How Twitter Ruined Any Chance For Immigration Reform

August 28, 2018 8:36 am
by David Jakeman

How Twitter Ruined Any Chance For Immigration Reform

The Republican and Democratic Parties are pulling further and further apart on the issue of immigration. That doesn’t seem like it should be possible. The immigration debate has certainly been acrimonious in the past, but it’s only getting worse, and we can lay much of the blame on social media. Right now, both parties are facing intra-party pressure that is pushing them to the extreme margins of the immigration debate. That’s not a good sign for immigration attorneys and immigration activists hoping for immigration reform.

Immigration Debate and Social Media

The most outlandish, passionate, and absolute posts on social media often get the most shares and clicks. (See the title of this article.) As a result, the more thoughtful and measured posts get filtered out, and we are left with polarized forces debating various hot-button issues, whether it’s Kanye West’s most recent posts or topics like immigration policies.

To make matters more difficult, social media companies are dependent on engagement and time spent on social media. As a result, mini echo-chambers crop up, with people only hearing information that they already agree with and often nudging people to take harsher and more radical stances. These developments have only made current American political debates more acrimonious and polarized.

Republican Shift Rightwards

The recent Republican compromise immigration bill failed in Congress, just like we predicted1. And while the bill certainly would have had numerous problems, it also was the first substantive movement on immigration legislation that we’ve seen in years. The failure of this bill portends that there will almost certainly be no movement on immigration reform for many years, which most immigration attorneys in Seattle and throughout the country and their clients have unfortunately become very used to. The partisan rift is only likely to increase.

Observers of immigration policy are well aware of the position of Republican hardliners. For those ensconced in this political viewpoint, U.S. immigration policy is seen as too permissive, U.S. borders as too porous, and immigrants as job stealers. But there are signs that the Republican party is being pushed even further right on immigration. A number of moderate Republicans, those often more open to immigration reform, have decided to bow out of reelection. The odds of getting reelected while running against a Trump-backed candidate further to the right have made reelection odds much lower.

There is evidence of an even greater shift rightwards among Republicans, with many favoring greater curbs on not just undocumented immigration, but legal immigrants as well. One can only imagine that the perception of MS-13 gang members taking over U.S. cities and news outlets like Fox News playing cover for Trump’s family separation policies has only pushed Republicans to support more draconian immigration policies.

Democratic Shift to the Left

But it’s not just the right that has hardened its stance on immigration reform; the left is also facing pressure on immigration reform. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s recent primary victory over senior Democrat and Trump antagonist Joe Crowley for a New York Congressional district sent shockwaves through the political world.

One of Ocasio-Cortez’s positions was the need to abolish ICE (U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement), echoing the #abolishice hashtag that has been pinging around the internet. While ICE definitely needs a major overhaul, and while there is wisdom in ending the agency and spreading out its functions to other federal agencies, #abolishice coupled with chants of “no borders, no walls” sends a message to moderate voters that the Democratic party does not support any type of immigration enforcement.

While #abolishice may provide a great and simple rallying cry, advocates for immigrants, including immigration attorneys, should worry about the possibility of it backfiring. There are few things that gets the Republican base out to vote like the immigration debate, as evidenced by Trump’s Republican primary victory over candidates with more moderate stances on immigration reform like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. And a hashtag #abolishice is too easy to pillory. Even if those using it may only mean “let’s give the agency a major overhaul,” that’s not how it sounds in the wider political arena.

And so our political debates, following the lead of simplistic social media arguments, are leading not just to the fracturing of American society, but possibly of the two main political parties. (Though the Democratic Party might be able to learn from their most recent election defeat and find a way to support both factions of the party.) It seems fitting that Trump, who made his first political waves through tweets, is overseeing this fracturing of the political landscape. We can only hope to find a way of crafting solutions in ways that don’t mirror social media interactions.

Concerned about your immigration status or that of a loved one? Call us today to schedule a consultation. We’re here to help!

1 –

Tags: , , ,