Can’t Midwesterners Care About Immigration Too?

Monday’s New York Times carries an article on immigration hearings planned by the House that rests on a rather odd premise–that the only people who care about immigration reside in states along the Mexican border:

When House leaders announced their plan to hold 21 immigration hearings in 13 states during the August recess, they said it demonstrated a commitment to battling illegal immigration and securing the border.

But some Democratic and Republican lawmakers said the schedule of the hearings had only heightened their concerns that the Republican leadership was using immigration as a weapon in the battle over fiercely contested House and Senate seats around the country.

Several immigration hearings are being held far from the border with Mexico, in districts where Republican lawmakers are engaged in competitive races for the House, including Evansville, Ind.; Concord, N.H.; and Glens Falls, N.Y. Hearings are also being held in Dubuque, Iowa, where Republicans are fighting to hold on to the seat being vacated by Representative Jim Nussle, and in Hamilton, Mont., where Senator Conrad Burns faces a tough challenge.

Jeff Lungren, a spokesman for the House Judiciary Committee, which set hearings in four battleground districts, said more than 60 members of the House had asked for immigration hearings in their hometowns.

Lawmakers and political analysts say the hearings may help vulnerable Republicans by rallying conservatives, who view Democrats as being weak on border security, and by drawing attention away from other issues like the war in Iraq and President Bush’s diminished approval ratings.

Admittedly, there is an element of political grandstanding whenever Congress holds hearings–maybe even doubly so when those hearings aren’t on the Hill. But, nonetheless, the idea that immigration, illegal or otherwise, isn’t an issue away from the border is patently absurd, as the increasing numbers of Mexican and other Hispanic immigrants in the Midwest and Southeast–including such seemingly unlikely magnets for Mexican immigration as Memphis, Tennessee and Durham, North Carolina–would indicate.

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Chris Lawrence
About Chris Lawrence
Chris teaches political science at Middle Georgia State University in Macon, Georgia. He has a Ph.D. in political science (with concentrations in American politics and political methodology) from the University of Mississippi. He began writing for OTB in June 2006. Follow him on Twitter @lordsutch.


  1. Jody says:

    It’s just the chicken-hawk meme transplanted to a different argument and equally as specious.

  2. gawaine says:

    You’re absolutely right. I grew up in Indiana – as a teenager, I did farm work, because you could do it without a work permit even at 13. We were the people doing jobs American (adults) wouldn’t do. By a few years later, though, we were replaced by illegal immigrants and mechanization.

    Meanwhile, the main industry in the area, RVs, were largely built by illegal immigrants working in the factories. They would be fired every few months when the INS served papers, and hired across the street, then replaced by different illegals.

    Aside from the fact that federal benefits and homeland security are national problems, and therefore even people who somehow never see an illegal immigrant should at least think about the problem and solutions, the economic impacts definitely hit just about everywhere.