Opinion

Nicholas Wapshott

Immigration reform could tear GOP apart

By Nicholas Wapshott
January 25, 2013

Immigration reform is being discussed again on Capitol Hill. At his inauguration, President Barack Obama declared, “Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity.” Senior Republicans, too, seem ready to make a deal. They sorely need to do so, because Mitt Romney’s damaging policy of self-deportation ensured that Hispanics voted overwhelmingly for Obama, and demographic changes mean unless the party changes tack fast it will keep losing. But there is an enormous gulf between what the Republicans need to do and what the base will go along with. What is at stake is whether the GOP remains a party of government or becomes a mere protest movement.

Although he does not have a majority in the House, the president appears in no mood to compromise. He wants to help create a more tolerant America and believes he has the country behind him. Recent polling confirms that his views on gay marriage, gun control, abortion, immigration and other social issues all chime with a majority of the electorate, and he is determined to press his case. His inauguration speech spelled out the direction he is heading in, and his Feb. 12 State of the Union address is expected to chart the course. He appears to be relishing the chance to embarrass the Republicans if they stand in the way of progress. Catching Obama’s new sense of purpose, House Speaker John Boehner has become convinced the president wants “to annihilate the Republican Party” and “shove [it] into the dustbin of history.”

Senior Republicans appear to be aware that they are out of step with America and need to make significant changes to policies and their public image if they are to stand a chance of winning the midterm elections in 2014 or the White House in 2016. Former Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice believes “the Republican Party certainly has to stop turning off large segments of the population” and urges it to face “the big issue,” immigration reform. Says Senator Lindsay Graham (R.-S.C.): “We’re in a death spiral with Hispanic voters because of rhetoric around immigration.” Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), who burned his fingers pushing for immigration reform in 2006-07, thinks “we have to do immigration reform … There is no doubt whatsoever that the demographics are not on our side.” Conservative commentator Seth Mandel suggests it may be too late: “When they arrived here with nothing but the clothes on their back, desperate for a chance at a better life for themselves and their children, one party said, ‘Come on in,’ and the other said, ‘Turn around and go back.’”

There are good business and economic reasons to embrace immigration reform. The GOP’s libertarian wing, following the dictums of Emile Levasseur and Friedrich Hayek, who advocated a free market in labor, has long understood the importance of a making it easier for immigrants to find work here. Rand Paul, heir to his father Ron’s mantle as leader of the GOP libertarians, argues for bringing illegals into the fold. “If they’re willing to work, willing to pay taxes, I think we need to normalize those who are here,” he said. George W. Bush’s commerce secretary, Carlos Gutierrez, promises to raise millions from big business to press for changes in the law to allow illegal immigrants to stay. “We have millions of job openings that go unfilled,” he said. “Either the workers come here to fill them or those jobs go somewhere else.” Small businesses, particularly high-tech startups demanding highly qualified technicians, also want reform. “About 95 percent of the applications I get, I have to turn away because I can’t get them a visa,” said Ash Rust, leader of an entrepreneurs group lobbying to relax immigration rules.

So, if so many senior Republicans and Republican donors and a majority of all Americans want to do a deal on immigration, who stands in their way? The party’s rank and file. While the portion of Americans opposing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants has slumped from 55 percent in 2011 to 43 percent today, and even a majority of Republicans now agree that reform needs to be achieved, die-hard opponents remain within the Republican Party. One in three Americans continues to oppose an amnesty for illegals, with one in four “strongly” opposed, but Tea Party members are most vociferous in their opposition to immigration reform. Just 1 in 10 Tea Party types agree there should be a path to citizenship for illegals, compared with 24 percent among Americans at large, while 17 percent disagree. As with gun control and raising taxes, Republicans who dare defy their base may find themselves facing primary opponents spouting more populist, less tolerant views.

This is a particular problem for Marco Rubio, the “crown prince of the Tea Party movement” who was voted overwhelming favorite by Tea Party members to take Romney’s vice-presidential slot. Rubio knows about immigration. He is the son of Cuban immigrants, and his grandfather was an illegal immigrant who, in the days before opposition to immigration became an article of faith in the Republican Party, was granted a path to citizenship. By championing Republican efforts to introduce immigration reform, Rubio is taking an enormous gamble. Unless he can persuade his Tea Party supporters it is time to put their xenophobia aside and give illegals a break, his ambition to become the Republican nominee for president in 2016 will be sunk. Rubio is already offering an escape route for his dilemma, suggesting the president may deliberately hamper immigration reform to “keep it alive as an electoral winner for Democrats with Hispanics for years to come.”

Watching the Republican leadership wriggle on the hook in the coming months will be amusing. As with gun control, they are expected to introduce a number of bills, each suggesting a different route to reform, in the hope that if something gets through they may claim some credit and if most of it is rejected by their own side they will not be stuck with the blame. What is not on offer, however, is the sort of behind-closed-doors deal that characterized the debt ceiling compromise. The Tea Party will scream if they are sold down the river.

One of the extraordinary aspects of the 2012 election is that it appears to mark a watershed in public attitudes on social issues. While minorities, liberals, women, those who make up the LGBT coalition and especially the young appear to have despaired at the endless Republican talk of “legitimate rape,” of homophobia disguised as opposition to gay-marriage, of crazy ideas like self-deportation and of the general grim intolerance displayed by a hard-core, ideologically driven minority, the Republican Party has, in the words of the conservative Hispanic Leadership Network, “run out of persuadable white voters.”

It is the sense that a new consensus has been reached to settle the social issues that have plagued and poisoned America since the Sixties that the president caught so well in his second Inaugural Address. Much to the consternation of conservatives and the indignation of the Clintons, Obama once said he would like to emulate the way Ronald Reagan became a step-change president, cementing attitudes for a generation. “He put us on a fundamentally different path, because the country was ready for it. … He tapped into what people were already feeling.” It is consolidating what America is already feeling about social issues and allowing the nation to feel more comfortable with itself that the president appears to have set himself as a legacy.

Nicholas Wapshott’s Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics is published by W.W. Norton. Read extracts here.

PHOTO: A pedestrian walks into the border station to cross into the United States from Mexico in San Ysidro, California September 27, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Comments
20 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Immigration is destroying the American middle class.

Nature has not yet rescinded the Law of Supply and Demand.

The plain fact is that immigration into any modern country has two serious, lethal effects on the native-born citizens:
1. Immigration sharply drives down wage rates.
2. Immigration sharply drives up housing costs (rental rates).

Thus employers and landlords benefit from immigration.
Thus common workers are greatly harmed by immigration.

When immigration is unchecked, as it is today into the US, even the immigrants will soon find their own wage rates dropping because of immigrants arriving next year.

In the entire history of America there has never been immigration flows at the huge, uncontrolled level that is taking place today. The Irish, Italian and German immigrations to America were tiny compared to the immigration today. And back then America was building factories, not closing factories and outsourcing.

Today there are hundreds of millions of people in giant impoverished cities all over the world trying to move to wealthier countries. Impoverished people are seeking wealth, whether in America, Europe, Japan, Saudi Arabia — any developed country of wealth.

But it is only America who has dropped its defenses and simply allows itself to be overrun. All the other countries in the world, COMBINED, do not allow the immigration that comes into America. Those countries behave the way America behaved during most of its history — they do not allow immigration.

Today, America is completely controlled by big companies and landlords who grow wealthy from depressing wages and raising rents.

Why should America even have a military if it is going to allow foreigners by the millions to simply walk in and take its jobs and buy its real estate unhindered?

Immigration today is destroying the lives and careers of the American middle class.

Posted by AdamSmith | Report as abusive
 

Adam,

Unfortunately, the point you are trying to make is lost on most Americans. Where Democrats have succeeded in redefining what it is to be American, Republicans failed. When conservatives were trying to squash birthright citizenship, liberals argued that it is written into the Constitution. Now that the liberals are rewriting the Constitution and conservatives complain, liberals say that America has changed and that the documents that created this nation are now obsolete. Typical liberal flip-flopping.

I see what is happening now as the same thing that happened to Egypt when the Nubians took over. Don’t worry though. The scourge will only be able to manage themselves for about 100 years and then they will fail. Don’t take my word for it. Look at where all the poor, tired, and hungry come from. To put it bluntly, they weren’t capable within their own cultures and they will soon realize that being in America doesn’t make them any more capable. As America rapidly is becoming the very countries that they left, they will move on like locusts.

The people that make America, not those that feed on it, will have to take a stand at some point. Sadly, this WILL end in bloodshed. There is no other logical outcome.

Posted by raekwon6 | Report as abusive
 

I’d love to see the documentation behind the remarks attested above. Seems to me that resistance to immigration has always been there; that the color of the new immigrants’ skin is more likely behind the resistance to their presence. Economics doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game; in point of fact, there are other factors that are destroying the lives and careers of the American middle class: anti-union, right to work laws among them.

Posted by Rob33 | Report as abusive
 

“Immigration reform”, the code phrase for allowing millions of cheap labor immigrants into the US — supposedly because the US doesn’t have enough skilled labor — WILL FINISH TEARING THE US APART.

Obama, with his moronic attachment to the wealthy class and equally moronic ideas about immigration will probably be our last president before this country collapses in revolt.

If you doubt what I am saying, take a look at what the wealthy are lining up to get from Obama, now that he doesn’t have to worry about reelection.

“Entrepreneurs plan D.C. road trip to talk up immigration reform”

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/2 4/us-immigration-reform-siliconvalley-id USBRE90N0HB20130124

Yes, Obama was reelected by the “American” people, but only if you count the American people as consisting mainly of the 2/3 who are non-white.

It is ironic that what he is doing is going to boomerang on the very people who elected him, but they are too stupid to understand that fact.

They still think “whitey” is the problem.

It’s the wealthy, stupid!

And that includes our president who is catering to the wealthy class and destroying this nation.

We don’t need a president with views like Obama.

Posted by PseudoTurtle | Report as abusive
 

Whaa whaa and whine. Ignorant whites we have always been and will be here. Amnesty or not. Better no amnesty if u ask me so I won’t pay taxes :) lol

Posted by youcrybaby | Report as abusive
 

Cry babies get over your selves . Do what old people do and die already. We healthy youngstas (yes I spelled it the way I want) have taken over. Order in the new world already

Posted by youcrybaby | Report as abusive
 

Missing from the whole debate about the liberalization of immigration is the context of population growth. According to the UN, half of the world’s population growth in the next half-century will come from only nine countries: India, Pakistan, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Uganda, the United States, Ethiopia and China. In other words, the United States is expected to be the only developed nation continuing to experience third world-like population growth. And virtually all of it is due to immigration.

We currently import approximately 1.5 million people each year. Do we really need more? At a time when eighteen million Americans are unemployed, do we really need to grow our labor force? Already heavily dependent on imported natural resources – especially oil – do we really need more oil consumers? Given that the challenge of cutting our carbon emissions to the extent necessary to slow global warming is already nigh impossible, do we really need that many more carbon emitters? Do we really want our economy to mimic that of those other nations listed above?

We are a nation built of immigrants, and proud of that heritage. But this isn’t the 19th or even the 20th century any longer. This isn’t the new world of wide open spaces that our forefathers found. There are 315 million of us – the third most populous nation in the world behind China and India. We now have our own “huddled masses” that the statue of liberty beckons. Enough is enough.

Pete Murphy
Author, “Five Short Blasts”

Posted by Pete_Murphy | Report as abusive
 

None of the discussions on immigration have really said much about why our numerous unemployed don’t seem to be attracted to the jobs that the immigrants are willing to make huge sacrifices to gain. I think this is an important question, but I don’t know the answer.

Posted by QuietThinker | Report as abusive
 

Another propaganda piece about immigration into the US that lofts attacks on opponents of illegal immigration and doesn’t support the premise of the article with any strong facts. There is simply no rational reason to have millions unemployed and allow millions into the country. In addition, any attempt to argue that one of the largest countries in the world needs more immigrants in the information age (telecommuting) is ludicrous. At the most basic level, immigration should be linked to the unemployment rate and, the available spots should be auctioned off to the highest bidder and approved by a panel of random citizens. All other methods without those basic rules are just illogical or veiled attempts at electioneering.

Posted by M.C.McBride | Report as abusive
 

One might ask: Why are the immigrants willing to work for such low wages, undercutting what the American-born workers are willing to take?

The answer: The immigrants are often fleeing from horrible, crime-infested squalor in their own countries.

By many measures, Mexico, for example, has one of the highest violent crime rates in the entire world. Violent being the key word. Ironically, Mexico is also home to the world’s wealthiest man, Carlos Slim. But it’s not just Mexico. In fact, most Latin American countries have some of the highest violent crime rates in the world.

Here’s a Wikipedia page:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cou ntries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

By coincidence, this very day Reuters has an article about it:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/2 4/us-crime-latinamerica-idUSBRE90N159201 30124

Those fleeing the poverty, crime and squalor of Latin American countries are allowed into the USA labor markets, legally and illegally, causing American wages to plummet, causing USA workers to lose their jobs, and thus causing social degradation of the USA culture, and thus spreading the crime and squalor of Latin America into the USA.

As individuals, immigrants are humans, and thus are likeable as humans. But the native-born citizens of the USA should not be expected to sacrifice our entire culture, our jobs, our homes, our children’s careers, so that people from high-crime Latin American countries can flee their own countries’ problems.

The USA has enough problems of its own. The USA is struggling to raise its own children.

The only fair way is that the native-born citizens of Mexico, or Belize, or Honduras, or Guatemala, or Brazil, or Columbia, or Venezuela, or El Salvador, or Trinidad, or Panama, or any other country, face their own problems at home, and solve them as a nation.

By coming to the USA, and flooding USA labor market, they are only spreading the low wage-rates, high crime, and social degradation of Latin America to the USA, like a contagion.

The USA is committing suicide by allowing this to happen.

Posted by AdamSmith | Report as abusive
 

If there were stronger unions in this country, all workers, legal and illegal would be better off, and a route to staying for illegal immigrants would be out in the open, requiring companies to pay a fair wage, rather then a sub-par wage, due to the fact that the worker could not complain.

And a rigid policy forces those who come to the US to study and gain knowledge and advanced degrees, but then cannot stay to benefit the US with their talents.

And it simply is a fact, inconvenient or not, that many illegal immigrants do jobs that Americans don’t want to do. Hard manual labor.

But don’t let arguments in favor of a more humane treatment get in the way of Tea Party rhetoric.

The demand for ideological purity will destroy the Republican Party, and the nation will be poorer for that happening.

The Tea Party really needs to look at who is putting up their money, and what are their motives.

Posted by pavoter1946 | Report as abusive
 

A wealthy acquaintance of mine owns an orchard in Washington State. Although he spends most of his time traveling for leisure, he likes to consider himself a farmer.

About 2 years ago he built some new cheap houses/barracks for Mexican workers who harvest his fruit and maintain his orchards.

He said Americans wouldn’t do the hard work. I said Americans would certainly do it for the right wage level. He said no, the Americans are just lazy. (He ignores the fact that he himself also chooses not to do the labor, but he does not consider himself to be lazy, even though he just travels around the world having fun.)

Anyway, this year he angrily complained to my sister that now the Mexicans are getting lazy. They (the Mexicans) refuse to work for him, telling him that the rate he offers is too low, they simply can’t make a living with that kind of pay level.

What this wealthy, lazy, spoiled guy fails to understand is that every laborer is in business. The laborer’s revenues (his wages) must exceed his living expenses, or he is working at a loss.

The wealthy investor class tell us every day that they can’t invest unless the rate of return on their investment is high. The certainly can’t invest in a project where the expenses exceed revenues. That would be business suicide, they tell us.

Yet when a laborer refuses to accept a low wage, the wealthy (especially the wealthy who inherited their money from parents) accuse the worker as lazy. Such irony in human nature!

The true enemy of the worker is the wealthy man who does nothing but live an easy life, then comes to forums like this at Reuters and accuses laborers who refuse to work for low pay as being lazy.

This, when it is the wealthy class who travel about on vacation after vacation, like spoiled children, writing them off as business trups, and do not carry their share of the hard, gruelling work of our nation.

Posted by AdamSmith | Report as abusive
 

The writer could not be more wrong. I wouldn’t trust one A.P. poll about what the American people think about immigration. The bias in the mainstream media is so pronounced they couldn’t do a straight report on immigration if they wanted to. The reason immigration reform — aka mass amnesty — doesn’t happen is only because most people people don’t want it, because they see it as inherently unfair to working Americans. The American people are bucking up against the elites, conservatives and liberals, including liberal columnists. It’s ironic, btw, that this column comes from a Brit, a place where foreigners have positively overrun the country in a manner that has been completely degrading.

Posted by Calfri | Report as abusive
 

The president was not reelected by an overwhelming majority as he continues to say. Yes, he did win the most electoral votes, but statistically, it was almost a draw when you look at the popular vote.

That being said, we need to stop automatic citizenship to illegals born in this country. That is not guaranteed by the constitution. Only those with at least one family member, who is an actual citizen qualifies, not some illegal alien who has a baby at a local hospital.

The president is not in tune with the majority of Americans. Please stop looking at the liberal polls. Their numbers are misleading and only show what they want you to see.

Americans want to keep and bear arms with no infringement to that, we want to stop illegal immigration, and we want to see our great country rebound and create good paying jobs for our children, not the children of immigrants.

Posted by montanamoss | Report as abusive
 

“Recent polling confirms that his views on gay marriage, gun control, abortion, immigration and other social issues all chime with a majority of the electorate” You are Degenerate?

Posted by Trident1973 | Report as abusive
 

Common sense requires that the number of legal immigrants and green cards be tied to the unemployment rate for the last few years. Also special category occupations be tied to the underemployment rate of citizen college graduates with the degrees in the area even if they have no work experience.

Times of high unemployment in the US should be times of low emigration, and times of low unemployment should be times of high emigration.

Posted by SamuelReich | Report as abusive
 

“Immigration reform could tear GOP apart” It could be a great thing. I am one who believes that we need a viable two party system. The Tea Party, extremist ideologues, and every Republican who shouts RINO at other Republicans will be the downfall of the Republicans as a viable, workable party. Issues like immigration reform will greatly aid the Republican Party if they can be used to force the extremists out of the party. In other words, force the Tea Party to become a separate fringe party, so that the Republican Party can get back to being a functional political party and work with conservative Democrats to provide real solutions to problems instead of hate filled ideological rhetoric.

Posted by QuietThinker | Report as abusive
 

You guys are blaming illegal immigrants for the reduction of wages and high unemployment rates. You’re blaming workers who, for the most part, pick tomatoes and install drywall. And you can beat your chests all you want with “Americans WILL do that hard labor for better wages!” but the fact is, Americans won’t – ask Alabama farmers.

And where is your anger for the employers who hire the illegal immigrants? Where is that good old-fashioned American ire for the companies who refuse to pay a decent wage for the back-breaking work to the demanding American workforce? Where are your criticisms for companies like Walmart, who only hire part-time workers so they can avoid benefits like holidays, vacations and most importantly – health insurance for families?

What about corporations sending jobs overseas to take advantage of the low wages in China, Pakistan and India to name just three countries? They are shutting down facilities, offices and operations here in the U.S., and laying off hundreds of thousands of workers every year in favor of the lower overall operating costs and higher profits of “Globalization.” Too many American corporations have abandoned the American economy, but you don’t want to look there because it doesn’t fit with your convenient xenophobia.

You’re more comfortable rattling your swords at the 11 million immigrants who pick blueberries and lay down sod grass than you are looking at the total picture.

Illegal immigrants aren’t working at Walmart in their air-conditioned corporate offices drawing down $50K a year with bennies, boys and girls. Those are the jobs that are disappearing at an alarmingly fast rate, and making it next to impossible for the average American to raise a family with any semblance of security.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive
 

@ JL4 –

You, sir, are dead wrong in your opinion. This is NOT about xenophobia, but about protecting what little is left of the US economy from the wealthy class who are destroying it.

I would rather it was xenophobia than the blatant prejudice you display against the American worker. It is disgusting to think that anyone would deliberately spread the lie that the American worker is too lazy to work. It is an opinion not based on fact, but on a reverse discrimination against mostly white workers.

And not all of these jobs are “workers who, for the most part, pick tomatoes and install drywall”. It is a documented fact that illegal workers have been found in other industries as well (e.g. the meat packing industry).

It also isn’t just about illegal immigration, but the issue of immigration itself — legal or not — which MUST be stopped for the US to survive.

For example, the H-1B visa program “legally” imports jobs at the high end of the range. While it is not a problem in terms of the same magnitude of numbers as the lower end, it is designed to take away high paying jobs from American workers.

For example, from Wikipedia solely for ease of access.

“The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H). It allows US employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. If a foreign worker in H-1B status quits or is dismissed from the sponsoring employer, the worker must either apply for and be granted a change of status to another non-immigrant status, find another employer (subject to application for adjustment of status and/or change of visa), or leave the US.”

The regulations define a “specialty occupation” as requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor[1] including but not limited to architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, biotechnology, medicine and health, education, law, accounting, business specialties, theology, and the arts, and requiring the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent as a minimum.”

Notice the definition of “specialty occupation” above: “highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor[1] including but not limited to architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, biotechnology, medicine and health, education, law, accounting, business specialties, theology, and the arts”.

Are you kidding me? That is a blank check for employers to bring in as many foreign (i.e. lower paid workers) as they want, when the number of immigrants this country needs is ZERO.

Another facet of this is, if and when these people actually leave the US — and many do not — and return home, they go home as well-trained professionals, taking the skills they learned here with them. Talk about a “brain drain”!

This wealthy-dominated country is bent on destroying jobs by driving down wages so the wealthy can reap more profits. Have you ever wondered, for example, why there are suddenly so many foreign doctors and others in the health care industry?

This is the reverse of “outsourcing”. Let’s call it “insourcing”, meaning any job that cannot be practically outsourced either physically or through the internet is “insourced”, which further drives down our standard of living.

We have a SERIOUS immigration problem — both legal illegal — that Congress MUST solve for the benefit of the American people, not for the benefit of the wealthy class.

This is NOT the “immigration reform” bullshit they want.

When Obama promised change we can believe in, perhaps we should have asked him what he had in mind.

THIS is NOT change we can believe in.

THIS is change that the wealthy class and foreigners, who are pouring into our country through non-existent borders, can believe in.

It’s far past the time when we should be demanding from our government, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

I propose we reform our government BEFORE we reform our immigration policies!

Posted by PseudoTurtle | Report as abusive
 

The Obama regime has been a Deporting Machine and many undocumented have left on their own because there is far less work since the Crash of ’08. So a lot of this is just Sound and Fury.

The real issue is that the need for human labor has declined in general and that The Monied Interests have gutted America’s industrial base. Those are the primary factors that are destroying the Middle Class.

Posted by Nebris | Report as abusive
 

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