2018 Midterm Report: California's 10th congressional district
Democratic challenger Josh Harder narrowly defeated Republican incumbent Jeff Denham in Tuesday’s house election by only 3,363 votes in California's 10th Congressional District, one of California's most contested races.
The success marks the end of Denham's four consecutive terms representing the district, having held the office since 2010. The district east of San Jose is a patchwork of conservative farmland areas and more liberal urban centers.
Harder ran primarily on a platform of healthcare reform and a more comprehensive path to citizenship. He has been very critical of Denham's choice to back his party when it blocked a 2013 bill aiming to reform citizenship laws.
While in 2016 Denham had won by 3.4 percent of the vote, Harder unseated him this year with only 0.9 percent of the vote. Turnout reached about 43 percent, well above the 36 percent national average in the last midterm, in line a higher turnout trend across the country.
The Democratic Party's success in the district conforms to a general rejection of the Republican Party in House elections. The race was one of the most contested in California with exit polls showing Harder with only a two-point lead and 8 percent of voters undecided.
This race showed the unusual occurrence of a Democratic bid for office raising more than the Republican one. In 2014 and 2016 Denham raised more than twice what the Democratic candidate did. This year, however, Harder's campaign raised $7 million, almost 60 percent more than Denham's $4.5 million.
Traditionally, California has been a more progressive state. Its center, however, known as "The Valley,” has historically been more conservative with an economy based mainly on agriculture.
Latinos were seen as an essential demographic to appeal to in order to win the race, making up 41 percent of the population.
Denham had taken a more bipartisan approach to immigration: "Jeff Denham aligns with Jeff Denham on Immigration,” explains Joshua Whitfield, campaign manager, “He's for immigration reform, stronger borders, and dreamers. He's not going to listen to either party."
Denham's 98 percent record voting in line with President Trump's positions, however, caused hesitation among many Latinos who are skeptical of the president's immigration policies. His use of abortion as a token issue is seen as an attempt to win over Latino voters.
Latinos have been hesitant to support the Democratic party because of several token policy issues such as abortion and LGBT rights. "I don't like either of the candidates," says Eduardo Ramos, a Modesto resident of Latino background. "I don't like that one wants to limit immigration, but I'm firmly against abortions."
Mike, a friend of Eduardo’s, has made his choice. He plans to vote for “whoever is not a Republican.” He explains: “I’m not saying I’m a Democrat, but I don’t agree with any of their [The Republican Party’s] views. I believe in the equality of all people.”
Mike, who chose not to give his last name, disagrees with Eduardo on the topic of abortion: “I think it’s horrible, but then so is giving life in prison to young kids, I think that’s
horrible,” He explains, “A woman’s body, that’s her own prerogative. I don’t have anything to say or anything to do with their body.”
Water was another critical element in the race, with many voters very involved in agriculture. “Water is a huge issue in California," said Richard, who owns a ranch on the side of the Merced River. "I was really disappointed with Josh Harder on that." He, like many others, feels there has not been enough attention by Harder to the topic.
Intro to Journalism Final: Investigative report
Rwail Sirmed, a psychology student at Ithaca College, arrived in the United States last September from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, on a student visa. She chose Ithaca because of the school’s reputation for liberal arts as well as the scholarship options offered for international students. Getting to the US, however, was not as easy as she thought it would be.
"Before, when my friend started applying, her visa was rejected twice, and so now I thought: ‘Well they're rejecting visas now,’" she explains. "They then asked for a lot of paperwork from my parents.”
“The visa process was not great," she recalls. "My visa was rejected the first time, but luckily, it was accepted the second time.”
She says she was lucky: “My best friend applied to a university in Boston on an 80 percent scholarship, but her visa was rejected three times, and she could not attend.”
Rwail is one of 130 foreign students attending Ithaca College. The international student body in Ithaca has, however, seen a significant drop over the past five years, culminating in a sharp drop between 2016 and 2017.
In 2013, according to Ithaca’s Office of Analytics and Institutional Research, the college had 170 international students, about 2.5 percent of the population. In 2014 and 2015, the international population hovered at around 2.2 percent, between 143 and 147 students.
However, in 2016 the school saw the number of international students drop by 0.2 percent, or 13 students. There was another sharp fall in 2017 when it dropped by 21 students, down to 113 or only 1.7 percent of the population.
"The impact is definitely there," says Quentin Law Phu, assistant director of Admission. The data from the fall semester shows that the school’s international population has gone back up to 2 percent or 130 students. Nevertheless, it has still not returned its pre-2016 level.
There has also been a drop in Chinese students, Ithaca’s top international student group, but as Phu explains: “This has less to do with the US political rhetoric, but more to do with the fact that China has been sending less students abroad.”
Education has traditionally been one of the United States' most sought-after exports; but changing rhetoric around immigration as well as changing priorities in international students have led to some shifts in the foreign student body’s structure.
According to the 2017/2018 Open Doors Report, there was a drastic 8.6 percent decrease in students from the Middle East as well as a 0.2 percent decrease in students from Europe. While nationwide, the number of international students increased by 1.5 percent since last year, the population increase is far lower than previous years, with2015/2016having seen an increase of 7.2 percent.
“There have been changes in legislature, and those have made things slower and more difficult,” says Diana Dimitrova, Director of international student services at IC. "Petitions are screened in different ways and take longer. They request more information that is not normally asked for. These requests for documents and things slow an already slow and backlogged system.”
She says that many students have felt increased anxiety because of delays, and that, although there have not been any visa denials so far, there have been many delays, not just at IC but across the US.
“I'm not hearing fear per se,” she explains. “There's no reason for the visa to be revoked, but the general sense of uncertainty and ambiguity makes people unsure."
Selam Kebede is an Architectural Studies student from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.She arrived in the United States in August and says that she got a visa fairly easily. "The whole process of the interview was a little scary though.”
“Seeing people get rejected in front of your eyes is not what you want to see before your interview,” she explained. “This is my first time leaving my country, and the day I went for my interview was when I turned 18, so they wouldn’t let my dad come with me. The whole thing was very tense.”
During the past three years, immigration has been the focus of much of the political dialogue as well as legislation passed. In January 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning travel from 8 countries — Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen and Somalia — with all apart from Chad remaining active. The administration’s tough stance on immigration has given many abroad a sense that studying in the United States might not be practical.
“After the Muslim ban, there was a lot of fear, my parents were wondering if I would be able to come,” says Rwail. “People are more hesitant about coming to the US, and social media has a big part to play; the videos we see of racism and of violent confrontations kind of scare lots of people.”
She sometimes fears the United States might change immigration laws and revoke her visa. This uncertainty has dissuaded many international students from applying to schools in the US.
“It isn't exactly that students won't apply because of the rhetoric,” says Sandy Kelly, Associate Director of Admission, “they'll apply and hedge their bets, but if they can, they'll choose a school in Canada or Britain."
“I’ve been asked about safety in the US, but not very much about Trump," she explains "I think people are savvy and know that universities won't be affected.”
Many are also now looking at other places such as the Netherlands, which have made a big effort to draw in international students with English-language programs. High education costs in the US have also pushed people away.
“The value of a US education has also decreased, so people are looking elsewhere,” she says. The current strength of the US economy has also played a role, with the strength of the dollar making study in the United States less affordable for many from developing countries.
“Tuition in America is very high, and especially for international students, as there are not many scholarships available for us,” says Khangelani Mhlanga, a Biology student from Harare, Zimbabwe. She says that she has barely been able to afford her first semester at Ithaca College, and is uncertain about whether she will be able to afford next semester’s tuition.
The effect has gone beyond just the legal and financial troubles, however: “There has definitely been a decrease in morale,” says Dimitrova, “For the most part people here are welcoming and kind, but then there's what you see on CNN and what your parents see on CNN.”
"Therehas, however, also been more bonding together, and feeling together,” she adds, "I think that there's been an increase in understanding within the international community.”
"Although we are very small a number, the international community [here at Ithaca] is a place where I feel somewhat at home,” explains Selam, "Considering most of my friends are the ones I made during international orientation, I would say it helped me a lot with the transition.”
Rwail agrees: “The international community here is great. The people I’ve met so far, and my professors have been very encouraging and friendly,” she says. “This has helped make the transition seamless.”