The Politics of Immigration, the Republican Party and America’s Demographic Future

Feb 16, 2016

Immigration has emerged as one the central dividing lines in the US presidential primaries, especially within the Republican Party. At least part of Donald Trump’s appeal has been based on his uncompromising opposition to mass immigration. Is Trump’s rise an expression of demographic anxiety on the part of working-class white America as ethnic minorities gain cultural and political ground? Can the American center-right appeal to an increasingly diverse electorate? How might America’s rapid demographic transformation shape its national identity in the years to come? Policy Exchange is delighted to welcome Reihan Salam, one of America’s leading commentators on the subject, who will lead a discussion and Q&A.

Reihan Salam is the executive editor of National Review and the co-author, with Ross Douthat, of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream. He is a columnist for Slate, a contributing editor at National Affairs, a member of the board of New America, and an advisor to the Energy Innovation Reform Project and the Niskanen Center.

Introduction: Dean Godson (Director, Policy Exchange) Welcome all, and thank you for coming to this sublimely timed event with one of America’s greatest commentators, sublimely timed also in the course of the most politically unrestful recess that I think I can recall in the course of observing politics over many years. Reihan Salam, known to many of you of course, Executive Editor of National Review, the most original, fertile and widely read thinker on the centre-right of the American political firmament. He’s been here before. Some of you will remember his previous excursions here but for those of you who haven’t, it’s a treat in store. Reihan, always wonderful to have you back here, and look forward to hearing what you have to say. Thank you. <Applause> Reihan Salam Hi Everyone. I always do best under hostile questioning, so I’m going to offer some brief remarks to frame the conversation a bit, and then I welcome all scepticism, rageful remarks, anxiety about where America’s going etc. Just give it to me and I’ll give you what I can back. So one gets the sense that there is a chapter coming to a close, a chapter of American Conservatism. Just this week Antonin Scalia, perhaps one of the leading intellectual lights of the American right, has died, and also earlier this week you had Donald Trump, at a Republican presidential debate, claiming that President George W Bush had lied United States into a war in Iraq. This is an incendiary claim and one that would have been considered absolutely outré, beyond the pale, among republicans until very recently, but in a way what Trump has surfaced is that many of the things that the conservative inteligencia had believed about American conservatives and about Republican primary voters more broadly, many of those beliefs were not in fact correct. So for example, if you look at Republican domestic policy, one of its core precepts has long been the central importance of taxes, taxation, the tax burden on middle-income voters, when in fact for some time we’ve known that as many as four out of ten Republican voters actually favour higher taxes on upper income households, a view that again is very much outside of the core conservative orthodoxy, and a view that by the way may well be substantively incorrect, but nevertheless a view that has been widely held among Republican primary voters. And yet despite that, how odd that four out of ten self-identified Republicans who’d have that view and you’d have no candidate expressing that view in the primary process. You’d think that if you’re in the commercial world, if you’re an entrepreneur, you would see an under-served marketplace and you would be quick to serve that marketplace to exploit that opportunity, but in fact that opportunity went unexploited for a very long time. In a similar vein, if you look at the politics of immigration, you see something similarly very striking, so quite consistently if you look at public opinion on immigration in the United States, you will find that only about 15-20% of the public favours a substantial increase in immigration levels and somewhere in the neighbourhood of 40-50% of the public favours a decrease, while the rest of the public generally favours keeping immigration levels roughly where they are. Now there are some complications with that, one of which is that most people don’t actually know what the level of immigration is in any given year. People tend to underestimate the number quite substantially, including by the way people who follow issues somewhat closely, highly educated people. Regardless, you have that sentiment in the world. Among Republicans it’s actually even more pronounced. Among Republicans only 7% favour an increase in immigration levels, while 67% favour a decrease and yet despite that, when you look at the landscape of leading Republican figures, you had people who embraced this broad pro-immigration consensus, a pro-immigration consensus that we in the US associate with the Wall Street Journal, and we associate both with figures on the libertarian right as well as with figures on the kind egalitarian left. So again you have had this anti-immigration sentiment that has flared up from time to time. The last time we saw this was about a decade ago when President Bush sought to pass a comprehensive immigration settlement as the core domestic policy achievement of his second term. This effort was led by Ted Kennedy and John McCain and it was an effort that was ultimately undermined by populist, conservative Republicans. So you would have thought that OK, this having happened once we will anticipate this happening again and so we will try to construct some kind of different settlement the next time we pursue some kind of immigration legislation, but in fact when new immigration legislation was attempted between 2010 and 2013 it was almost identical to the agreement that you saw proposed in 2006 and a very similar coalition of people on the right opposed it. Now one thing that had changed is that in 2006 you had some elements on the political left that had opposed this immigration settlement as well, whereas this second time around you didn’t see that happen again. But to describe that immigration settlement for a moment, it had a few different components that fit awkwardly together. One component is let’s move to a more quote unquote ‘merit based system of immigration’. Right now, about 70% of lawful immigrants to the United States come by virtue of having a relative who is already a citizen of the United States. Then there is another component, about 16%, that consists of people who come on an employment basis. That includes people who are coming on H1B visas, skilled professionals, as well as a variety of other job functions. And then the remainder consists of refugees, beneficiaries of the diversity visa lottery etc. The vast majority of people are coming through family reunification, and if you’re looking at that skilled component, in a way saying that that’s 15-16% of the stream is somewhat misleading because that also includes relatives of the person who’s coming with the work visa. So that’s been a broad consensus view. You see that among people in the financial services industry and the tech industries: we need more employment-based immigration – let’s move the system in that direction and away from purely family-based. The trouble is that if you think about family-based immigration, it has a very strong political constituency of naturalised US citizens, so then when you’re constructing the settlement you think, ‘Well, I need to get a working majority, and so I can’t actually cut out all of those people who are passionately engaged to this issue, namely naturalised citizens, so I must preserve family-based immigration in roughly the form it takes today. And then if I’m going to increase employment-based immigration, I must increase the overall level rather than actually subtract it from that initial family-based stream.’ So therefore you get an immigration settlement that actually winds up being a net increase in immigration, a policy that is actually deeply unpopular with many on the political right and many in the population more broadly. I see some scepticism and I look forward to addressing your scepticism later on. So again, you have this big gap between public opinion and what we actually wind up getting in the form of legislative settlement. But there’s another reason this is the case. There’s a political scientist named Martin Gilens who’s written this wonderful, provocative book called Affluence and Influence, and the argument that he makes is that when you slice up the public into different groups by income, what you’ll find is that when affluent voters, people in the top third, have one set of policy preferences that diverge from those in the bottom two-thirds, pretty much the views of people in the bottom two-thirds have no effect on actual policy outcomes, and so the views of people in the top third tend to rule the day. That’s not always the case but it is almost always the case, and when you’re looking at the immigration debate in particular, you see very different views of people in the top third of the income spectrum than you do in the bottom two-thirds. And you also have this very unusual ideological coalition that I referred to earlier on. So again you have people on the libertarian right and you have people on the egalitarian left who kind of unit around a shared position on immigration, and what’s very funny about this is that actually people in both of these groups have very different beliefs as to how large-scale immigration is likely to unfold. So among people on the libertarian right, particularly at the Cato Institute and a variety of other places, there is a belief that large-scale immigration is incompatible with a welfare state. That is, it will cause such strains on the welfare state that it will force a retrenchment and it will lead to smaller government over time, simply because the welfare state will be overwhelmed. That’s one component of it. Another more sophisticated argument, that’s associated with the economists Alberto Alesina and Edward Glaeser, is that when you have a high level of ethno-racial fragmentation in a society basically it leads to more affluent voters favouring redistribution less than they might if they felt that they shared more in common, in ethno-cultural terms, with working-class and lower-middle-class voters. Now I happen to think that this premise is not quite right, but it’s very interesting. So again the view on the libertarian right is that large-scale immigration may well break the welfare state. Suffice to say on the egalitarian left, that’s not the view, right? The view on the egalitarian left is that we can make diversity work, we can make less-skilled immigration on a large scale work if we make substantial public investments in people with limited skills, and by making these investments people will achieve upward mobility and all will be well. Another thing that’s often implicit is that if you have a large amount of less-skilled immigration to the United States it might change the political coloration of the society. That is you will have immigrants who, once they become naturalised, will tend to vote for the party of redistribution, the part of the centre left. It happens that we actually have some good data on this from this economist Giovanni Peri and colleagues, looking at what has been the effect of immigration on the political composition of the United States, and it turns out that there are two effects that are clashing. One effect is that as you see an increase in the number of naturalised migrants, you do indeed see an increase in democratic vote share. On the other hand you have this subtle other effect in which if you have a surge over a short period of time a dramatic increase in migrants who are not naturalised citizens, who are non-citizens, then you seem to have an increase in republican vote share. But of course that latter effect is overwhelmed by the former effect, because the latter effect happens in a few discrete areas, because again when you have a surge in immigration, it tends to be focussed geographically and also those areas where you tend to have that surge tend not to be politically right of centre, period. So the effect is largely muted. So if you’re on the egalitarian left and you believe that large number of less-skilled immigrants are going to move the country to the political left, the evidence we have so far is that that’s likely correct. And also the argument that ethno-racial fragmentation is necessarily in tension with the welfare state, an argument that [11:28] with David Goodhart many people have been making in Europe, there is a counterargument which is that when you look at the welfare state, really it is robust, it survives when programmes are created. So once I create a redistributive programme, it’s extremely difficult to ever get rid of it. So even if you have a pretty diverse electorate, even if you have a diverse society, once you pass let’s say the Affordable Care Act in the United States, our universal health insurance initiative, it’s virtually unimaginable that you would ever repeal it. So if that’s the case then a lot of it’s a matter of luck. Have you actually put these programmes in place or not? And again it seems as though if naturalised migrants push you towards the Democratic side then it seems that the people on the egalitarian left are the ones who’ve been correct while the people in the libertarian right are wrong, at least in their short-term assessments. What they might not be wrong about is their  cosmopolitan ethic, their normative gut instincts about why we should have open borders, and that’s of course a whole separate question. So basically you have that big gap and that is part of why Donald Trump has been such a formidable figure. When you look at that politics of immigration reform, when you look at those different components, they all make a lot of sense in terms of actually passing legislation, so let’s say you’re in Silicon Valley and you think, ‘I want to increase high-skilled immigration but I don’t want to increase less-skilled immigration, because that doesn’t do me any good.’ Well, then you don’t have any political support for it, because if I say that I also want to increase less-skilled immigration then I suddenly have agribusiness on my side, I suddenly have people in the tourist industry on my side and many other elements, and then I also might lose some of the immigrant voters who would otherwise support me. So this is a bit of a fantasy, that you can only get this one piece of it without getting these other pieces of it. Well, what if I just want to have this policy of increasing immigration so that we can benefit the country economically, whether it’s high skilled or less skilled, but I don’t want to offer an amnesty to unauthorised immigrants currently residing in the United States, the 11-12 million people in the country. Well, then that would also be politically toxic, and so that’s why President Obama, rather than trying to pass legislation in piecemeal fashion, let’s break this up into discreet questions, that’s why he made it all one single package, so as to ensure that everyone is rewarded and you keep the coalition together, and also you make it appear to the people who want high-skilled immigration that you cannot achieve your goal without also achieving these other goals that might be in tension with what you take to be the core objectives of immigration reform. So these imperatives, these political demands, have been operating on democrats and republicans alike who’ve been engaged with these questions, and that has been something that has been very awkward in this presidential race. If you look at someone like Marco Rubio, he is someone who has had a series of different positions on immigration over the course of his time in public life. For example, when he ran for the Senate in 2010 he took a position of opposing amnesty quite stringently, partly because he was running as a Republican candidate in a three-way race and he wanted to command the support of the Tea Party grassroots conservatives, and it was very clear that had he supported amnesty at the time he would not have enjoyed that support. So he took that very strong position. Then the 2012 election comes along and Republicans lose badly and they particularly lose badly with minority voters. Mitt Romney won 59% of the white vote in 2012. That’s an extraordinary result, that’s about as good as Ronald Regan did in 1984. But he performed so poorly with Hispanic, black and Asian voters that he didn’t come close to winning, in fact even had his performance improved substantially among those groups he wouldn’t have won. And so many people came away from that experience scarred and they thought how should the republican party change itself, how should it reorient itself, and one immediate reaction was well, rather than change any of our core views on something like taxes, and recall that we talked about taxes at the beginning of this talk. Rather than say, ‘Well, 40% of Republicans want higher taxes on the rich, perhaps we should moderate our views on something like policy, perhaps we should moderate our views on the social welfare state more broadly,’ no, the conclusion was, ‘We must embrace mass immigration in large numbers. We must embrace immigration reform’ and Marco Rubio found that thesis congenial and wound up advancing this immigration reform legislation that has now become a millstone around his neck, and you now have him in South Carolina claiming that he never intended for this to pass, that he intended Republicans in the House of Representatives to stop it all along and to change it and to improve it in various ways. Now that may or may not be true, and I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, but it is a pretty exotic claim. Given where a lot of Republicans were in 2012 they really believed that this was the way to rescue the party, to modernise the party: don’t touch economic policy, but rather touch immigration as a gateway to ethnic voters, essentially. But again only 7% of Republican voters favour an increase in immigration. Another candidate who many assumed would be a dominant candidate in the Republican field, Jed Bush, was someone who has spent much of his public life for the last 25-30 years as an advocate for increasing immigration, and indeed substantially increasing immigration, and he’s now found that that’s a very awkward position to take given the changing views within the party. So then you have Donald Trump come along and say incredibly aggressive things about how we ought to decrease immigration. Now many of these things are things that don’t necessarily jibe with voters. You have many voters who, for example, will favour amnesty despite also favouring an overall decrease in immigration levels, but when Trump speaks in these very plain, unvarnished ways, he demonstrates that he is absolutely on the side of the 67% of Republicans who favour a decrease in immigration levels, while pretty much every other Republican candidate is compromised in some way. Even a candidate like Ted Cruz, who’s embraced a kind of anti-immigration position now, he has taken a series of positions over the course of his career in national public life that contradict that stance. Trump, who again in previous life has embraced immigration in large numbers etc., but he, by using this incendiary language, is actually demonstrating that he is on the right side of the issue, and that’s a huge part of why he has fared so well. So I know that I’ve talked about a lot of different things. There are many others that we ought to discuss, but I sense there are some questions in the room, so let’s get to it. <Applause> Dean Goodson The floor is now open to questions. No question too outrageous for Reihan, as usual, but just you have to state your name and organisation. Audience member You talked about the problem, about why there was this divide between the Republican leadership and the Republican grassroots. You didn’t talk about a resolution. What do you think is the most hopeful way, to a point where the position is either sceptical enough for the grassroots or the grassroots are favourable enough for the leadership? Reihan Salam Well ultimately there is such a deep distrust that it’s very difficult to imagine we’ll have any settlement at all. During the mid-1990s there was a brief moment when you appeared to have a consensus around immigration reform, and a kind of conservative immigration reform that would have reduced overall immigration levels. People forget this. I’m kind of obsessed with the 1990s because it was such a weird time and we forget how weird it was. So it was such a weird time that you had an African-American Democrat who had been a member of Congress from Texas, Barbara Jordan, who led a commission, and this commission advocated steep reductions in immigration levels. On what grounds? She advocated this steep reduction on the grounds that it would protect the interests of African Americans and also of Mexican Americans who were already residing in the United States, and that also we needed to devote substantial resources to integrating this less-skilled immigrant population that we already had in the United States; a view that you could describe as a kind of social democratic view. And it was a view embraced by a number of obscure political figures you probably haven’t heard of like Bill Clinton, who at the time was President of the United States. Now Bill Clinton today wouldn’t be caught dead advocating for a reduction in immigration levels. This has become a core tenet, certainly of the Democratic elite, and by the way there’s actually quite a lot of opposition to immigration among Democratic voters, but it’s not reflected at all in the Democratic leadership, among Democratic staffers etc. But again in the mid-1990s you had Bill Clinton make these exact arguments that Barbara Jordan had made, and yet now that’s become an entirely marginal position, because you had a coalition of people were in favour of large-scale immigration who defeated that and then they basically just blocked any change. There’s another kind of tension and contradiction, which is that when you look at the ideological justifications, some of which we’ve discussed for immigration, they don’t bear any resemblance to the actual immigration policy we have in the United States. So for example you might believe that immigration, less-skilled immigration is a strategy for global redistribution of wealth. Less-skilled immigration is a way to alleviate global poverty because you have people let’s say from Bangladesh, my parents’ native country, come to the United States and they’ll be able to work and send remittances back home etc. But of course the bulk of less-skilled immigrants to the United States are not coming from the world’s most impoverished countries. They are in fact coming from middle-income, in some cases upper-middle-income countries. If you look at Mexico for example, which has been, not more recently but over the last 30-40 years, the source of the lion’s share of less-skilled immigration to the United States, this is by global standards number one a relatively affluent country, but also when you look at Mexico, Mexico sends less-skilled people to the United States, whereas many other more egalitarian countries send high-skilled people. It’s very funny because we’re affecting the policies of these countries that are sending countries. So when I think about what is likely to happen in the short term, I think that what conservatives can do, who favour reducing immigration levels, is simply stop any legislation from getting past. Over the much longer term, what I believe we need is a recognition of the ways in which large-scale immigration is actually hardening existing ethno-racial inequalities in the United States and that’s something I’m very eager to discuss is someone else would like to talk about it, but that’s not the way conservatives in the United States talk about immigration. Conservatives in the United States, I would argue, don’t understand the speed and the accelerating speed of demographic change in the United States, and because of that they don’t appreciate how the political ground beneath them is shifting very quickly. So right now, one can be a Republican and one might narrowly be able to win a general election by taking this straightforward ‘I just want to shut down immigration’ point of view. And you know, this idea that it’s about nostalgia and it’s about preserving America as it’s been, but I believe that if the centre-right wants to advance a kind of immigration reform narrative that is broadly conservative, they’re going to have to do something that is more inclusive, much like what Barbara Jordan was talking about in the mid-1990s, a policy that is actually friendlier to integration, including the integration of the existing immigrant population. That is so far off the map of what the centre-right is talking about right now, but it is ultimately where we’re going to have to go and I suspect that it’s where we’re going to have to go within the next ten years. But in the very short term you don’t have anyone making that case. Glyn Gaskarth, Policy Exchange With regards to the amnesty, I’ve always found it quite curious that we’ve got this demographic of people that [22:58 IA] increase the number of people that then can vote from that demographic. Doesn’t sound like an election-winning argument and of course this experiment has been tried before with the Regan amnesty in the 1980s, so I just wondered what are the voting patterns of that group that were then given citizen ship now? Did it actually work in that case and are they now solid Republicans? Another thing I wanted to ask was around when you were talking about family migration, I was just wondering in the UK they’ve taken some quite brave steps to also impose income, wealth requirements to bring a spouse into the country you’ve got to have a certain [23:34 IA]. Reihan Salam Those are two excellent questions. So with regard to the first, and this to some degree what Peri’s work has demonstrated, you have a funny dynamic, so the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 legalised a much smaller unauthorised population at the time. This population was in the neighbourhood of 4 or 5 million and when you look at this population, people were granted Green Cards, they were made lawful permanent residents, but actually it was only a relatively small number of them who naturalised, until the mid-1990s, and then in the mid-1990s you had a surge in naturalisation, particularly of people of Mexican origin. There are many reasons why people would naturalise. Part of it is that if you’re looking at Mexican migrants in particular, there’s a different attitude you could say, partly because you have meaningful enclaves, you have an ability to sustain a cultural connection to your native country. Of course there’s the proximity to your native country, and that certainly has a big effect on your identification with the United States more broadly, so why did you suddenly see this surge in naturalisation in the mid-1990s? Well in the mid-1990s, and this relates to your second question, you had legislation spearheaded by Republicans and again this was a very anti-immigration moment in the United States, that was designed to reconcile this conflict between a conservative anti-immigration impulse and a libertarian impulse, and what this legislation sought to do was limit non-citizen access to safety-net benefits like food-stamps, Medicare, a variety of other programmes that are designed to make life easier for low-income people. And the idea was that OK, you limit some of these things to non-citizens who’ve bene in the country for five years. In some ways it resembles your renegotiation proposal, the idea that you slow that process down, and then also you make sponsorship more important. That is, if I’m an immigrant who is sponsoring another immigrant, a relative, you had to report what your income was as a sponsor and they created a provision called sponsor recovery. That is, if the immigrant that you’ve sponsored then seeks safety-net benefits, some of that money is going to be recouped from you, the person who did the sponsoring. So in theory that’s the kind of thing that would concentrate the mind, right? If I’m going to sponsor someone, I’m going to try to sponsor someone who is going to make a contribution, who is not necessarily going to be accessing safety-net benefits. So this was enormously controversial legislation in the 1990s. It was seen as hateful, anti-immigrant etc. And then because there was so much coverage of this, it led to what some have called defensive naturalisation on the part of many immigrants, including many of those who’d been legalised in 1986: because I sense that I’m being threatened as an immigrant who is not a citizen, I will become a citizen and then I will participate in the political process, but I will also protect my ability to access safety-net benefits. So again there is this kind of ironic outcome. And you see among libertarians even now, there is this desire to further limit non-citizen access to safety-net benefits but of course it could have this other surprising affect that also has the political effect that you described. Does that answer your question? Glyn Gaskarth It’s not purely just about how they [26:51 IA], it’s also about how people get into the country. So for instance if you’re in the UK you’ve got to have an income of £10,000 a year to bring a spouse in. Unless you’ve got enormous wealth you won’t be able to do anything because [27:02 IA]. Reihan Salam So that proposal is a very interesting one and it’s been controversial here, would likely be even more controversial in the United States, so my understanding, and tell me if I’m wrong, is that in Britain this has actually also been applied to spousal visas, which in the United States I think would likely be seen as very illiberal. There’s one contrast that I find very striking. If you compare the United States and Canada, Canada’s often seen as a friendlier version of America, more welcoming and what have you. Certainly it welcomes a larger number of immigrants. Yet what is not known is that Canada actually has far more stringent policies regarding unauthorised immigration. You are subjected to a mandatory one-year prison sentence in Canada if you are found to have entered the country illegally or to have overstayed a visa etc. That would never fly in the United States. Similarly they have a much more skill-based policy and we don’t, and also in the Senate Immigration Bill a guest-worker visa was contemplated; whereas our guest-worker visa was meant to be permanently renewable, you are allowed to bring your spouse and children and also you would eventually, after having been renewed several times, be eligible for permanent residency, in Canada guest workers are isolated from major cities, they reside in single-sex labour camps in many cases, just things that again Americans would find absolutely intolerable. So somehow the Canadians have been able to have a high level of immigration, but by also having this very stringent enforcement, and so one of the complications with the United States trying to pursue an immigration policy like what we see in other market democracies is that just politically it’s become far more difficult and partly because of our own political traditions. This particular policy is, to me, a very attractive one, but one that would be very difficult to pursue for political reasons. Kate Smith, Foreign Office Reihan, thank you for a very interesting presentation. I’d just like to go back to your analysis of these issues in the context of the election. What you were saying about the cleverness of Trump, appealing to the 67% of people who don’t want to see any increase in immigration, that all makes perfect sense to me for the primary campaign, and obviously you’re appealing within that body of Republican voters. When you get to the general, we shall see what happens but you would be wanting to appeal for more votes from the general public [29:31 IA] challenge then. Do you not then come back to that 2012 question as to how you broaden your appeal and look at the ethnic groups who are the natural Republican voters? So will things change in the course of this year? Reihan Salam There are a few slices to that question. one related to Donald Trump himself, his idiosyncrasies, the kind of message he’s advancing, and that’s a very hard question to answer, partly because what he may well be doing is scrambling the electorate. We have a very clear model of what the electorate looks like, it looks roughly the same from election to election, but on the other hand you have these larger demographic changes and you also have people who introduce a new set of issues, so if you have a republican presidential candidate who has essentially intimated that George W Bush is a war criminal; if you have a Republican candidate who has said that we should not have tried to rebuild Iraq but we should have tried to seize its oil, to hand that revenue to war veterans, you’re getting into very unusual territory, and to think that it’s going to look exactly like previous elections doesn’t sound quite right to me. So one premise that Trump enthusiasts have advanced is this idea that perhaps he will win a larger share of the African American vote. I’m not sure if that’s true. It is true, however, that if you look at African American men, they vote very differently from African American women, and their sentiments on immigration are under-studied and largely neglected, but actually roughly half of African American men oppose increasing immigration, and if you look at the electorate more broadly it’s about 49% of the electorate, so again, that is just one discrete issue. It could be that you immigration in so strident and obnoxious a way that you wind up actually turning off people who might otherwise be sympathetic to your message. So again I can’t really tell you exactly what would happen with him. What I will say is that if you’re looking more broadly at the party, this premise that immigration is the key issue is the premise that I think is incorrect. If you’re looking at Latino voters for example, well first of all you have a large Latino population in the United States but that population does not necessarily translate into the electorate, because of course you have people who are non-citizens, you have people who are not naturalised, you have also a big gap between the second generation and the first generation, so there aren’t a lot of surveys of second-generation Hispanics, but of course second-generation Hispanics are all, by definition, citizens. One survey, from Gallop, found that if you asked second-generation Hispanics, they actually have far more quote unquote ‘conservative’ views on amnesty than naturalised immigrant Hispanics, as you might expect, right? So if you’re looking at the electorate, you might see this very different story. Or similarly Hispanic Evangelicals tend to be far more politically conservative than Hispanic Catholics. There are many different slices to this. And then there’s also simply class. If you look at the Hispanic population, and also the Hispanic electorate in the United States, it tends to be a more working class and lower-middle-class than the white electorate. If you look at Hispanics who earn let’s say above $100,000 a year, they actually vote somewhat similarly to whites earning similarly high incomes, but of course there are relatively few of them. So among Republicans and particularly among elite Republicans, one hates to use such language but let’s speak plainly, they are far more comfortable with the idea of increasing immigration and leaving the entire rest of the Republican economic agenda totally untouched, than they are with an argument that oh gosh, many lower-middle-class and working-class Latinos might want a government that is friendlier to their interests and so let’s bracket immigration, or let’s say we’re going to have a more balanced and more moderate immigration policy, but let’s also seem as though we’re going to be more helpful. So in 2012, one thing we forget is that that was the first election after the real ravages of the recession, and in the period from about 2007 to 2010, Hispanic household wealth in the United States declined by two-thirds. That’s because Hispanics were heavily concentrated in the regions that were hardest hit by the housing bust. So imagine a universe in which Mitt Romney had said, ‘You know, I’m going to do something about the housing bust,’ and actually there were a number of Republicans like Glen Hubbard, people who were on the McCain campaign, who were very keen on doing that, but of course that wound up going away with the Tea Party Rebellion. But had you said, ‘We’re going to do something about the massive destruction of your wealth, we’re going to do something about the fact that you continue to suffer from substantially higher unemployment rates than let’s say the white population,’ that might have been a pretty attractive and compelling message to any Latino voters, as opposed to fixating purely on immigration, which again is not the most important issue for these voters. And that, to me, is the deeper mistake that Republicans have made, because again this is part of your comfort zone. If you’re someone who reads the Wall Street Journal, if you’re a donor to the Republican Party, you’re already inclined to want to increase immigration or to think that it’s a great thing. In fact you are disproportionately likely to yourself have come from an immigrant background, but to say that we’re going to actually challenge some of the economic orthodoxy of the party in ways that actually might make the party more attractive to non-white voters, not because they’re non-white but because they’re middle-class or lower-middle-class or working class, that is the thing that is extremely difficult to do. Carina Summerton, Institute of Historical Research  A short preface. I spent 2004-2011 in Southern California, in LA, one of the [35:03 IA] California, as you’ve probably heard, is that you might have experienced all of the socio-political tenets [35:10] Southern California, and they’re very contradictory. For example the Democrat base is primarily filled with affluent people. It’s not [35:27] people, it’s the wealthy ones that are the most probably Democrats. My question centres on the issue of illegal immigration. I experienced the Immigration Bill in 2006 and got very fired about the illegality of illegal immigration, and it surprises me that Americans have become comfortable over the years with legalising the illegals, and this is a country that used to think it was important not to break laws for anybody. Part of the reason that the 2006 bill was [36:08] was that the illegal Mexicans made the mistake of declaring themselves illegal. There’s no such thing as an illegal person if they were waving a Mexican flag as they paraded around, [36:23 IA], and there was still enough people to [36:29] their Congress persons and scream at them, ‘If you go for that bill, I’m going to see that you’re not in there,’ this year, next year, whatever. But that might not happen again. There might not be enough people left in America ten years later, now, to vote against people who want to legalise it. I just can’t adjust to it. Reihan Salam Your point is well taken. So there’s another way of looking at the illegal immigration phenomenon, which is that it takes two to tango and that when you look at the large number of unauthorised migrants who’ve arrived in the country over time, they were employed and you could argue that certainly in many jurisdictions in the United States you have state and local governments that, you have sanctuary cities, other measures that are designed to make unauthorised immigrants feel safe and comfortable, for reasons that I think are defensible, one of which is that if you have a large, unauthorised immigrant population, you want this population to cooperate with the law enforcement authorities, for example. And also there’s another big complication, which is that a large number of unauthorised immigrants to the United States have children, and by virtue of birth-right citizenship, those children are citizens of the United States, and this is a big complicating factor in all kinds of ways. So one thing that has been particularly polarising in the US political conversation about immigration is talk about anchor babies, this idea that immigrants come to the United States, give birth as a way of anchoring them in the country. And this has been attacked as racially insensitive and much else. The complicating factor is that 8% of births in the United States are to unauthorised immigrant parents and it’s also true that because of that you have a kind of intra-household status discrepancy. That is very difficult for the authorities to deal with, because again if you believe, and perhaps you don’t but if one believes that these very poor children, they need food stamps, they need other assistance in order to live, in order to flourish, in order to become productive members of society, well those resources have to flow to the household. And that’s one very awkward thing, when President Obama signed his Executive Action, which was offering deferred action to large numbers of unauthorised immigrants. He said these are people that don’t accept a dime of money from the government. That’s not quite true when you think about the household itself. In many cases actually unauthorised immigrant households receive substantial benefits and again I personally think it’s kind of a defensible thing to do but it’s politically awkward and he certainly didn’t say that when he was giving his speech. Another thing is that once work authorisation was granted, and when you’re looking at the unauthorised population there are some people who are granted work authorisation as they were under President Obama’s recent executive orders. People on the right call them Executive Amnesties, but that’s polemical language. But once granted these work authorisations, then these workers are entitled to various tax benefits including their earned income tax credit, our version of the wage-based tax credit. So basically the message was gosh, these people are coming, they don’t accept anything from the government, whatever else. Well actually no, they do accept things from the government because they have citizen children and we as a society want to protect the interests of those children. So that’s a complicating factor, so even if you could, with one hand, ensure that every unauthorised immigrant in the United States and the estimates are in the range of 11-12 million, they’re all going to return to their native countries. The complicating factor is that you’ll suddenly have a lot of orphans. Effectively in the country a lot of people with illegal immigrant parents who will find themselves at sea. In fact actually you have a number of citizen children who’ve been returning to Mexico over the last five or six years and it’s going to be interesting to see how their lives will unfold over the years to come. The other big controversy is simply how do you actually reduce that population over time? So that’s become another big debate, and the argument is that well Donald Trump is saying he’s going to create a deportation force and expel everyone from the country and how can you possibly expel 11-12 million people? As it happens, that’s actually not the view of some of the more sophisticated opponents of amnesty. Their view is that what you want is what is called attrition through enforcement. That is, by more rigorously enforcing immigration laws, and also by seeking the cooperation of state and local authorities, which again you don’t generally get right now, you would make it much harder for unauthorised immigrants to access the workforce, and because that’s the magnet, that’s what draws people to the country, you would see a decrease over time, and in fact you do see a return of unauthorised migrants, so that population does decline. The reason why it appears to remain stable is that you have new unauthorised immigrants entering the country. Some would argue that this president’s policies have contributed to that, but you do see a decline and actually Arizona is a state that put in place a very controversial  series of state-level immigration measures that again were widely attacked, but the immediate effect of those measures over the last three or four years has been a substantial reduction in the unauthorised immigrant population, a reduction so substantial in fact that it’s had some meaningful economic effects on the Arizona economy. So it’s this very weird thing, you can’t say both things at once. You can’t both say, ‘We can’t possibly reduce this population, it’s crazy to think you can do that!’ while also saying, ‘Oh gosh, Arizona’s reduced its population by putting in place these terrible policies. That’s an awful and inhumane thing.’ You can’t say both things. One or the other must be true. Jeremey Thomas, interested spectator  The picture that you paint, Mr Salam, makes me wonder how far it vindicates Arnold Toynbee’s theory of the gross breakdown and disintegration of civilisations, in that you seem to set out a picture whereby we have [42:16] economically dominant minority which simply fears for its political position. What Toynbee, despite being a confirmed social Conservative, still described as internal proletariat, which finds itself under increasing economic [42:35 IA]. The external proletariat at the borders of [42:41] which seeks to come in and to establish itself. Each of those particular factions seeking to establish its own institution, in the first case by the dominant minority reaching out to other dominant minorities in other countries; in the second case by the internal proletariat looking to unusual avenues to help it, either what he called archaism or futurism. And I [43:14 IA] in the shape of Mr Trump, or an imaginary future in the shape of Mr [43:18]. <Laughter> And the external proletariat seeking to establish itself in the institution [43:31 IA] a possible resolution of these conflicts, if not through a higher religion, if not through a new ethic of some kind that would bind the society together more tightly once more. But how far [43:45 IA] not so much Henry Kissinger, who saw American society as having grown up outside history, but rather than Gore Vidal, who [43:56 IA]. Reihan Salam It’s a wonderful question and a challenging one to answer. I would argue that what we need is a recognition that national identity is not some kind of marginal issue, it’s actually quite central, quite important, and the debate around immigration among the inteligencia in the United States is very focussed on economic considerations, and when you’re looking at these economic considerations there is in fact a great deal of ambiguity because when I advance one model or another I’m making all kinds of assumptions. So for example one classic argument, an argument associated with Giovanni Peri, one of the more well-regarded economists focussing on immigration, is that less-skilled immigrants are complements with less-skilled natives and so there is not really any large-scale displacement. This is one argument. The complicating factor, however, is that you also are living through an era of large-scale automation and what have you, and so in many cases you could say the contracts is not so much are these less-skilled immigrants complements or not. If the contrast is look to Denmark, look to Japan, look to other societies that have limited immigration, quite stringently relative to the United States, and those are societies where you replace labour with capital. You do it because you must. The Singapore government has actually pursued a very dramatic shift in its immigration policy recently, which to me is a really fascinating example, because you could say that the US government is incompetent, you can’t say that about Singapore’s government, and yet Singapore is a place that’s enormously prosperous that’s experienced very rapid economic growth over 40 years, and yet what are the things that politically Singaporeans are obsessed about? They’re obsessed about rising inequality and immigration. So it’s kind of very funny that in East Asia, a totally different kind of environment, and again a society that by any reasonable standard has been very successful in public policy terms. They’re fixated on the same issues that people in Western Europe are fixated on, same issues that people in the United States are increasingly fixated on, so that suggests that gosh, there might be something deeper about modernity that raises these issues, that raises some broadly similar patterns. And I guess my view, and it’s a tentative view, but my view is that what you need is to recognise that the consensus we had around our national identity is outdated. We’ve had this enormous increase in migration, so the US population is about 75 million bigger than it would be in the absence of the post 1965 wave of immigration. That’s quite big and that amount is set to increase quite dramatically, partly because native birth rates in the United States are so low. So what that means is that this stance of nostalgia is just doomed regardless. If we stopped, if the United States stopped all immigration tomorrow, the non-Hispanic whites would still become a minority of the population. It would happen somewhat later than it would now, but it would still happen. Children under the age of five are already majority minority in the United States. And for those under 18 that’s likely to happen by 2020. So in a way this idea that immigration is really about race, multiculturalism, social justice, this kind of thing, it just isn’t quite right because those questions will be with us regardless of what happens to migration going forward, so the question is will we have a society in which ethno-racial inequalities will be hardened, or will you have a society in which they’ll be mitigated over time because you’ll have a new social cohesion, you’ll have let’s say integration and intermarriage in large numbers, and that to me is the really interesting piece of this debate, and that’s the kind of thing … you’re not going to have white nationalists who are opposed to immigration say that, ‘Gosh,  I want to decrease immigration because I want more intermarriage and integration!’ Of course not! The irony is that having a large influx of migrants actually retards that to some degree by allowing enclaves to grow. So in a way you could say that if you want to preserve exactly what white mid-century American culture looked like, you’d actually want large-scale immigration. Why? Because then you have large-scale enclave communities that are going to be culturally separate and autonomous and that will usually be economically subordinate and that will be a perfectly comfortable arrangement for a certain kind of person; whereas if you reduce that influx, you will have this higher ethos, perhaps, that you’re describing; you will have this kind of blending that will be complicated and difficult and many people will likely reject too, but it will be a more cohesive settlement, at least in theory. Larry Smith, [48:28] Two very quick questions. The first is how does the debate on terrorism affect the debate on immigration at the moment and the Presidential election? And the second is, Trump yesterday gave this very strange answer in South Carolina in which he appeared to endorse the DREAM Act. I guess my question is do you know what he was doing? Reihan Salam Well, it’s not always clear that Trump – Dean Godson Can you reiterate the question? [48:54 IA] Reihan Salam Of course, of course. So the gentleman asked two questions, the first of which was how the debate over terrorism is shaping the debate over immigration in the United States, and the second related to a question that Trump had been asked where he was talking about the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act is a fascinating political artefact. So this is a legislative proposal that people have banded about for a while but first emerged, if I recall correctly, in 2001. And the basic idea at the time was that you will treat unauthorised immigrants who entered the United States as minor children differently than you treat other unauthorised immigrants. Specifically the DREAM Act offered relief to unauthorised immigrants who had entered the United States as children and who were enrolled in higher education or who had served in the military or who had some other meritorious qualities. Now that proposal has evolved over time, so that now it essentially means everyone who’s entered the country as a minor, but it’s actually a really brilliant idea, because the idea is OK, let’s find a group of people everyone will surely agree is a group of wonderful people – people who’ve joined the military etc. But then I always thought to myself, ‘Well what if you’re a pacifist and you didn’t want to join the military? Or what if you didn’t want to enrol in higher education because you wanted to pursue your muse as an artist?’ The people who backed the DREAM Act, would they really want to deport such people? It seems very weird. Or for example, if I’m enrolled in community college and I’ve just got a D in one of my classes, I’m doing quite poorly, I might have to drop out for a time, am I then deported from the country? Of course not. It really was a kind of entering wedge in order to change the conversation about amnesty and to get a move in a different direction. It was actually quite brilliant, and then you found a large number of supporters for that proposal, because again you find the most sympathetic group of people and then you build it from there. So more recently some advocates for amnesty have said, ‘Well, we must protect the DREAMers moms.’ That is to say, you have the DREAMers who arrived as children, they were perfectly innocent, they did nothing wrong, they weren’t the ones who decided to enter the country in an illegal fashion; well now we must protect their moms because of course who doesn’t like moms? I mean I know I like moms. And moms are very big in America, I don’t know what it’s like here but certainly they’re very, very popular. <Laughter> Then suddenly you have, ‘Well gosh, if I’m offering amnesty to the DREAMers and to the DREAMers’ moms, I suppose I’ve excluded the DREAMers’ dads, but that seems punitive and rather pointless, doesn’t it?’ So anyway, when you’re looking at Donald Trump, he’s someone who some years ago met with a group of DREAMers, who confronted him, and this is actually one of their brilliant tactics, this is actually something you see with the changing politics around same-sex marriage in the United States. One big reason why opinion on same-sex marriage changed so dramatically over so short a period of time is that essentially you have a larger number of Americans who know someone who is gay or lesbian in their own life and that changes how they look at this issue. Similarly what the DREAMers realised is that we must personalise the issue, rather than make this an abstraction about how do you feel about law breaking or whatever else, you make it an issue of like, ‘Well gosh, there are DREAMers enrolled in your children’s school, there are people you work with every day,’ and so the great emphasis has been on finding people who are recognisable figures, people who seem like every-day Americans who are speaking unaccented American English etc. so as to make it seem awfully cruel, ‘Well gosh, I want to deport illegal immigrants, but not the ones like you! I mean you’re  a fantastic person!’ And actually this tactic has been very effective, so you’ll have a group of DREAMers who will go to Marco Rubio on the campaign trail and then he’ll suddenly be surrounded and then he’ll slowly inch away from them <laughs> for fear of saying something impolitic. And the truth is that it’s become such a difficult thing to get around that even people who take a very hard line on immigration will often take a softer line on the so-called DREAMers, for reasons you can intuit. So when you’re looking at terrorism in particular, I’ll tell you what the libertarians will say, which is that more people die of peanut allergies than terrorism, so it’s absolute nonsense to be concerned about violent extremists entering the country on spousal visas or whatever else, it’s such a marginal issue. I would submit that even if more people die of peanut allergies than terrorism, terrorism evokes a different set of fears and concerns, and also this larger anxiety about a poorly integrated second-generation population, and that in my view is what I think of as the most important aspect of the immigration debate that’s hardly ever discussed. For example, Donald Trump famously said that Mexican immigrants are rapists and what have you, they’re terrible people and so this led many people to investigate, ‘Well gosh, do Mexican immigrants commit crimes, violent crimes, at higher levels than the rest of the population?’ The answer appears to be no. We don’t have very good data on this but the answer appears to be not only no, but in some cases some believe that they commit crimes at lower levels than the native population. But when you look at the second generation, the level of violent crime surges dramatically. So that’s quite interesting when you think about a family, when you think about a household, so I don’t know about you or your parents, but I assume that your parents are not murderers and that you’re totally peaceful, but it’s unusual … so what is happening within these households where the parents are behaving this one way and their children are behaving in a very different kind of way? Now one thing is that, ‘These children are terrible, they’ve been ruined by American life. They’ve been corrupted by terrible television, violent video games or whatever else’ and another possibility is that you very quickly go from a situation where people have the subjective experience of upward mobility, I’ve bettered my own circumstances and I feel a sense of gratitude for it, to people who are growing up in impoverished circumstances, they’re growing up in many cases in high-crime communities, where they don’t necessarily trust the criminal justice system and they feel obligated to protect themselves. Basically a failure with regard to how we’re integrating the second generation population. This is a discourse very common in Europe, it’s just par for the course, you think about the bomb [54:45] in Paris or whatever else, whereas Americans just really go, ‘Oh well, everything has worked out just fine. We do a great job of integrating people.’ Well … the United States does a great job of integrating people who are the children of skilled migrants, it does a great job of that, but in terms of less-skilled migrants, in some cases people do just fine, in many cases, but also in many other cases these people enter the vast multiracial working class in our country, which faces all kinds of severe distress and challenge. So the terrorism thing to me honestly seems like it’s a real issue, it’s something one ought to think about but it really has become a device for people trying to distance themselves from the previous positions they’d taken on immigration, to say that it’s entirely new. So Marco Rubio, for example, says that, ‘Well, ISIS has changed everything. So whatever position I had before ISIS, you can ignore that because obviously we don’t know who’s coming into the country etc.’ and honestly, because I’m sympathetic to Rubio, I almost want to cheer him on <laughs> because it’s awfully clever, because do you mean ISIS hasn’t changed everything? Well then surely you don’t take it seriously enough! But beyond that, the deeper issues are about the composition of the electorate, the workforce and much else, and terrorism matters but we certainly don’t have the same issues that you guys have here in Western Europe. Dean Godson We could take the final couple of questions as a [56:05 IA] Iain Orr, BioDiplomacy, retired UK Diplomat Thank you very much for a very stimulating talk. It strikes me that there is a general point that emerges from your talk that when you look at immigration that quite often different groups of people, different industries are looking for different things out of it, but one thing they have in common is acting as if they were able to predict the future and asking people to judge, and that’s something you find in other contexts. One that is more debated here than it is yet in the US is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and again on the technical side you’ve got people that say these are the figures that we’re using, this computable general equilibrium model that will show how this measure will translate into increased growth, which as far as I’m concerned is very unscientific, it’s almost magic. Now what do you do to make sure that people who are wanting different outcomes from policy take into account the uncertainties? You pointed out some of them very clearly yourself, that you want one thing but there are side effects that change the picture enormously. Dean Godson One final question? Audience member You mentioned earlier the earned income tax credit, and obviously it’s a day today where David Cameron is in Brussels negotiating on potentially kerbing in work benefits in the EU/UK context, and I just wondered what your assessment was of the specific issue of whether those are a draw or not when you appraise the various literature out there, in terms of whether in-work subsidies are a draw on the immigration side, or an attraction? Dean Godson Sorry, being a soft touch there’s a question there as well. Nigel Vibart Dixon, CEO, Freedom I speak as someone, very briefly, who spent a bit chunk of my childhood in the States growing up as a diplomat’s kid and been back many times. So, bit of a tall assumption, we have President Trump. Now I speak as a libertarian and he’s had quite a negative press from British libertarians. How would a right-of-centre libertarian leaning government embrace President Trump? Your advice, please. Reihan Salam The truth is that there are so many uncertainties around this idea, partly because I wonder about how President Trump would staff his administration. Who would be the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs? It’s just very hard to imagine, because he’s coming from so far outside the conventional political channels, let alone what I anticipate as a foreign government. There are a number of different scenarios, one of which is that because of the complexities of the bureaucracy, because of the nature of executive power in our country, that he would be forced to become a more conventional figure, just simply having been overawed by the machinery of government, and you know there’s something to that. There’s something to that. If you think about President Bush and President Obama, these are two people who position themselves as markedly different one to the other, and in fact they’ve pursued policies that are broadly similar, at least with respect to foreign policy. For example, the Bush administration wanted Montenegro to joint NATO and so does the Obama administration etc., despite the fact that these are actually quite contested things amongst scholars. It could be that, at least in the foreign policy realm, there’s going to be some convergence. But the other concern is that Trump prizes his own lack of predictability, and of course in international affairs predictability is something that one prizes. So that’s a very hard questions to answer. To your point about uncertainty, I think it’s exactly right and that’s precisely how I think. I guess I think that we are in an era when the market democracies face all kinds of serious questions and threats, so the United States went from a having a 4.5% foreign-born population in 1970 to having one that is close to 14% today in 2016. That’s a quite dramatic and rapid change and again that partly reflects changing birth rates and what have you. The country has managed this pretty peacefully. You haven’t had some kind of large scale dislocation. I often think about how Enoch Powell was actually totally correct in his anticipations about what would happen to the New Commonwealth population, but it just didn’t lead to rivers of blood. It wound up more or less a peaceful settlement. But on the other hand there are lots of changes and dislocations that are not visible, so for example if you look at the population of Southern California, the white population of Southern California today is not the population you had in 1990 because you have large numbers of whites who moved to Colorado, moved to Idaho, moved to Arizona, people who found themselves discomforted by this large-scale migration left, and then other people who are comfortable with diversity, comfortable with a more cosmopolitan environment, wound up settling in those regions. So you see these subtle ways that people have adjusted to what really has been a quite dramatic and epochal change. There have been other changes as well. These changes have contributed to wage dispersion, to rising social inequality, and there’s one thing that I find fascinating: over the coming decades there will be trillions of dollars of wealth transmitted from baby boomers to their children. The baby boomers who have accumulated this wealth are overwhelmingly white. The children who will inherit this wealth will be overwhelming white as well. And yet that generation of people who are inheriting this wealth will be at least half non-white. How will those people feel as voters about this massive transmission of wealth? When we think about wealth taxes and what have you we talk about taxing estates that are $10 million or bigger or whatever else, but then what if becomes something more akin to a mansion tax. Much of the wealth in the United States is real estate wealth concentrated in affluent regions like [62:59], New York City and what have you. What happens when that becomes the wealth that becomes subject to contestation and redistribution? These are things that you don’t really think about when you’re just thinking about migration, but when you think about it two or three steps forward, when you think about how right now we have, in the United States, the Black Lives Matter movement, you have a rising assertion of black interests with regard to criminal justice and much else, and I think that it’s been to a great extent a salutary development, but you don’t have the same thing with people of Hispanic origin outside of immigration, but of course you now have more poor Hispanics in the United States than you do poor blacks. So at some point presumably this population will want a seat at the table, they will make demands and when it’s a population that is second generation, and also relative to our previous immigrant populations that are far more disadvantaged relative to the current native population, that’s going to raise very serious questions about the legitimacy of our social and economic institutions. That’s not something that immigration economists deal with. They don’t talk about legitimacy, they don’t talk about history. I mean that’s not something they think about, but it’s the kind of thing that they ought to think about. And to your point about inward benefits, I mean that’s a much bigger conversation. I’d say the way to think about it is that it’s not so much that, ‘Ah, I’m drawn because I want these benefits.’ Rather it affects who stays and who leaves. Right? Because if you look at the wave of immigration in the first decades of the twentieth century, roughly half of the Italians who settled in the United States returned home, whereas now how many are likely to return home, when you compare … even if I falter and don’t flourish in the marketplace … so that is probably the better way to think about it, in a more dynamic sense. Thank you very much everyone. Thanks for your patience. <Applause>

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