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More Than a Third of US Presidential Candidates Are Children or Spouses of Immigrants

Casey Tolan - Fusion
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December 30, 2015
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‘F*ck Trump’: Bernie Sanders and Killer Mike talk about Republican racism in the 2016 campaign (Killer Mike)

Immigration has defined the presidential campaign more than any other issue. But lost in the rancor over deportations, border walls, and anchor babies is that more than a third of the 2016 candidates - including some of those who spout the most virulent anti-immigrant rhetoric - are themselves children or spouses of immigrants.

The number of candidates with immigrant family members is “remarkable and without precedent,” Robert Watson, a professor at Lynn University who’s written dozens of books on the presidency, told me. “The only thing you could look at is if you go back to the beginning of the country,” when more of the population had recently arrived from abroad, he said.

One reason is that the number of immigrants living in the U.S. has risen dramatically over the last few decades. Previous generations of immigrants, like those from Ireland and Italy, were less likely to register to vote, and racist exclusion laws prevented some groups like Chinese immigrants from gaining citizenship and voting rights.

“This should be a loud sign, a neon sign, a major symbolic statement about how the country has matured,” Watson said. “This is not your grandparents’ presidential campaign.”

There are seven sons of immigrants in presidential history, including President Barack Obama, and only one immigrant first lady: Louisa Adams, the wife of John Quincy Adams, who was born in London.

The family histories of the 2016 candidates give us a fascinating glimpse at the diversity of American immigrants, from refugees to revolutionaries to nuclear physicists. But having an immigrant or two in the family tree doesn’t mean that you support pro-immigration policies.

Read the rest at Fusion

Related: This 8-Year-Old Shows Why Haters Are Wrong About Immigration (Fusion)

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