It appears just about everyone is weighing in on how immigrants will impact the next presidential election. This naturally leads to a sea of misinformation floating around the political stratosphere. Will illegal immigrants be able to vote? How many legal immigrants go to the polls, and when they do, how do they vote? Immigration is by far one of the spiciest topics gathering steam for Election 2024. Herein lies an effort to untangle this hot mess.
Immigration – Legals vs Illegals
Under the Biden administration, immigration policies have shifted significantly from those embraced by President Donald Trump, leading to a massive influx of illegal immigrants into the US interior. More than 2.2 million expulsions and apprehensions by US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) have been recorded, but that must be contextualized. Since Joe Biden took office, CBP data has revealed approximately 7.2 million border encounters. That leaves approximately 5 million migrants whose whereabouts are unknown.
Although the numbers vary widely, somewhere between 12 and 16.8 million illegal immigrants live within US borders. These statistics have strained local governments dealing with such a mass of humanity. But when it comes to the 2024 presidential race, these figures should have no effect because noncitizens are not permitted to vote in federal elections due to a law passed by Congress in 1996. This does not apply to local and state elections.
The real issue is not the illegal population but those in the legal group. According to the Pew Research Center, “The United States has more immigrants than any other country in the world.” As of 2018, an estimated 44.8 million people born elsewhere live in America. Pew maintains this accounts “for about one-fifth of the world’s migrants.”
But here is the surprise: The longer these immigrants stay in the United States, the more conservative they become as they obtain legal status. An exhaustive 2023 study titled “The Local Reaction to Unauthorized Mexican Migration to the US” took a deep dive into the Mexican population that originally came to America illegally and is turning to the Republican Party in more significant numbers. Mexicans make up the lion’s share of total immigrants at 23.6%. They tend to vote Republican because their views on public policy align with that of conservatives. The report found that “Unauthorized migration significantly increases the vote share of the Republican Party in federal elections and decreases total public expenditure.” Further:
“Our main results point to a conservative response in voting and policy. Recent inflows of unauthorized migrants increase the vote share for the Republican Party in federal elections, reduce local public spending, and shift it away from education towards law-and-order. A mean inflow of migrants (0.4 percent of the county population) boosts the Republican party vote share in midterm House elections by 3.9 percentage points.”
As well, in presidential election years, the study found former illegals increased the vote share for Republican House candidates by 1.61% and enlarged the Republican presidential candidate vote by 2.2%. One landmine that must be avoided when discussing the Hispanic vote, however, is to put them all in the same basket, because not all Hispanics vote the same way.
So, while many are concerned about the mind-blowing immigration numbers of illegals who have crossed into the United States recently, it may be comforting to know that this is unlikely to affect the next presidential election. Looking ahead, these unauthorized migrants who slowly but surely gain legal status may positively impact conservative candidates and public policy.