January 21, 2024 - 1:00pm

California voters, including Democrats and racial minorities, are increasingly sceptical of immigration, a poll from Berkeley IGS  found earlier this week.

According to the survey, 72% of registered voters in the state believed that illegal immigrants are a burden on the country, including 64% of Joe Biden supporters and 62% of registered Democrats. The majority of those who identified as moderate and somewhat liberal also believed illegal immigrants were a burden — as did the majority of voters in every age category, including 18-29 year olds.  

While most prospective voters in California believe the border with Mexico is not secure, Democrats are evenly split on the issue.

California has more illegal immigrants than any other US state, and is still enacting policies which support them, despite the sentiments of Democratic voters. Last month, it became the first state to offer free health coverage to illegal immigrants. California is a sanctuary state, meaning many state agencies do not cooperate with federal authorities to deport illegal immigrants. 

Beliefs about immigration are skewed along racial lines, with white voters holding more negative views on illegal immigration, the poll found. But even among Latino voters, 63% believed illegal immigrants were a burden on the US. The majority of black and Asian voters also agreed with the prompt. 

A 2010 US Commission on Civil Rights report which is receiving renewed media attention this week found that illegal immigration is particularly harmful for black Americans, as it costs them job opportunities and depresses wages. Illegal immigrants increase the supply of low-skill, low-wage labour, and this has an outsize effect on black adults, 60% of whom had a high school degree or less at the time of the research. 

In decades past, it was more common for Democrats to critique immigration along populist economic lines. In 2015, Bernie Sanders called open borders a “Koch brothers proposal” bound to “[make] people in this country even poorer”. In 2007, Biden said that “no great nation can be in a position where they can’t control their borders,” and that “people in the country should have the first opportunity to be able to have jobs that pay well and have jobs that are decent, and that, after that, the second crack goes to what we may need from other parts of the world.”  

In the years since, Democrats have coalesced around a broadly pro-immigration position, particularly in response to calls for a physical border wall during the Donald Trump years. 

But this dynamic is starting to change, and over the past year liberals have become increasingly critical of immigration as migrants overwhelm deep-blue cities and public resources are allocated to support migrants. Black residents of Chicago objected to the housing of migrants in predominantly black neighbourhoods, citing concerns about safety and migrants’ non-taxpaying status. New York residents, including liberals, are increasingly concerned about immigration and whether new migrants will assimilate.

As the country continues to see record rates of illegal immigration, Democrats in California and around the US will have to contend with increasingly anti-immigration sentiments among their voting base. 

is UnHerd’s US correspondent.