily imagine many of the dangers facing me if I were a migrant — running out of water, having heat stroke or hypothermia, being bitten by a rattlesnake, taking a debilitating fall, being disoriented and getting lost.

continue reading here

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