Comparing Politics, Law, Policy, and Power
Politics in Texas and California
Texas and California have very different political philosophies about immigration policy. These two states were once part of Mexico, and now they do not seem like they once shared boundaries before from the way they act on the southern border. The governor of California is one of the key political players in the policy-making process in California. Gavin Newsom, the current governor of California, has recently withdrawn numerous troops of the National Guard from southern California in protest that was symbolic of former president Donald Trump’s stance on immigration (Collingwood & O’Brien Gonzalez, 2019). On the contrary, Texas invests $400m in a year of its own earned money to police the border (The Economist, 2019). The Department of public safety also has a voice in the policy-making process regarding immigration policy, as the person in charge of this department stated that Texas’ yearly investment is crucial in the reduction of crime in the Rio Grande Valley (The Economist, 2019).
These two states prove that the US is highly polarized over matters of immigration. California has gone beyond other states to show its support for immigrants, both undocumented and legal, who altogether account for about a quarter of the population of the state. According to Collingwood & O’Brien Gonzalez (2019), California announced that it was a ‘sanctuary’ state because it has limited its contact between the federal immigration authorities and law-enforcement officials. Reports show that this designation provoked Trump’s administration to sue California, but this was upheld in the court of appeal. Monogan & Doctor (2017) write that California is one of the few states that offers preferential in-state rates of tuition and driving licenses at universities despite the immigration status. Health coverage is also offered to undocumented children, and it focuses on extending this offer to undocumented adults.
On the other hand, Texas’ lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, sees illegal immigration as an invasion. Since then, there has been heated conversation about immigration, and by 2017, a controversial law was passed in Texas banning ‘sanctuary’ cities and giving law-enforcement officials the right to ask people that they detain or arrest to show their papers to confirm their citizenship (The Economist, 2019). Matter-of-factly, Texas led various states in a lawsuit to stop a federal program that gives a path to citizenship to immigrants who are young and came to the US as children, a policy called DACA. Lieutenant Governor Patrick went ahead and stated that Texas would even think of building Trump’s border on behalf of the federal government as long as it was reimbursed.
Theories of Power that explain how the chosen States have handled Immigration Policy
According to the pluralist theory of power, political power in democracies such as the US is dispersed among veto groups that are in competition in the political process for influence and resources. At times, one veto group wins, and other times, the other wins, but in the end, they lose and win equally, and no group has more power or influence than the other (Avelino, 2021). According to pluralist theory, the veto-group competition process and its government supervision are functional for the whole society because of three reasons. The first reason is that the group conflict is channeled into the process of politics instead of outright hostility. The second reason is that veto groups’ competition implies that all of the groups attain their goals to some degree. The third reason is that the supervision of the government assists in ensuring that the results of the competition of the group are beneficial to the entire society (University of Minnesota, 2010).
The competition for resources is reflected by the fact that the federal government under the Trump administration is challenged by California because of its harsh immigration policy of ousting immigrants, both legal and undocumented. With California declaring itself a sanctuary state, Trump was provoked and followed the first process of pluralism theory that ensured a functional society. He sued the state, but after all, the state’s decision to support immigrants remained, and Trump’s lawsuit led to California’s policy being upheld in the court of appeal. In the second reason for the functionality of the society their competition leads to both parties winning to some extent because, as explained. Besides, California understands the benefits of immigrants for its state and has benefited both economically and socially, and so has the entire country. To counter Trump’s harsh policy, the state reacted by withdrawing troops from the California border to challenge the efforts of President Trump. On the other hand, Texas has used its governorship power to exploit the mandate of the executive branch of the US to oust immigrants by investing in border police and even offering to build a border on behalf of the federal government.
Power Elite Theory
According to elite theories, in democratic countries, power is concentrated in the hands of a few organizations and individuals who are wealthy (University of Minnesota, 2010). These organizations and individuals are known as economic elites who exert excessive influence on the government and can mold its decisions to their advantage.
In this case, although both California and Texas have expressed their different opinions about immigration policy, the power they have is limited. Federal funding that can put an end to criminals and drugs entering the US from the South has mostly been stalled because of the arguments about the need for a wall. In as much as states such as California can protest against anti-immigration or states such as Texas can support anti-immigration, the power is in the hands of the federal government. This is because the federal government is responsible for setting the types and number of immigrants who are legally allowed to enter the US every year.
Differences in how Texas and California have handled Immigration Policy
According to Collingwood & O’Brien Gonzalez (2019), immigration has increased economic achievement in the US, especially in Texas and California. This is because about five out of ten workers are not native Texas residents, rather, half of them are from another state in the US and half from another country. It is reported that Texas and California have the biggest share of immigrants who are undocumented in the US, amounting to 3.8 million (36%) of the entire country (The Economist, 2019).
The Pew Research Centre found out that by 2016, there were 6% of the total population of the state and 8.5% of the whole workforce of the two states that filled important jobs in industries such as construction and agriculture. The immigration number seemed to have reduced over the past two decades, but currently, the number has started increasing. In May 2019, 144,000 immigrants were apprehended in the west-south border area, which was the most since 2007 (The Economist, 2019).
None of the states have maintained their political stance. There was tolerance during the governorship of Rick Perry and George W. Bush in Texas as well as support and outreach to Hispanics. Under Perry, Texas was the first state to offer tuition rates at universities to immigrants despite their citizenship status (Monogan & Doctor, 2017). Now, the state is harshly against immigration. Whereas California, in the 1990s, led the US in anti-immigrant rhetoric. For example, in 1994, a Republican governor, Wilson Pete, led a campaign for Proposition 187, which restricted undocumented immigrants from accessing public services and required workers in the public sector to report them (Monogan & Doctor, 2017). California named its campaign ‘Save Our State’, showing its zeal for anti-immigration. Many voters were reported to approve the proposition widely, but this was later shattered by political and judicial decisions. However, its decision was quite sustainable as Hispanic voters who were initially not involved started to politically charge and turned on the Republican Party because of its racism.
The census tally of citizens in the US is usually used in the apportioning of political representation and resources among states in accordance with the size of the population. This could imply a significant advantage to the federal funding as well as more seats in the House of Representatives for Texas and California, but this would depend on the populations being counted in an accurate manner (The Economist, 2019). California could incur billions in costs if the census is inaccurate, as agreed by the state’s attorney general, Becerra Xavier. The attorney general is said to have sued the federal government about whether it could entail the citizenship status question, which would have discouraged people from participating.
The Extent to which Existing Policies and Laws in California and Texas have affected past and recent Migration Patterns of Immigrants
As seen in the 1990s, California was leading the country in anti-immigration rhetoric during the era of Pete Wilson, and it cost the state in the long run. Now, Texas is treading on the same path that California trod in the 1990s, risking its function as a state. With its amended policy on migration, California is now the leading home for immigrants in comparison to other states. According to Johnson, Prez & Mejia (2022), California has 11 million immigrants, and in 2019, 27% of the population of the state was foreign-born, which is more than twice the percentage in the whole country. In addition, California also has increased the number of documented residents. Following the measure of the federal government to oust undocumented immigrants through various policies and programs like DACA, California’s support for immigrants is reflected in its increased number of documented immigrants and reduced undocumented immigrants. Johnson, Prez & Mejia (2022) write that from 2010 to 2019, the number of undocumented immigrants in California has reduced from 2.9 million to 2.3 million.
However, there has been a leveling off in the number of immigrants in California after a decade of rapid growth, especially in the 1990s. Johnson, Prez & Mejia (2022) estimate a decreased growth rate from 37% in the 1990s to 6% in the past decade. This decline may be attributed to the power of the federal government over states and the fact that power is held in the hands of a few elite members (federal government) and exercised on lower-level parties (states) according to the power elite theory. This may slightly change future migration patterns in terms of increased documented immigrants, and the immigration growth rate may still be leveled up.
When it comes to Texas, with its strict anti-immigration policy, the state has experienced 180,000 more immigrants in the fiscal year 2020/2021 than in the fiscal year 2019/2020 (Chishti & Bolter, 2021). However, 70% of the migrants that were found at the Texas border during the year 2021 were stopped from entering the US and expelled to Mexico immediately or their original country (Chishti & Bolter, 2021). The covid-19 restrictions were also conducive enough for Texans to undertake this cause. With its failed efforts of building a wall, especially after Biden became president, Texas stands a chance of being in the same shoes as Pete Wilson in the 1990s. The future for Texas seems fragile because the previous wall-building projects have resulted in scandals, such as the We Build the Wall project, that led to the organizers being indicted for fraud (Chishti & Bolter, 2021). This may discourage possible donors unless Texas is receiving funding from the federal government itself. Besides, Texas also stands the voting shame from the existing immigrants in the state.
State changing its Laws as a result of Inconsistencies with Federal Law
In a close, Ronald Reagan’s 1986 speech held that illegal immigration was a matter of national security and that terrorists and subversives were nearing the country from the Texas border (Massey & Pren, 2012). This was the time when politicians realized that it was advantageous to demonize Latino immigrants as well as illegal migration. It was also during this time that the Immigration Reform and Control Act issued numerous visas to undocumented immigrants, thus making them legal immigrants. In 1992, California’s governor had called on Congress to stop the immigrant invasion, borrowing footage of a series of attack advertisements from ‘Border Under Siege’ (Massey & Pren, 2012). In as much as the federal government was reforming its immigration policy about legalizing illegal immigrants, they kept on coming through California’s border, and two million of them were illegal immigrants (Massey & Pren, 2012). Despite attesting that this posed a threat to national security, the federal government did not do anything to stop immigrants from entering the US. According to Massey, Durand & Malone (2002), the federal government expected California to pay billions to address the mass flow of immigrants in the country. This explains why currently, California’s immigration law is rapidly legalizing more immigrants and standing against anti-immigration policy. One can learn from this precedent that immigration policies are mostly politicized, especially for the benefit of the federal government, despite what was previously held.
Avelino, F. (2021). Theories of power and social change. Power contestations and their implications for research on social change and innovation. Journal of Political Power, 14(3), 425-448.
Chishti, M. & Bolter, J. (2021). Texas once again tests the Boundaries of State Authority in Immigration Enforcement. Migration Policy Institute.
Collingwood, L., & O’Brien Gonzalez, B. (2019). Public opposition to sanctuary cities in Texas: criminal threat or immigration threat?. Social Science Quarterly, 100(4), 1182-1196.
Johnson, H., Prez, C.A. & Mejia, M.C. (2022). Immigrants in California. Public Policy Institute of California.
Massey, D. S., & Pren, K. A. (2012). Unintended consequences of US immigration policy: Explaining the post‐1965 surge from Latin America. Population and Development Review, 38(1), 1-29.
Massey, D. S., Durand, J., & Malone, N. J. (2002). Beyond smoke and mirrors: Mexican immigration in an era of economic integration. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Monogan, J. E., & Doctor, A. C. (2017). Immigration politics and partisan realignment: California, Texas, and the 1994 election. State Politics & Policy Quarterly, 17(1), 3-23.
The Economist (2019). Immigration shapes the Politics of California and Texas. https://www.economist.com/special-report/2019/06/20/immigration-shapes-the-politics-of-california-and-texas
University of Minnesota (2010). Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World. Libraries Publishing.
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