As demonstrated by Bobo and Kluegel (1993), opposition to policies aimed at racial justice, such as affirmative action, can be largely attributed to group self-interest, and to a lesser extent racial prejudice, especially among white respondents. Furthermore, Bobo (1983) finds that resistance to affirmative action in the form of group self-interest, can explain opposition to racial integration policies. This study asks whether registered voters who oppose affirmative action are more likely to support exclusionary immigration enforcement practices that predominantly target immigrants of color, in this case, immigration detention.
Methods: The data derives from a questionnaire distributed in the periodic online survey called the IGS Poll, which is conducted by the Institute for Governmental Studies (IGS) at the University of California, Berkeley in partnership with the Los Angeles Times. A probabilistic sample of N=7,198 voters registered in the state of California was stratified by gender and age to maintain balance along main demographic groups of the overall registered voter population. Mean age was 49.2 years, 47% male and 52% female. A majority of respondents were born in the United States (83.8%), are Democrats (52.1%) and identify as White (61.8%).
Hierarchical Logistic Regression analyses were used to examine respondents’ likelihood to support or oppose a decrease in the prevalence of immigration detention. Approval was indicated by agreement with the following 4-point Likert scale item: “Since the 1990s, the number of noncitizens placed in immigration detention centers has increased by nearly 700%. Given this, would you support or oppose efforts to decrease the use of immigration detention practices?” The model also included covariates for race, political party, age, sex, and income. Individual survey respondents (n=7,198, level 1) are nested in CA regions (n=8, level 2) with an average 899 respondents per region.
Results: Results indicate that registered voters who oppose affirmative action policies are more likely to oppose decreasing the practice of detaining immigrants. Overall, White respondents were more likely than non-whites, self-classified Strong Republicans were more likely than their Strong Democrat counterparts, and rural and border regions were more likely than residents in central and northern metropolitan areas to oppose decreases to immigrant detention.
Conclusions and Implications: These findings suggest that opposition to policies targeting racial justice, such as affirmative action, may be linked with support for punitive policies that largely impact communities of color, in this case, mass immigration detention. Additionally, findings reinforce potential for social movements to bridge racial justice with immigrant justice in advocacy campaigns. Future research could investigate the link between group self-interest, racial prejudice, and support for punitive immigration practices.