Virtually every politician who has a say in the matter of immigration has a strong opinion on it. These opinions are typically formed over a long period of time and are influenced by a variety of factors. Lawmakers who immigrated themselves tend to be more understanding of the plight of families seeking citizenship. Others might have had personal experience that leads them to oppose any measures that would make it easier for immigrants to live in the United States legally.
Very often it's the political party one belongs to that dictates their beliefs and actions. Elected officials are generally very aware of their constituents' views on issues like immigration, and they know that to some degree, they must demonstrate that they represent them, even if they don't agree with them. When election time nears, it becomes even more important for a politician to publicly identify with voters. This may be why a California congressman who has staunchly opposed immigration reform in the past appears to be changing his tune.
Rep. Gary Miller, who represents California's 31st Congressional District, recently told a group of young immigrants that he understands what they're going through. After the group confronted him at a public event, he told them that his experience was similar to theirs because he was born in Arkansas but moved with his family to California as a 1-year-old. Because he was a baby he had no choice in the move but somehow managed to succeed. "I mean, I understand the difficulty," he told the immigrants.
Of course, many balked at the suggestion that his move from another state compared in any way to the plight of young people who came to the U.S. with their parents as young children. But the sentiment does signify something: If Miller is intent on being re-elected, he may need to demonstrate that he identifies with those pushing for immigration reform. Miller previously represented parts of Orange and Los Angeles counties, where he took a much firmer anti-immigration stance. One news organization found that he has begun removing video appearances from YouTube that show him vehemently opposing any meaningful immigration reform.
Whether the congressman's more recent sentiments are genuine may not matter if his attempts at re-election result in a more pro-immigration stance. When voters remind political representatives that they have the power to elect or reject them, positive change is often possible.
Source: The Washington Post, "Updated: Congressman says he understands DREAMers' plight because he's from Arkansas," Alex Seitz-Wald, Aug. 27, 2013