While Congress is debating immigration reform this month, Washington, D.C. technology professionals and aficionados are exploring new ways to—literally—picture the immigration issue.
On June 18, while the Senate Judiciary Committee was working overtime to approve the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill, members of Data Science DC , a nonprofit professional group, attended a presentation called Untangling the Webs of Immigration Lobbying.
This event was held at George Washington University and featured presenters from the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with a mission to promote government transparency through the Internet and web tools.
During the event, researchers Lee Drutman, Zander Furnas, and Amy Cesal from the Sunlight Foundation described how they crafted an interactive image to show how various sectors have been focusing their immigration lobbying efforts.
Lee Drutman and Zander Furnas explained in a blog post on March 25 why the Sunlight Foundation developed this particular data visualization:
“As legislation continues to take shape, a wide range of sectors will continue flooding Congress with their lobbyists, trying to make sure that their particular concerns are fully addressed. These visualizations can help to better understand who these interests are, what they care about, and how intensely they are likely to lobby to get what they want.”
The researchers created the graphic by pulling data from 7,814 lobbying reports connected to immigration bills in Congress from 2007 to 2012. The lobbying reports were filed by 678 organizations across 170 different sectors on 987 immigration bills. Lobbying reports are publicly available through the Freedom of Information Act, FOIA.
The graphic reveals that from 2007 to 2012, lobbyists focused heavily on agricultural work visas, non-agricultural seasonal businesses visas, high skills visas, family immigration benefits for same-sex couples, the Dream Act, and visa exemptions for performing artists.
“The visualization provides an idea of the landscape of issues surrounding immigration reform. It gives an idea of where the fights are going to happen and over which bills,” said Zander Furnas during the presentation.
The downside is that the visualization does not reveal whether the 7,814 lobbying reports were filed for or against particular legislation. Rather, the visualization only shows that the reports were filed in relation to particular legislation. During the presentation, Sunlight Foundation researchers clarified that the interest groups’ stances on legislation is not publicly available on lobbying reports. They suggested that perhaps in this regard, the visualization served to highlight areas where the government could be more transparent.
You can check out the actual data visualization here and a video of the presentation here. To learn about how the Sunlight Foundation data scientists created this visualization, check out the Data Community DC blog.
The “Gang of Eight” immigration bill (updated June 27)
Today, the Senate approved the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744 in a 68-to-32. This immigration reform bill was introduced on April 16, 2013 by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) The bill focuses on Border Security, Immigrant Visas, Interior Enforcement, and Reforms to Nonimmigrant Visa Programs. Read more on VOXXI’s Guide to Understanding the Senate Immigration Reform Bill.