Washington, D.C. — President Obama’s recent announcement requesting recommendations for administrative action, as well as the influx of child refugees coming across the southern border has reignited a debate over immigration policy, as both sides grapple with how to handle the arrivals. While there is heightened attention to the minors coming in at the border, another set of youth, young U.S.-born people, are paying very close attention to a range of immigration issues.
A new report released today by the Center for American Progress and the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration at USC details just how important the actions of both parties and the president on these pressing matters are to one of the fastest-growing segments of the electorate: the children of immigrants. The U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrants alone will be able to cast 11 million ballots over the course of the next five presidential elections, and they will be watching to see how both parties address immigration.
“Over the next five presidential elections, 4.5 million U.S.-born citizen children of undocumented immigrants will age, gain the right to vote, and either reward or punish those who have done right by their parents and relatives,” said Manuel Pastor, co-author of the report and Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity, and Director of the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration, University of Southern California. “As these children come of voting age in waves, they have the potential to cast nearly 11 million votes.”
As the report points out, most economists agree that repairing the nation’s immigration system will benefit the country’s economy, and that a path to citizenship would improve the fortunes and well-being of a large number of U.S. families. And yet the stalling of action on immigration reform continues. The effect of today’s divisive immigration politics may be even greater than numbers previously analyzed, as historical evidence and current polling point to the fact that immigration is a touchstone issue in voting preferences for the children of all immigrants. Widening the lens to include this entire group means a possible 15.4 million voters by 2032, who could potentially cast 41 million ballots over those election cycles. Shifting the focus slightly to consider all citizens of Latino or Asian American descent would bring the total number of new voters to 19.3 million, with a combined potential of 52 million presidential ballots cast.
Political inaction on immigration reform fails to recognize the mixed-status realities of many families, eliminates the potential financial benefits to these families and to society at large, and is likely to entrench a second generation against political actors perceived as holding up immigration reform progress.
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