Immigration has long been used as a wedge issue during election years, and this year was no different. Many candidates peddled falsehoods and racist tropes about an “invasion” to instill fear and win support for their campaigns. America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy organization, identified over 3,200 different paid communications that employed anti-immigrant attacks. And that’s not to mention the cynical publicity stunts by governors who attempted to sow division by placing asylum seekers on flights and buses to communities like Martha’s Vineyard, showing politics at its worst.
However, big spending on anti-immigrant ads largely flopped as a political strategy this election cycle, and immigrants’ rights victories across multiple states showed that a bipartisan pathway toward immigration reform not only exists, but would be popular with voters.
Voters supported driver’s licenses and tuition equity for all
In the two states with high-profile immigration ballot measures, voters rejected fear-based politics.
Massachusetts voters resoundingly upheld a new law that allows undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses, a key measure for both racial equity and public safety. A broad coalition of labor, faith, and immigrant rights organizations, along with law enforcement officials like sheriffs and district attorneys, endorsed the new law, and voters ultimately reaffirmed their support for the driver’s licenses for all policy by voting yes on Question 4, despite a divisive attempt to repeal it.
Arizona voters approved a bipartisan ballot measure, Proposition 308, that allows Arizona students to pay the reduced in-state tuition rates for public colleges and universities regardless of immigration status. This affirmative endorsement of immigrants’ rights represents a watershed moment in a state once known for anti-immigrant officials like Joe Arpaio. As in Massachusetts, the ballot measure in Arizona garnered support across the ideological spectrum, bringing conservatives and progressives, and business and labor groups together to lead the coalition.