August 3rd, 2012
08:42 AM ET

Opinion: America’s racially mixed suburbs on the political landscape

Editor's Note: Sayu Bhojwani is the former Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs for New York City and the founding director of The New American Leaders Project. She is also a PhD candidate in Politics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Born in India, and raised in Belize, Sayu is a naturalized citizen of the United States.

By Sayu Bhojwani, Special to CNN

(CNN) In this election year, the narratives of immigration and immigrants are familiar. At the national level, the Latino and the Asian American vote are scrutinized by pundits and coveted by the presidential candidates.  At the state and local level, the role of immigrants’ effect on local economies and contribution to population growth is now commonplace conversation, by immigration opponents and proponents alike.  The 2010 Census and a new report, however, shine light on a new phenomenon – the increasing number of immigrants in America’s suburbs, an important confirmation of the visible changes many Americans have been witnessing over the last decade, as our schools, towns and workplaces diversify, and the positive outcomes that such diversity can produce in politics and policy at the local, state, and national levels.

In assessing the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the US, the study identifies four types of suburbs—diverse, predominantly non-white, predominantly white, and exurbs. Among these, racially diverse and integrated suburbs—where 20 to 60 percent of the residents are people of color, and where 53 million Americans live—have experienced a number of positive electoral and policy outcomes and are, as Myron Orfield and Thomas Luce put it, “at the cutting edge of racial, ethnic, and…political change in America.”

These suburbs are reflective of the new America—diverse, dynamic and rich with possibility. The demographics of these communities can lead to greater political participation, cross-ethnic coalition building, and a coordinated policy agenda.