Friday, April 30, 2010

Thoughts on the new Arizona law...

I know I'm supposed to keep this blog "politics-neutral"... but since I care a great deal about immigration policy and just spent two years writing a dissertation on the subject, I thought I might say a few words about the immigration law that was recently passed in Arizona. Essentially, this law "orders immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times and requires police to question people if there's reason to suspect they're in the United States illegally" (

If you want to stick to the baby pictures, feel free to skip this post. If you don’t have 10 minutes to read it all and just want the “gist”, just read the parts in bold.

I realize that reasonable people disagree on this issue and I don't intend to spark contention, but I also am in a position, given my academic vocation, to draw some observations on the issue that the media might not have access to, and thus many people might not be aware of. These observations I submit for public consideration. I do not mean to be persuasive, but rather to merely submit some arguments and observations for consideration. And in the interest of full information, I readily admit my pro-immigrant bias which I have developed throughout my life which was only strengthened by my experiences as a Spanish-speaking LDS missionary in Virginia several years ago.

First, why might a person would support or not support this Arizona law? My dissertation addressed a very similar question. Those who support the law say that it's a simple law-and-order thing and it's nothing personal against Latinos and not about preserving a "traditional" American culture from the "Spanish invasion." Those who do not support the bill often think that its supporters are racists or "nativists." So which one is true?

Here are the results from a logistic regression estimation of the determinants of support for a proposal to allow local police to check the immigration status of immigrants in Illinois, taken from a public opinion survey sample in 2006. In other words, here are a bunch of potential explanations for why a person might support a similar law (racism, political ideology, education, religiosity, etc.) and the computer sorts out which ones are strongly associated with support for the law:

Logistic regression Number of obs = 100
Wald chi2(11) = 17.45
Prob > chi2 = 0.0952
Log pseudolikelihood = -41.652413 Pseudo R2 = 0.2993

DVpolicech~k Coef. Std. Err. z P>z [95% Conf. Interval]
female -.407708 .6753963 -0.60 0.546 -1.73146 .9160445
age .0447008 .0286731 1.56 0.119 -.0114973 .100899
educ .3117166 .3079368 1.01 0.311 -.2918283 .9152616
income -.4021055 .2275677 -1.77 0.077 -.8481299 .043919
econnat 1.069313 .4764342 2.24 0.025 .1355191 2.003107
attend .0622249 .2149337 0.29 0.772 -.3590374 .4834872
Cforeignborn -22.67927 9.100616 -2.49 0.013 -40.51615 -4.842389
PrejHisp3 -.0183704 .2050105 -0.09 0.929 -.4201836 .3834428
ideo -1.002764 .567494 -1.77 0.077 -2.115031 .1095041
party5 .1159735 .2344021 0.49 0.621 -.3434462 .5753932
DVnativism1 .7167384 .3591134 2.00 0.046 .012889 1.420588
_cons -1.908899 2.643325 -0.72 0.470 -7.089721 3.271924

. prchange

logit: Changes in Probabilities for DVpolicecheck

min->max 0->1 -+1/2 -+sd/2 MargEfct
female -0.0530 -0.0530 -0.0529 -0.0265 -0.0528
age 0.3254 0.0110 0.0058 0.0797 0.0058
educ 0.2454 0.0772 0.0404 0.0579 0.0404
income -0.3257 -0.0068 -0.0522 -0.1069 -0.0521
econnat 0.4654 0.2432 0.1399 0.1219 0.1385
attend 0.0410 0.0093 0.0081 0.0125 0.0081
Cforeignborn -0.6549 -0.9747 -0.9999 -0.1280 -2.9375
PrejHisp3 -0.0145 -0.0023 -0.0024 -0.0036 -0.0024
ideo -0.5380 -0.1723 -0.1310 -0.1349 -0.1299
party5 0.0607 0.0145 0.0150 0.0255 0.0150
DVnativism1 0.2660 0.1703 0.0933 0.0888 0.0928

Disfavor Favor
Pr(yx) 0.1529 0.8471

This analysis indicates that there are a few different things that explain why people support such a policy. A person’s gender, age, education, religiosity, political partisanship, and levels of anti-Hispanic racism do not matter. But a person’s perceptions of the economy, political ideology, feelings about American culture, and number of immigrants live around you DO matter. All other things being equal, those who live in areas with lots of immigrants do NOT support this policy, those who think the economy is doing poorly, are political conservatives, and are more nativist (i.e. believe that "our American way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence") DO support it. And living around other immigrants matters MOST in explaining support, with your economic perception and ideology mattering second most, and your thoughts about American culture coming in last.

Bottom line? Those who support the bill are not racists, despite claims to the contrary. They're worried about law-and-order and a detrimental effect of immigrants on the economy. And some of them think that immigrants might "threaten" a particular American way of life. So cries of racism by those who oppose the law are unfounded. But it's not purely a "law-and-order" thing either, as there are also economic and cultural threat considerations that play a role as well.

Second, from an economic perspective, my academic advisor at the University of Iowa has done a lot of research on similar things. When an immigration raid occurs in a community, wages for immigrants actually go up. Counter-intuitive, right? The idea is that these raids drive the immigrants away, but the demand for immigrant labor does not suddenly disappear, so employers are forced to pay MORE to incentivize the immigrants to stay in town and work. Thus, it is likely that the Arizona legislature just indirectly gave immigrant workers in the state a huge pay raise.

Third, from a partisan perspective, this might have unintended consequences for the partisan balance in Arizona and among Latinos nationally. In the early 1990s California voters passed a similar conservative immigration law through their direct-democracy initiative process. Research has shown that this drove California Latinos in droves to the Democratic Party, and a number of Anglos as well. ( In the 1980s California was a swing-state and voted twice for Reagan. After this anti-immigrant initiative was passed in California, it became a reliably blue state. It's very possible something similar will happen in Arizona, where Latino-Americans make up almost 15% of the electorate.

This might lead to national partisan consequences as well. Researchers and pollsters are just barely beginning to measure the Latino response to this bill, and just in the last few weeks there's been a large shift among Latino-Americans away from the Republican Party. As Latinos are now the largest-growing minority voting bloc in the country, it will become very difficult for the Republican Party to remain nationally competitive if it loses the Latino vote because of immigration legislation that they believe to be hostile to their interests.

Fourth, from a legal perspective, this law will make it difficult, if not impossible, for Arizona police to avoid racial profiling of its Latino citizens. Remember that the law requires "police to question people if there's reason to suspect they're in the United States illegally." So on what bounds are local police to base their "suspicions" that an immigrant that they spot 20 feet away is illegal? The vast majority of immigrants in Arizona are Latino. From 20 feet away, how does one reasonably discern between a Latino-American, a legal Latino immigrant, and an undocumented Latino immigrant? I was a Spanish-speaking LDS missionary for two years. My job was to find Spanish-speakers. Even after two years of practice I could not immediately discern who was "legal", who was "illegal", and who was simply a Latino-American citizen who couldn't speak English well. I have no idea how the Arizona police are going to do any better.

I quote at length from an editorial by Dr. Sylvia Manzano who teaches at Texas A&M University:

Missing in the national discourse is the effect this law has on the lives of Latinos and the intrusive aspects that make it offensive. Latino citizens are viewed as collateral damage in this quest to rid the state of unauthorized immigrants – “attrition by enforcement” as the law specifies. The idea that state lawmakers think it is “best for Arizona” to have this law that allows police to require that an American citizen — who has committed no crime — prove their suspicion wrong is antithetical to individual liberty and freedom.

There remain segments in the public, including many Arizona elected officials and their supporters, that believe President Obama is not American citizen, and that his birth certificate is a fake. If the President of the United States and all the resources that come with the Office have been unable to produce documentation that is sufficient to quell this suspicion, it seems highly improbable that the average Mexican-looking US citizen in Arizona will have superior evidence of legitimate citizenship. One may produce a passport, naturalization documents or birth certificate (recall, a driver license does not prove citizenship, it proves permission to drive) but, authorities have discretion to discount document validity.

Perhaps the governor can provide a dress code for parents to consider so that their children and teenagers don’t dress in a way that sets off suspicion. They may also consider a hand out on “how to talk to your child about proving they are American”. What should parents tell their children and teens to say and show the police if they are asked for proof of citizenship? Most teens and kids do not carry passports or birth certificates on them, so what is the best manner to proceed?

I have a hard time imagining what that would be like. But then, I’m white and have a German surname. What if I were Latino in Arizona and went for a morning jog and for some reason the police suspected that I might be an immigrant. I don’t usually carry my birth certificate with me when I go jogging in the morning... and I shouldn’t have to. At least, in my opinion, I shouldn’t have to in the United States of America that I believe in.

Finally, for all my LDS friends out there, I draw your attention to a couple of articles describing the opinion of our General Authorities on the immigration issue. While they do not explicitly endorse a particular immigration policy, they have made it clear which "side" of the debate they favor:,5143,695253048,00.html

This is especially ironic because the Arizona state senator who wrote the law, Russell Pearce of Mesa, is a Latter-day Saint... feel free to read more on him:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Abby's Spanish

Abby's learning to say new words almost every day.

She's so smart. I'm very proud of her.

Monday, April 26, 2010

It's Official

Congratulations Dr. Knoll!

Ben succesfully defended his dissertation today and now he is offically Dr. Benjamin Knoll, PhD.

I'm so proud and Abby hand crafted a beautiful sign for him. She DID NOT want to be in the picture however.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Windy (and foggy) City

We just returned from a weekend trip to Chicago where Benjamin attended a conference. We had a fabulous time and found lots of interesting things to entertain a toddler with. Her favorite was definity our quick stop at IKEA where we browsed for several hours.
We also took her to the aquarium, the museum of Art, the park (several times), up and down Michigan avenue several times, several different restaurants, etc. She was squirmy. I didn't pack well and expected warmer temperatures. What was I thinking? None of us had coats and Benjamin didn't even bring a jacket. Brrr.
We enjoyed seeing Patience there and she hung out with me while Ben was at the conference. It was a great trip.
I would love to post photos here, but I'm busy and stressed out, so instead I am including a link to a small photo album. The pictures (AND AMAZING VIDEOS) are there.
Also included are pictures of Abby's friend Gigi. When I told Abigail that we were going to see Gigi she started looking around and said "zshizshi" over and over again. Whoops. We weren't going to see here for several more hours. These two love playing with each other. Abigail's first word the next morning was "Gigi." Cute.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Ben dressed Abigail today and he was so proud of how he was able to match the colors on her outfit. He went to a lot of work to find something that went together.
Doesn't she look super cute in pig tails. Fun little baby.

Good news

I passed!

"Your Master's Comprehensive Examination Committee has reported that your
performance on the examination was satisfactory."

I didn't get any more information than this, but at least I passed.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Teenager in Training

Abigail loves talking on the phone. She even pretends that lots of other toys are phones. Today I was talking on the phone with a friend and Abigail was shouting "nana" in my face and trying to grab the phone. She obviously wanted to talk to Nana, so Ben grabbed her and called Nana on his phone. She didn't answer. She called back later during dinner and Abigail was thrilled. She talked and talked and talked. She said a lot of her words and spoke a lot of gibberish into the phone. After about ten minutes I was laughing so hard that I ran to get the camera to catch her on film. This picks up from right after we called Nana back after Abigail had accidentally hung up on her. Ironically, it ends when she hangs up on her again. This clip makes me laugh so hard. This phone takes a lot of wear and tear.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Life is Good

Beautiful weather and beautiful family = beautiful life.

I always longed for a husband and children. I always knew that this is what I wanted. I never knew that it would be this hard, but I also never knew that it would be this wonderful. I have had so many special family moments in the past week that I will never forget. I love early mornings when Abigail crawls all over us in the bed as we try to squeeze in a few more minutes of sleep. I love it when she smiles her coy little smile or when she says "gracha" (gracias) when she gets something that she wanted. I will never forget the peaceful half an hour that I spent rocking with her in the hammock yesterday as we watched the flocks and flocks of birds converge on our neighborhood. Even though I feel overwhelmed most days by all I need to accomplish, I still am able to enjoy the small moments made possible by my amazing family. Life IS good. I feel so lucky and blessed to be in the situation I am now in.

I am also grateful for the chance to celebrate Easter and to be reminded of the Atonement of the Savior and how it makes eternal families possible. I am forever grateful for the infinite love that Jesus Christ has for me and for my family.

Here are some more Easter pictures of our beautiful and amazing little girl. I love everything about her. Her dad is pretty fabulous too.