Senator Marco Rubio and the "gang of eight" in the Senate have been working on a "comprehensive immigration reform" (amnesty) bill, and President Obama has been making a major push for it. We don't know the exact details of the bill yet. But based on similar proposals by the same folks, we can reasonably surmise the general outline of its contents.
These bills all contain an immediate legalization (amnesty) of illegal aliens in exchange for a promise of improved immigration enforcement (border security, internal enforcement) in the future. The trouble with such a "compromise" is that the enforcement is likely to be sabotaged by the same global elites and businesses that are preventing our current immigration laws from being effectively.
Incidentally, 'amnesty' is the correct term for legalization of illegal aliens. Entering the US without authorization or overstaying a visa is not permitted under America's law, nor should it be. The penalty for this infraction is deportation at a minimum (and could include jail time as well). Allowing illegal aliens to stay waives this penalty and thus constitutes amnesty. While many versions of amnesty contain some fine, this is a farce considering the much greater value of legal status and eligibility for many government benefits.
Note also that amnesty is not a "path to citizenship". Citizenship would actually be worse than amnesty, since it would not only waive the penalty, but actually provide a benefit in addition. Most illegal aliens likely care more about legal status than citizenship, but many powerful supporters of amnesty would like them to become voters as well. Some versions of amnesty bill would delay citizenship for awhile, but it is all too likely that illegals would get it eventually, whether from a future democrat administration, or activist judges. Even if they don't, their children will, due to birthright citizenship.
Many conservatives, including Michelle Malkin, Erick Erickson, Ann Coulter, Phyllis Schlafly, Pat Buchanan, John O'Sullivan, and Victor Davis Hanson have come out against the plan, but the outcome remains in doubt.
This article will focus on the political implications of amnesty, though I certainly think that it is bad policy as well. Is amnesty really essential to the Republican party's survival, or would it ensure its doom? Consider several arguments.
1. WHO IS PUSHING THE PLAN?
Do you really think that President Obama, most democrats in Congress, liberal activist groups, and the liberal media would be pushing amnesty if they thought it would help the Republican party? Do the avowed opponents of the GOP have a history of giving the GOP good advice or bad advice? (See the quadrennial campaign for a "pro-choice" vice-presidential nominee, for example.) These same folks oppose popular and reasonable voter ID bills for political reasons, so they are hardly advocating the best interests of the country at their own political expense.
Of course, it is true that some Republicans also support the plan. The question is who has the better political instincts, pro-amnesty Republicans, or democrats? Hint: do we have President Obama and Senator McCain or Senator Obama and President McCain?
2. THE HISTORICAL EVIDENCE
Amnesty has already been tried in the past. The last major amnesty was in 1986. Amnesty supporters love to point out that it was signed by President Reagan, but in fact, he signed it after he was convinced that it would only apply to a small number of illegals. He later considered it the biggest mistake of his presidency, according to his good friend Attorney General Ed Meese.
The bill ended up amnestying about 3 million illegals. It also led to a surge of illegal immigration, and led to a Hispanic baby boom which added millions of future democrats.
What were the political consequences? Did Republicans improve their standing with Hispanics after the bill was passed? No.
- In 1984, Reagan was reelected with 60% of the vote overall, and 37% of the Hispanic vote.
- In 1988, Bush was elected with 53% of the vote overall, and 30% of the Hispanic vote.
One common claim from amnesty supporters is that George W. Bush got 44% of the Hispanic vote in 2004. While there was an exit poll claiming this, it was debunked by Steve Sailer at the time, and eventually retracted by the company. Sailer noted that the poll showed absurd results such as Bush winning 64% of Hispanics in the South despite getting smaller percentages in Texas and Florida.
The actual percentage that Bush got has been estimated at 39-40%. Now, it is true that this is still better than most Republican nominees. Then again, someone who gets 40% overall is a landslide loser.
It is claimed that Bush's relatively good showing among Hispanics was due to his support for amnesty. But four years later, John McCain was just as supportive of amnesty, if not more so, but received a paltry 31% of the Hispanic vote. So what changed? I don't have a complete answer, but I suspect that it had more to do with
- The housing bubble in the "sand states" (California, Nevada, Arizona, and Florida), partly engineered by Bush, that temporarily improved the economic fortunes of Hispanics before collapsing in 2007.
- The fact that democrats nominated a stiff white guy, John Kerry, with no particular appeal to Hispanics (but who nonetheless won their votes in a 60% landslide).
If Republicans are going to appeal to Hispanics, they ought to know what their political beliefs actually are. It is often claimed that Hispanics are "natural conservatives", pro-family, and sympathetic to the free market, whom Republicans could win if only they changed their position on immigration, the issue Hispanics care most about. Is this true?
A. HISPANICS' POSITIONS ON FISCAL ISSUES
Actually, Hispanics support big government.
Notably, second-generation Hispanics are more democratic than first-generation Hispanics.
They also support Obamacare by significant margins.
This shouldn't be surprising. Latin American countries, from whence Hispanics or their ancestors came, prefer big government, and there isn't much in the way of a small government movement there.
B. HISPANICS' POSITIONS ON SOCIAL ISSUES
Hispanics may like big government, but at least they are pro-family social conservatives, right? Not so much.
Hispanics are not particularly socially conservative in their personal lives. They are significantly more likely to have abortions, engage in teenage pregnancy, be dependent on government, and contract AIDS. They are significantly less likely to own businesses. They are significantly more likely to use welfare and not pay federal income taxes.
The illegitimacy rate among Hispanics is very high.
Some 53 percent of Hispanic children are born out of wedlock, and 52 percent of Hispanic families are headed by single women.While most Latin Americans are nominally Catholic, this is often very superficial. They are less likely to attend church on a regular basis than whites.
Hispanics may have once opposed "gay marriage", but the latest polling indicates that they now support it.
Hispanics also support gun control by large margins, not surprising since many come from Mexico, which has very strict gun laws.
Another study found
Not likely, the same study found that 68% of second generation Hispanics say society should accept homosexuality (78% of Asians) and 55% of second generation Hispanics say abortion should be legal (66% of Asians). Among second generation Hispanic women who recently gave birth, 52% were not married.Furthermore, if Hispanics are socially conservative, why don't they vote for social conservative candidates? There are some socially conservative white democrats in Congress, but the Hispanic members of Congress are all social liberals.
So all Republicans have to do to win Hispanics' votes is change their position on immigration...and the size of government, the welfare state, Obamacare, gun control, gay marriage,...
C. HISPANICS' POLITICAL PRIORITIES
What issues do Hispanics care most about? Immigration might be the top concern for illegal aliens, but Hispanic VOTERS have other priorities. One poll found
The poll found 48 percent of likely Latino voters think that the economy is the most important issue in deciding their vote, while only 6 percent said their vote would be decided based on the immigration issue.Other polls have found that immigration is the top priority of only 11-15% of voters.
Notably, Obama advisor David Plouffe broke from the party line to deliver some facts about Hispanics' priorities.
But, I asked Plouffe, wasn’t the G.O.P. just one postmodern presidential candidate — say, a Senator Marco Rubio — away from getting back into the game?
Pouncing, he replied: “Let me tell you something. The Hispanic voters in Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico don’t give a damn about Marco Rubio, the Tea Party Cuban-American from Florida. You know what? We won the Cuban vote! And it’s because younger Cubans are behaving differently than their parents. It’s probably my favorite stat of the whole campaign. So this notion that Marco Rubio is going to heal their problems — it’s not even sophomoric; it’s juvenile! And by the way: the bigger problem they’ve got with Latinos isn’t immigration. It’s their economic policies and health care. The group that supported the president’s health care bill the most? Latinos.”D. HISPANICS' VIEWS ON IMMIGRATION
You might think that Hispanics favor amnesty and open borders with near unanimity, but this isn't true either. Their views on the subject are actually quite mixed.
Another poll found that.
Hispanics are split when asked to assess the effect of illegal immigration on Hispanics living in the United States: 29% say it has had a positive impact, 31% negative and 30% believe it made no difference, according to the study by the non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center.In 2004, 47% of Arizona Hispanic voters supported Proposition 204 to deny some government services to illegals. While not quite a majority, that's a better percentage of the Hispanic vote than George W. Bush got the same year.
E. WILL HISPANICS' VIEWS CHANGE OVER TIME?
Some supporters of amnesty admit that Hispanics are liberal now, but that their views will become conservative over time if only the GOP changes its position on immigration. As evidence, they point to the case of "great wave" immigrants, particularly Irish and Italian, many of whose descendants eventually became Republicans.
While this is true, there are a number of reasons to think that this analogy won't hold for Hispanics.
- Immigration was cut off in 1924 and stayed low until 1965, giving the immigrant groups time to assimilate without continual reinforcement.
- There was no welfare state at the time, and those who couldn't make it in America went home; now they can stay and become dependent on government.
- The culture at large and established immigrant leaders supported assimilation, whereas now the culture and immigrant groups advocate multiculturalism and "diversity".
- Great wave immigrants identified as white, whereas Hispanics are officially classified by the government as a distinct group which receives benefits such as affirmative action for maintaining a separate identity.
- Even after several generations, Hispanics tend to lag behind the American average. (See New Mexico, for example).
F. WHO IS HISPANIC, ANYWAYS?
When discussing Hispanics, we should keep in mind that this is a fairly artificial category. Just because the Census Bureau groups some people together, does not necessarily mean that they identify with each other.
Anybody from a predominantly Spanish-speaking country can be considered Hispanic. This includes whites of Spanish origin, Indians the Spanish conquered, blacks whose ancestors were brought to Latin America as slaves, and many people descended from all of the above. The largest groups of American Hispanics are Mexicans, Cubans, and Puerto Ricans.
The Hispanics most likely to vote Republican are
- Cubans, mainly the white middle and upper class who fled from Castro's regime. (e.g. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz)
- Mexicans (mainly in Texas and New Mexico) whose ancestors fled the leftist Mexican revolution in the 1910s.
Puerto Ricans are the most democratic Hispanic group, voting around 80% democrat. Notably, this is true even though immigration is not an issue for them, since they are all US citizens who can move to the US at will.
Mexicans are somewhat less democrat than Puerto Ricans, but the illegal Mexicans come mainly from the poorer mestizo class of the country, which is unlikely to support Republicans. It is dubious how much attraction a white Cuban like Rubio would have for them. One poll found Rubio with 24% favorability among Hispanics.
4. AMERICANS' VIEWS ON IMMIGRATION
While we're at it, why not consider the views of Americans at large on immigration? Numerous polls show a significant majority of Americans support restricting immigration (legal and illegal) and enforcing the law.
A poll by the Center for Immigration Studies found
Of likely voters, 52 percent responded that they preferred to see illegal immigrants in the United States go back to their home countries, compared to just 33 percent who would like them to be given legal status.A Reuters poll found
There is an enormous gap in intensity between the two views on immigration. Of those who want illegal immigrants to head home, 73 percent indicated that they felt “very strongly” about that view, while just 35 percent of those who want illegal immigrants to get legal status said they felt very strongly about this view.
Thirty percent of those polled think that most illegal immigrants, with some exceptions, should be deported, while 23 percent believe all illegal immigrants should be deported.Note that some polls claim to show support for amnesty by using deceptive wording ("earned legalization", "path to citizenship") and restricting the choice to only amnesty or "mass deportation". This is a red herring, since most immigration restrictionists advocate "enforcement through attrition" (what Mitt Romney called "self-deportation"), that is enforcing the laws against working in America illegally, getting government documents and aid so that illegals decide to leave on their own. This option consistently polls better than either of the other two.
Only 5 percent believe all illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States legally, and 31 percent want most illegal immigrants to stay.
The "controversial" Arizona immigration law is supported by around 60% of Americans in three polls.
Obviously the majority supporting restricting immigration goes well beyond hard-core Republicans or conservatives. It must include many independents and democrats.
Shouldn't there be at least one party that represents their views? Opposing amnesty and advocating restriction of immigration could appeal to many voters concerned about job losses and shatter the view that the GOP does nothing but advocate for big business. Of course, we can and should take this position without demonizing Hispanics.
Supporting amnesty isn't going to win more Hispanic votes, as shown in this Center for Immigration Studies study of the 2006 election. It would only lead to more third-world immigration in the future (138 million people worldwide say they want to move to the United States). What can work, at least to a limited extent, is aggressive outreach, as shown by Rep. Steve Pearce, who represents a majority-Hispanic district in New Mexico and opposes amnesty.
Immigration is not some unstoppable force of nature. Israel has successfully dealt with illegal immigration with tough border security, interior enforcement, and deportation of illegals. America can follow her example.
Or we can take the left's advice about how to fix the GOP, and see the Stupid Party live up to its name one last time.