This emerging divide has appeared in a handful of surveys taken since the measure was signed into law, including a New York Times/CBS News poll this month that found that Americans 45 and older were more likely than the young to say the Arizona law was “about right” (as opposed to “going too far” or “not far enough”). Boomers were also more likely to say that “no newcomers” should be allowed to enter the country while more young people favored a “welcome all” approach.Actual numbers at the link.
Illegal immigration is a bizarre issue because it's often talked about in terms of its least salient effect - crime. It's one of those cases of anecdata superseding actual data; while there are no data that suggest a link between illegal immigration and crime, everyone has a story about some sort of crime committed against someone they know by someone who they think is illegal. The shooting of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz, which led to the frenzy that generated Arizona's odious law, is one such case - the frenzy over this shooting and its supposed connection to illegal immigration not only ignores the dearth of data supporting the notion that illegal immigrants kill at a higher rate than native-born citizens, but it also ignores the fact that an illegal alien may not have actually committed the crime.
In one sense, young people benefit from a lack of experience here. Old people, just by virtue of having been alive longer, are more likely to have been the victim of a crime committed by an illegal alien at some point in their lives (or to be friends with someone who has). This experience can cause someone to ignore actual evidence suggesting that illegal immigrants do not bring a rise in crime. Young people, freed from the burden of bad experiences, are more free to examine the statistics and make the level-headed determination that illegal immigration poses no public safety risk. (An example of this: my mother is scared of El Paso, Texas because of her previous experience there despite the fact that El Paso is one of the safest large cities in America.)
But the talk about crime is often a substitute for a general fear of cultural change, another trait generally possessed by the old. That's what the New York Times article discusses. From the article:
“My stepdad says, ‘Why do I have to press 1 for English?’ I think that’s ridiculous,” Ms. Vespia said, referring to the common instruction on customer-service lines. “It’s not that big of a deal. Quit crying about it. Press the button.”
"It's not that big of a deal. Quit crying about it." Congratulations, Ms. Vespia, You've just offered the best possible response to pretty much all grousing about cultural change.
Anyway, here's a children's version of Three Little Birds.