THE POST-ELECTION IMMIGRATION DEBATE: REPUBLICANS ARE NOT INSANE

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One postmortem of the election was to point out the Republicans’ very poor showing among Hispanics.  Romney won only about 27% of their votes which is actually a few points less than McCain received four years ago and quite a bit less than Bush won eight years ago.  Many analysts concluded Romney alienated Hispanics in the primaries with his advocacy of stricter enforcement of immigration laws, opposition to the “DREAM Act” and the idea that illegal immigrants would “self-deport” (leave the U.S. voluntarily) if the law prohibiting their employment was properly enforced.  He never used the word “Hispanic” in any of this discussion, and about half the illegal immigrants or visa over-stayers in the country are non-Hispanic.  But the President and his allies distorted Romney’s sensible views, which merely reflect the reasons we have immigration laws in the first place,  into fighting words against Hispanics.  Romney thought he could alleviate the perception that he was hostile to Hispanics by dropping any mention of his earlier stances in the general election campaign and in the third debate promising to “get immigration reform done” in his first year in office.  But he never specified what reforms he wanted.  Do Republicans want what the President favors, citizenship for every illegal immigrant and visa over-stayer in the country regardless of their skill level, employment status, prior criminal record in their native countries, and likelihood they will become welfare dependent?  In Romney’s book No Apology, he advocated an immigration system which would be more like Canada’s, i.e., favoring people based on skill levels not family reunification, which is the basis of most of our legal immigration.

The answers are now beginning to emerge.  Last week the House passed the “STEM” bill which would end the visa lottery (an absurd system by which the U.S. randomly gives green cards to 55,000 immigrants per year) and instead allocates them to immigrants who have earned graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (i.e, “STEM”).  During the House debate some Democrats denounced the bill as racist because the visa lottery rewards many unskilled immigrants from the third world (i.e., non-whites) with green cards (residency for life) and thereby achieves their goal of diversifying the country.  Republicans favor highly skilled immigration to benefit the economy; Democrats favor unskilled immigration even though it will likely increase unemployment and entitlement spending.  The goals of the two parties are self-evident.  The Republican constituency is highly educated; the Democratic constituency consists of people with little incomes, skills and people who want to change the demographics of the nation so we would become less like our roots and more like the third world.

In the Senate Jon Kyl and Kay Bailey Hutchison, both retiring, have sponsored a bill to give legal status to many young illegal immigrants who were brought here as minors by their parents.  Both Senators had voted against the “DREAM Act” in 2010.  The President wants to give the “Dreamers” US citizenship.  Kyl-Hutchison would only give them lawful permanent residency meaning they would not become citizens and could not vote.   I am pleased to see the two Senators have not completely lost their senses.  They instinctively know that Hispanics, particularly those in the country illegally, are not natural Republicans.  If they are allowed to vote, they will overwhelmingly vote Democratic.  It would be political suicide for Republicans to grant citizenship to these people.  Victor Davis Hanson has captured the political outlook of this demographic with his usual superbly articulate commentary.  http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/334077/winning-latino-vote-victor-davis-hanson.  And Heather Mac Donald has noted the grim numbers: a majority of Hispanic children are born out of wedlock, have low skill levels and use entitlement programs at twice the rate of whites.   http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/332916/why-hispanics-dont-vote-republicans-heather-mac-donald.  In short, this is a very Democratic constituency, and a vote to grant those non-citizens citizenship would not be rewarded.  It is very much in the political interests of non-citizen Hispanics to continue to vote Democratic as the entitlement wars accelerate.

I have no idea how Republicans could possibly win over the votes of a hostile constituency, but Rule Number One is don’t enlarge it.  This is the Republicans’ unarticulated message.  Of course, this is not to say the Republicans have nothing to offer highly skilled immigrants, some of whom are Hispanics.  Allowing a certain number of gifted people to remain in the country after obtaining post-graduate degrees would make economic sense if unemployment were low.  If unemployment is high, as it is now, then more job seekers compete with Americans for dwindling employment opportunities, and drive down salaries.  This benefits employers but disadvantages American workers.  I have always argued that immigration needs to be tied to the unemployment rate.  Perhaps the Republicans could improve their electoral prospects by realizing this.

In January, the President will offer a big immigration reform bill that will achieve his party’s objectives: immediate or short-term citizenship for all illegal immigrants.  If that became law, it would mean 11-15 million new voters would be created before the next election.  Demographics tell us 70-80% would be Democrats.  This would doom the Republican party to minority status at all levels of government.  For this simple reason it will not pass the Republican House.  There piecemeal bills tinkering with the immigration system, like STEM and legalized status for some Dreamers will be enacted.  There is a huge difference between the parties on immigration.  The recent election changed nothing.