In this episode of Rubin Report Larry Elder claims:

The country has changed in part, in my opinion, because of immigration, including illegal immigration. People who are coming to the country illegally from third-world countries like Mexico, they don't know what I'm talking about when I talk about limited government. They believe health care is a right, they're taught that in Mexico, they're taught that other places and they come here in America and they pull that lever for the Democratic Party which is why in my opinion the left wants the border to be porous because it changes the country, changes the electorate.

Is there any merit to this claim?

  • Does illegal immigration really change the electorate? Particularly, what is the time between an illegal immigrant enters the country and their gaining the right to vote in the U.S.?

  • Besides the problem of border control, is there any difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in political attitude towards the immigration laws which would prove the democrats are benefiting from illegal immigration as claimed?

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    Because the only way I've heard about socialized medicine is from illegal Mexican immigrants. Is he implying that illegal immigrants are voting, or that they are changing the opinions of legal voters? He seems to be claiming about 4 or 5 different things here.
    – DenisS
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 18:10
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    Residents, whether legal or not, are counted for representation in Congress. It's obvious that changes the electorate. Whether that changes voting in any district is a different question. I don't think your question is focused enough on the claim. Presumably, people vote for their values, and Elder seems to be claiming that immigrants in general don't understand or even reject his values of "lesser government". That's an interesting question and the main point of the claim. Do you want to ask that question?
    – user11643
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 19:30
  • @fredsbend Neither English is my native language, nor am I familiar with U.S. legal system, but if I combined the definition of the "electorate" as *1. A body of qualified voters.*(thefreedictionary.com/electorate) with your first two sentences, I would have to conclude that "not legal residents are qualified for vote." Is this true? And is it even correct to use the phrase "not legal resident?" in case of U.S.? In my country "resident" is used for a person legally entitled to remain within the country).
    – Antibono
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 20:07
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    Don't have enough time to write up an answer, but 1. Illegal immigrants never gain the right to vote. They have to become legal, and how long that takes would get into the weeds of US immigration laws. 2. Elder seems to be conflating Dem resistance to Trump's border wall with them asking for open borders, which is not the case. While the Dem party is certainly not as hardline as the Rep party on immigration, they are by no means asking for open borders.
    – DenisS
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 21:38
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    @Antibono Yes. The census counts all residents, legal or otherwise, and that is used for determining the number of representatives allotted to a jurisdiction. This has always been true. Women and children were counted even before women could vote. Slaves were counted, but as a compromise between Free and Slave States at the time the Constitution was written, only as 3/5 of a free person. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 19:25

1 Answer 1


True, and not just in the ways that you think

Does illegal immigration really change the electorate?

What is the time between an illegal immigrant enters the country and their gaining the right to vote in the U.S.?

It's quite difficult for illegal immigrants become a legal immigrants. However, the United States has the uncommon practice of birthright citizenship, which grants citizenship to anyone born within its borders. Hispanic birthrates have fallen recently, but still outpace the national average: 2.1, compared to 1.7.

So the answer to your question is either "never", or "one generation," depending on your perspective.

The most notable example is Texas which has long been a GOP stronghold, but many conjecture it will soon "turn blue" due to immigration (both legal and illegal).

Besides the problem of border control is there any difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in political attitude towards the immigration laws which would prove the democrats are benefiting from illegal immigration as claimed?

The overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants are Hispanic, and Hispanic regularly vote Democrat. In 9 of the last 10 Presidential elections, Democratic candidates led by 20%+ among Hispanic voters.

And this behavior predates the current Republican emphasis on immigration laws. (While Republicans are typically tighter on immigration, both parties have mixed records -- recall that it was Republican icon Ronald Reagan that gave amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants in 1984.)

Race aside, immigrant voter demographics fit a Democratic strong spot: poor, urban, and young (44% of Hispanic votes are millennials, vs 31% nationally).

But illegal immigrants do not even have to vote or birth voters to change electorate dynamics. Two and a half million of California's 39 million residents are illegal immigrants.

Assuming these are represented in census reports (in theory all residents are included), California has three or four "extra" representatives just due to these illegal residents.

This is why the Trump administration argued to include a citizenship question on the general 2020 census.

The Trump administration argued in court that it needs to know the number and locations of noncitizens to better enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

In 1964, the Supreme Court’s historic one-person-one-vote ruling ordered Alabama to draw legislative districts with equal populations, arguing that anything else made some people’s votes count less than their neighbors’. But including noncitizens in the calculus upends that, conservatives argue.

In Houston, redrawing maps without noncitizens could amount to a political sea change. Removing noncitizens from redistricting calculations would force immigrant-rich districts like Houston’s 29th to expand their borders to make up for the loss of population. Those districts are generally Democratic strongholds, and expanding them would often mean absorbing constituents from adjacent Republican areas.


(Trump was unsuccessful in his attempt.)

Note that illegal immigrants mostly live in urban areas, and urban areas vote strongly Democrat.

So regardless of what illegal immigrants' own political opinions are, their presence benefits the Democratic Party's voting power. It's a modern-day version of the Three-Fifths Clause: they can't technically vote but they still count.

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    California does not have 11 million illegal immigrants. The link you provide doesn't say that - it says California has 11 million immigrants, most of whom are legal.
    – Mark
    Commented Dec 31, 2019 at 5:05
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    @Mark, oops. I recognized that number, but it was the total national number, of which California has a significant portion but obviously not all of them. Thanks. Commented Dec 31, 2019 at 5:41
  • Interesting - illegal immigration can clearly affect elections, but I'd say that it doesn't directly impact the electorate. Illegal immigrants don't vote in appreciable numbers, and their children are 18 years away from being able to do so. The fact that illegal immigrants are counted for representation purposes changes the power of the existing electorate, but does not change the electorate itself in any way (which are, by definition, the people entitled to vote in an election). Illegal immigration doesn't really affect who votes (the electorate), but rather the power of their votes. Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 16:57
  • @NuclearWang, it sounds like we are in agreement: raising future voters can affect elections (albeit with an 18 year delay), and changing voting power can affect elections. Even if you interpret "changing the electorate" to apply literally just to the identities of electors and not their voting power, the latter still "changes the electorate", in both the House of Representatives, and in the Electoral College. Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 20:23

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