Opinion

The Great Debate

The GOP’s immigration problem

By Bill Schneider
May 1, 2013

Old vaudeville joke:

Man goes to the doctor.  Says he has a pain in his arm.

“Have you ever had this problem before?” the doctor says.

“Yes,” the man answers.

“Well, you got it again.”

Bada-bing.

Now look at the Republicans’ immigration problem. Have they had this problem before? Yes. Well, they’ve got it again.

Republicans had an immigration problem nearly 100 years ago. A huge wave of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe – Poles, Hungarians, Italians, Jews – came to this country during the first two decades of the 20th century, before strict national quotas were imposed in 1924. These immigrants were largely Catholic and Jewish.

Republicans were the party of the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant establishment. The GOP did little to reach out to immigrants, except to try to “Americanize” them and “reform” them (the temperance movement).

Democrats then, as now, were the party of out-groups. The Democratic Party had a long history of accommodating immigrants, going back to the Irish in the 19th century. Municipal jobs (like policemen) were some of the only opportunities available to the Irish, and they were heavily recruited by big-city Democratic political machines that controlled patronage.

The breakthrough came in 1928 when Democrats nominated New York Governor Al Smith for president – the nation’s first Roman Catholic presidential nominee. Anti-Catholic prejudice helped to doom Smith’s candidacy. But his nomination drew millions of immigrant voters to the Democratic Party.

Then, when the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, immigrants became the base of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal coalition. They helped make Democrats the nation’s majority party for the next 50 years.

Prohibition was a key cultural marker. Most immigrants were “wet.” They wanted to end the ban on alcohol. FDR, who was known to enjoy his martinis, promised in the 1932 campaign to end Prohibition. That helped cement the loyalty of the new immigrants to the Democratic Party.

Republicans are making the same mistake again.

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s harsh policies toward illegal immigrants – he wanted to make their lives in the United States so miserable that they would “self-deport” – caused Republicans to lose the Latino vote last year by nearly three to one. The worst showing for Republicans since 1996. Latino support for President Barack Obama (71 percent, up from 67 percent in 2008) delivered key battleground states like Florida, Colorado and Nevada to the Democrats.

Conservative pundit Rich Lowry wrote shortly after the election, “Getting killed three-to-one among Latino voters understandably concentrates the mind.” So a group of Republican senators, led by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, has been working with Democrats to produce a plan for comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.  The plan is likely to pass the Senate soon, possibly with the support of most Republican senators.

Problem solved? Not quite.

For one thing, conservatives in the House of Representatives are determined to kill the reform bill, or at least remove the path to citizenship – just as they did the last time immigration reform came up in 2007. “We’ve seen this movie before,” former Senator Jim DeMint told The New York Times. “We know how this game plays out.”

DeMint is something of a godfather to Tea Party conservatives. He now heads the Heritage Foundation and is planning an all-out campaign to kill the path to citizenship, which conservatives consider amnesty for lawbreakers.

Moreover, there is the very real possibility that immigration reform could kill Rubio’s prospects for winning the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. That would add insult to injury for Latino voters.

Suppose the measure passes Congress. Would that solve Republicans’ problems with Latino voters? Not really.

Latinos may find the new law too punitive. It would not allow any path to citizenship until the borders are absolutely secure. It would impose a serious fine in order to refute the charge of amnesty. It would require that illegal immigrants wait at least 13 years and undergo at least two background checks before becoming eligible for citizenship. What’s not tough enough for conservatives may be too tough for Latinos.

Even if the new law passes and Latinos accept it as the best they can get, that may not end Republicans’ problems with Latino voters. Conservatives like to think Latinos are Tea Party voters with visa problems. They’re not.

Latinos who self-described Democrats outnumbered Republicans by five to one, in a recent Pew Hispanic Center’s 2012 National Survey of Latinos. Both their interests and their values draw them to the Democratic Party.

Their interests because many Latinos are relatively low income, have large families and depend on government services like public schools and health care. They come to this country familiar with trade unions and are not reluctant to join them. They do not hate government – a defining issue for Republicans.

In the 2011 Pew Latino survey, 75 percent of Latinos said they favored a bigger government providing more services over a smaller government with fewer services. Only 41 percent of the general public felt that way.

Many Latinos retain an identity as an out-group and a minority even after they achieve success in the United States. Support for Obama was lower among higher-income Latino voters last year. But he still carried them by 20 points.

Look at Asian-Americans, many of whom are successful and high-income. They voted as strongly Democratic as Latinos did last year.

What about values? Many Republicans believe their conservative views on cultural issues hold appeal for Latinos. Latinos are a bit more anti-abortion than other Americans, according to Pew. In 2011, 51 percent of Latinos said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, compared with 41 percent of all Americans. In 2012, however, 52 percent of Latinos favored same-sex marriage, up from 31 percent in 2006.

Where do you find Latino Republicans? Mainly two places. One is Cuban-Americans. Like other immigrant groups that have had experience with communism (Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans, Russians), the first generation of Cuban-Americans votes heavily Republican. But Cuban-Americans are only 3 percent of the U.S. Latino population. They’re down to one-third of Florida’s Latino population.

Moreover, younger Cuban-Americans have been drifting away from their parents’ conservatism. Last year, Florida’s Cuban-American vote was split between Obama and Romney.

You find the strongest support for Republicans among Latinos who belong to evangelical churches. Pentecostal churches have invested heavily in missionary work among Latinos, in Latin America as well as the United States. Nonetheless, the Pew Center reports that evangelicals accounted for just 16 percent of Latino voters last year. And they supported Obama over Romney, 50 to 39 percent.

On most issues, cultural as well as economic, Latinos are in line with Democrats. Which raises an even bigger dilemma for Republicans. If they pass a bill giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, they may be enfranchising a whole new generation of Democrats.  Just like the early 20th century immigrants.

On immigration reform, Republicans may be damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

 

PHOTO (Top): Placards and campaign stickers sit on a table at the Latino regional headquarters for the Obama campaign during Election Day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin November 6, 2012. REUTERS/Sara Stathas

PHOTO (Insert A): Immigrants at Ellis Island. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

PHOTO (Insert B): Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addresses the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Annual Conference in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, June 21, 2012. REUTERS/David Manning

PHOTO (Insert C): President Barack Obama takes part in a town hall hosted by Univision at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida September 20, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

PHOTO (Insert D): Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference at National Harbor, Maryland March 14, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Comments
12 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

So what was the point of this essay? There is no thesis nor plan of action – it just outlines that immigrants don’t like the party that is anti-immigration. Well, DUH! America really is two different countries, both with about equal population, and both resemble the founders. The left are like the founders because they aren’t overly religious and embrace inclusion and civil liberties; the right are because they have a decidedly 18th century mentality of excessive nationalism, imperial asperations, and the strong sense of militarism that comes along with it. Americans seem by-the-by insulated from seeing it that way but the rest of the world sees it plain as day.

Posted by CDN_Rebel | Report as abusive
 

People like the DREAMERS are not needed in America. The people in their home countries need the DREAMERS to help build free prosperous societies. It is America’s responsibility to help all countries build a better world. We should not be stealing ‘the best and the brightest’ from other countries.

Posted by wigglwagon | Report as abusive
 

“…many Latinos are relatively low income, have large families and depend on government services like public schools and health care. They come to this country familiar with trade unions and are not reluctant to join them. They do not hate government…75 percent of Latinos said they favored a bigger government providing more services”. Precisely.

These illegal alien wetbacks will inevitably bankrupt a government that is already broke. They come here with empty heads, empty bellies, and seem to be born pregnant. They bring NOTHING “to the party”. Shut the door!

This is a demographic that has no intention of assimilation. It is a demographic that intends to “bury us” by out breeding us and make America “theirs”. I can not believe Americans truly believe it is their obligation and burden to meekly accept this continuing invasion of the dregs of every society south of our order with Mexico. To do so will be to commit national suicide.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

America is quickly being destroyed by immigration.

The amount of money possessed by the wealthy is beyond imagination. That money allows them to control the Senate quite handily.

There are hundreds of lobbying firms in Washington staffed by former Senators and Congressmen. Today, approximately 60% of Senators and Congressman leaving office go to work at these lobbying firms for very high salaries, as well as huge deal opportunities.

Immigration into any country has two clear effects:

1. Immigration increases the supply of labor, thus forcing down wage rates for the citizens.

2. Immigration strains the existing housing supply causing rents and housing costs to go up for the local citizens.

Both these effects make the wealthy employing class even wealthier.

Thus you have both Republicans and Democrats being bribed by the wealthy to continue immigration.

The American middle class is being destroyed by immigration.

Why does America even have a military? Invading foreigners by the thousands simply fly into our airports and get into waiting taxis. If betraying the American middle class to foreigners is not treason, then what exactly is treason?

Largest Countries ranked by population:

1. China 1.3 billion people

2. India 1.2 billion

3. United States 315 million

4. Indonesia 237 million (President Obama’s childhood home)

5. Brazil 193 million

6. Pakistan 182 million

7. Nigeria 166 million

8. Bangladesh 152 million

9. Russia 143 million

10.Japan 127 million

11.Mexico 112 million

12.Phillipines 92 million

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cou ntries_by_population

Posted by AdamSmith | Report as abusive
 

The problem with “comprehensive immigration reform” is that it is “comprehensive”. It’s merely a means for politicians to promise everything to everyone and not enforce any of the laws (with the exception of those who follow the process).

There is nothing in the proposed legislation that cannot be done separately and sequentially. First, do the obvious– Close the borders, Implement eVerify with penalties for employers, then Enforce the limitations on temporary visas, Eliminate chain migration. Then do the more difficult tasks: restructure quotas giving preference to those who will not be consumers of public services, eliminate welfare and other cash benefits for the first five years any immigrant is here (just like the current law states), then develop a manageable temporary worker program.

Only AFTER you have done this, do you begin to address the issue of amnesty and citizenship. If you take away the financial benefits of coming here illegally (for both the employer and the illegal alien), then amnesty will be a more manageable issue.

But our Gang of 8 senators know this–so they embrace toward a “comprehensive” solution.

Posted by COindependent | Report as abusive
 

The author Mr. Schneider is stuck on the idea that the two political parties will continue to define the politics of America.

I’m not sure that’s true. I myself am a registered Republican, but it’s clear that both they and the Democrats are corrupted to exactly the same degree, 100%.

Immigration is ruining occupation after occupation in America. Both parties are complicit. America is being destroyed worse than if 10 nuclear bombs were dropped on it. Where the devil is the American military?

First it was the ag worker. In about 1985 or 1990 when Mexicans started showing up in my hometown, displacing the Negro ag workers who had for generations patiently borne the brunt of the hardest labor, enabling the white ag owners to become wealthy. This was their thanks.

I said nothing.

Then in the year 2000 or so, more Mexicans flooded in, taking the trades jobs. They came by the thousands. They threw hardworking American carpenters, plumbers, electricians, drywall hangers and carpet installers out of work and into welfare. Careers destroyed, families ruined.

I said nothing.

Then in the year 2003 or so, newly graduated engineers from India and China started showing up in large numbers in companies where I worked, throwing America engineers out of work.

I still said nothing.

But now these wedges of immigration have become a giant torrent, destroying the careers and lives of almost all working Americans. Almost every single occupation in America is paying lower wages now than 10 years ago.

Even hot occupations like software engineering, my profession, pays dramatically less than 10 years ago.

So now I say that the Republicans and Democrats are both guilty of treason for allowing immigration.

I will not vote again for any party. I will only vote again if it’s for a strong PERSON who promises SEVERE action against immigration.

He certainly won’t be a member of the Republican party or the Democratic party.

Posted by AdamSmith | Report as abusive
 

The Republicans don’t have an immigration problem. They have a hatred problem. They hate anything and anyone that is different from them. It is so simple and history has shown this time and time again.

Posted by explorer08 | Report as abusive
 

We welcome those who respect the laws of our country and enter legally. Those who do not enter legally have no “rights” and we should not bow down to their “demands”.

Posted by AZreb | Report as abusive
 

On this same subject, Reuters today has an article about yesterday’s surprise successful British election results of the UKIP party, whose main platform is anti-immigration.

Here is the link:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/0 3/us-britain-politics-idUSBRE94201Z20130 503

Mr. Schneider is blind to the fact that immigrants into a country of high unemployment throw people out of work.

To Mr. Schneider, that is a minor inconvenience. To the people thrown out of work, their whole lives are destroyed, their careers, their families, all their hard work, down the drain.

Posted by AdamSmith | Report as abusive
 

As a foreigner who has stood in a queue in the tropical sun of India with my wife and daughter to get a visa to visit the US on holiday I wonder if it is too much to ask other foreigners to get a visa too to live in the US for the rest of their lives? It seems to me that any immigration reform that contemplates “amnesty” for illegal immigrants is an insult to all other law abiding foreigners.

Posted by appiahpb | Report as abusive
 

The US has an illegal alien problem.

These people don’t come here to become Americans. They come here to suck our system dry. While Democrats give out food stamps like candy so native Americans don’t need to work, aliens are taking jobs at below-market rates and sending that money out of the country.

Posted by jimmy37 | Report as abusive
 

immigration is USA has become a big problem. People come from other countries without proper visa and documents because of that many innocent people who have proper visa face lots of problems. If people come Eb-5 visa it helps government also. eb-5 attorneys are very good in EB-5 investment visa law.

Posted by MarvinP | Report as abusive
 

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