“Senator [Kay] Hagan is no friend to immigrants.” That’s the statement now appearing on Spanish-language billboard ads posted throughout North Carolina. They’re part of an increasingly high-profile campaign by advocates to put pressure on Hagan, a Democrat, to liberalize her views on immigration. Their tactics reached a crescendo last weekend when activists interrupted a pair of rallies for Hagan, one of which featured former secretary of state (and likely future presidential candidate) Hillary Clinton.
Hagan is no liberal on immigration. She’s one of five Democratic senators who joined a Republican-led filibuster against the DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children. Hagan was also one of a handful of Democratic senators who called on President Obama this summer to avoid halting the deportation of undocumented immigrants by executive order.
But how smart is it for immigration advocates to target Kay Hagan — especially in late October of an election year, as she faces a tough challenge from Republican Thom Tillis? Hagan’s lead in the polls is razor-thin, and forecasting is complicated by the presence of a libertarian candidate who consistently polls in the mid-single digits. Thus a Hagan victory is no sure thing. With the state’s African American voters solidly in her corner, Hagan will need just enough support from whites to eke out a win. Right now, polling indicates that she’s getting only about one-third of their votes.
One issue that does not work in Hagan’s favor in North Carolina is immigration. Like much of the South, the state’s foreign-born population has skyrocketed recently, increasing by 64 percent between 2000 and 2011. As Georgetown University political scientist Daniel Hopkins has found, influxes like these can lead to a backlash against immigrants when the issue is salient in the media.
So it should come as no surprise that white opposition to immigration in North Carolina is among the highest of any state in the country. The chart below plots the share of each state’s white residents supporting a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a policy embraced by national Democrats and one increasingly forsaken by the GOP. The data come from surveys conducted by the firm YouGov for the Cooperative Congressional Election Study in 2012. As the graph shows, whites in North Carolina are among the least supportive of immigration reform of any state, with only 36 percent in favor of granting legal status to undocumented immigrants.
By protesting Hagan’s immigration stance at the height of a heated election campaign, activists aren’t just making things uncomfortable for her. They’re also raising the salience of the immigration issue among a state general electorate that disagrees with the Democrats’ position on a path to citizenship – a policy that she (and every Democrat), in fact, voted for when comprehensive immigration reform was passed by the Senate in 2013.
With Hagan’s reelection race coming down to just a few percentage points, the last thing her campaign needs are high-salience events that get North Carolina’s voters to think about immigration.
“Having her or her opponent in office makes no difference, as they are both anti-immigrant,” said activist leader Erika Andiola. If the immigration issue helps put North Carolina’s Senate seat in Republican hands, we will get the chance to find out whether this is the case.
Read more here: http://feeds.washingtonpost.com/c/34656/f/666713/s/3fe8da86/sc/1/l/0L0Swashingtonpost0N0Cblogs0Cmonkey0Ecage0Cwp0C20A140C10A0C280Cimmigration0Eactivists0Eare0Eturning0Eup0Ethe0Eheat0Eon0Esen0Ekay0Ehagan0Eis0Eit0Ethe0Ewrong0Eplace0Eat0Ethe0Ewrong0Etime0C/story01.htm by Patrick J. Egan Originally posted on http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage