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New Report on Immigration in NY–03 Special Election: The Failed Nativist Strategy the GOP Can’t Quit and Other Lessons

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Washington, DC — In a new report released today, America’s Voice offers a deep-dive analysis of the role of immigration in the NY-03 special election, won by Democrat Tom Suozzi. “Analysis of the Immigration Politics in the NY-03 Special Election: The Failed Nativist Strategy the GOP Can’t Quit” is available in full online at the AV website with key findings below.

In short, hot takes that conclude that Rep-elect Suozzi simply adopted Republican anti-immigration messaging do not capture what actually happened. Suozzi stepped up to take on immigration head-on, offered a positive and multifaceted set of solutions, engaged immigrant voters in his district (with an assist from Rep. Grace Meng, among others), and used legalization, legal immigration, and sensible border solutions as a contrast point with his opponent. 

Earlier this week, America’s Voice detailed our “Three Takeaways” analysis about what the Suozzi win means for the larger politics of immigration (analysis subsequently covered by the Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, and The Guardian). The new AV report details and expands upon these points, noting:

  • The GOP’s nat​ivist electoral strategy failed spectacularly…again. It’s unlikely that the GOP will find better conditions for their nativist electoral strategy than in the special election for NY-03. They still lost. 
  • Tom Suozzi embraced the “both/and” approach: The Suozzi campaign focused on border security and the need for legalization and legal immigration. 
  • Tom Suozzi called out GOP obstruction and lack of solutions on immigration but missed an opportunity to call out their dangerous white nationalist extremism and mass deportation agenda. 

According to Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

“The GOP has made demagoguing migrants the cornerstone of their campaigns up and down the ballot. But, as special NY-03 results demonstrate, the nativist strategy has limited efficacy. Running hard on nativism is not the electoral silver bullet Republicans pretend it is – continuing the pattern we’ve noted the last several election cycles (e.g., 2018, 2020, and 2022 and off-cycle races, like the 2017 Virginia Governor’s race). 

If there were a race where this nativist strategy should have worked, it was this one. It didn’t. 

One thing is clear: it would be a very unfortunate mistake politically and policy-wise if Democrats only focused their message on enforcement. They need to learn the positive dimension of the Suozzi ‘both/and’ approach: voters want balanced solutions and support legalization alongside an orderly border. Additionally, campaigns would do well to highlight the dangers of Republicans’ reliance on conspiracies and lies and to highlight the stakes and consequences of Donald Trump’s mass-deportation plans that are wildly out-of-step from where most Americans are on these issues.”

Read the new report, “Analysis of the Immigration Politics in the NY-03 Special Election: The Failed Nativist Strategy the GOP Can’t Quit”