Immigration is unquestionably one of the most important forces shaping America. Since
2000 the United States has absorbed almost 14 million immigrants bringing the total of all documented and undocumented immigrants currently in the nation to over 40 million (Urban Institute 2011). Immigrants and their children now represent fully one in four Americans. These raw numbers are impressive. Yet they tell only part of the story.
The current wave of immigration has also wrought dramatic changes in the social l and economic spheres. Large scale immigration has produced a sea change in the racial and ethnic composition of the nation.
The phenomenal growth of the Latino population has allowed Latinos to displace African Americans as the nation’s largest racial and ethnic group. Asian Americans, once a negligible share of the national population are now the fastest growing racial and ethnic group. All of that means that white numerical dominance is very much on the decline. By the mid-point of the 21st Century, whites are, in fact, expected to no longer be the majority. The arrival of so many new Americans who herald from different shores has also brought cheap labor, new languages, and different cultural perspectives.
There are large-scale industries flourishing on low-wage migrant labor, massive Spanish language media empires, and countless communities that have been altered almost beyond recognition. There is little doubt that American society has been transformed in myriad, deep, and perhaps permanent ways.
But what of the political sphere? What are the political consequences of such a dramatic demographic, racial, economic, social, and cultural makeover? In spite of the obvious and dramatic changes wrought by immigration, immigration’s impact on the political world is much less clear. On one level the impact of immigration on politics is obvious and already well documented. Countless studies have demonstrated the growing strength of the minority vote, particularly of the Latino electorate, who are the largest immigrant group in the nation (de laGarza et al 1992, DeSipio 1996, Alvarez and Garcia Bedolla 2003, Abrajano and Alvarez 2010). Many others have demonstrated the increasing attachment of immigrants and their offspring to the Democratic Party (Wong et al 2011, Alvarez and Garcia Bedolla 2003, Hajnal and Lee 2011). These are certainly important developments in the course of American political history.