Commentary Magazine


Topic: illegal immigration

Immigration and the Humanitarian Snare

Momentum seems to be building for granting asylum to the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who have illegally crossed into the United States from Central America. But lost amid the rush to brand opposition to asylum as uncaring, if not racist, is a serious discussion about whether the U.S. is really obligated to take in every illegal immigrant child who fled violence at home.

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Momentum seems to be building for granting asylum to the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who have illegally crossed into the United States from Central America. But lost amid the rush to brand opposition to asylum as uncaring, if not racist, is a serious discussion about whether the U.S. is really obligated to take in every illegal immigrant child who fled violence at home.

With the mainstream media seeking to stoke sympathy for these kids, it is hardly surprising that a new poll shows that 69 percent of Americans believe the children should be allowed to stay if it wasn’t safe for them to be sent home. Figures as diverse as Hillary Clinton and conservative icon George Will have also endorsed treating the kids as refugees.

While it is no surprise that Clinton would seek to play the sympathy card for the illegals, Will’s statement dismissing concerns about the children is a significant victory for immigration advocates:

My view is that we ought to say to these children, welcome to America. You’re going to go to school and get a job and become Americans. We have 3,141 counties in this country. That would be 20 per county. The idea that we can’t assimilate these 8-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous.

Will is right that these children are not in and of themselves a threat to the country. Immigration strengthens the country. These children may well make impressive contributions to the country if allowed to study and grow up here. Moreover, so long as the discussion about this topic centers on the plight of these kids and the awful conditions in places like Honduras, Guatemala, or El Salvador, it is hard to argue that children who have already suffered terribly during their dangerous treks to the U.S. should be sent back to a situation where their lives could be in danger.

But there is more at stake in this debate about their future than a test of the country’s ability to empathize with the downtrodden. A decision to allow these children to stay will end the issue but will not end this crisis. Instead, as we should have already learned, anything other than a strong signal that the illegals won’t be allowed to stay will ensure that the border will continue to be a magnet for an unending stream of illegals including children for the foreseeable future.

I sympathize with these children and their families who look to the United States as a haven from the awful conditions in much of Central America. Nor do I share the fear of immigrants or the belief that their presence damages the nation. Our broken immigration system should be fixed and, in the long run, some solution must be found for the 12 million illegals already here since talk of their deportation is merely empty rhetoric.

But any country, even the United States, is entitled to control its borders and to see its laws enforced. A failure to send the kids home will send a loud message to the region that will encourage more to try to cross the border, a dangerous process that hurts the children and winds up saddling the U.S. with more illegal aliens.

Moreover, the proposition that America has no choice but to allow the kids to stay as refugees is unsupported by law or common sense. The traditional definition of a refugee is a person who has been forced to flee their homes by war, persecution, or a natural disaster. As bad as conditions are in Central America where drug gangs have made the life of many hell, the idea that crime or poverty in the absence of those other factors can make someone a refugee with a legal right to stay here is virtually unprecedented.

Even more to the point, the notion that it is the job of the United States to not only aid neighbors in distress but to take as many of them into our borders without them obtaining permission is to create an open-ended definition of America’s obligations that has no end in sight. After all, those three nations are not the only ones where kids are in danger.

You don’t have to be an opponent of immigration or oppose reform to understand that the loose talk from the White House about allowing young illegals to stay helped set off the current crisis. To compound this mistake by failing to send these children home will be to send a message that America’s immigration laws are meaningless and that the border is no barrier to those who wish to take advantage of the country’s bounty regardless of legal rights.

The question here isn’t whether we can, as Will stated, assimilate these children. Of course we can. It’s whether an overly broad definition of refugee status will be manipulated by the administration in order to begin the process by which all illegals will be granted permission to stay, perhaps by executive orders in order to boycott Congress.

What is happening at the border is a humanitarian crisis, albeit a man-made one. But it cannot be used as an excuse to justify a lawless approach to governance that will make it impossible for genuine reforms to ever gain majority support. If the president wishes to help aid the people of Central America, he will, no doubt, have the majority of Americans behind him. But America cannot solve the problems of Central America by importing its children. Rolling out the welcome mat for these illegals is a humanitarian snare that will merely ensure that they will be just the first wave of an endless tide of undocumented migrants.

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Compassion and the Rule of Law

The surge of illegal aliens–and in particular unaccompanied minors from Central America–across the border in Texas has started a debate in which more than immigration reform seems to be stake. While most conservatives are decrying the situation as the result of President Obama’s mistakes, some liberals are focusing on what they believe is the lack of compassion for the children that is being forgotten amid the politics. But as the plight of these desperate kids becomes publicized, Americans are being asked to make a choice between their charitable instincts and the rule of law.

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The surge of illegal aliens–and in particular unaccompanied minors from Central America–across the border in Texas has started a debate in which more than immigration reform seems to be stake. While most conservatives are decrying the situation as the result of President Obama’s mistakes, some liberals are focusing on what they believe is the lack of compassion for the children that is being forgotten amid the politics. But as the plight of these desperate kids becomes publicized, Americans are being asked to make a choice between their charitable instincts and the rule of law.

That’s the conceit of a good deal of the coverage of the reaction to the border surge in which demonstrations by Americans angry about the arrival of busloads of illegals are seen as proof of the intolerance and anger at the heart of resistance to immigration reform. The deplorable condition of many of these children and the hardships and violence they faced on their way to the United States all demand the sympathy of any decent person. Once in this country, they deserve humanitarian aid. Republicans who have expressed reluctance to allocate funds to deal with the crisis may be right not to trust President Obama to use the $3.7 billion he has requested wisely. But so long as they are on American soil, there can be no question that the government and concerned citizens must do whatever is needed to see that they are housed, fed, and given the medical care they need.

But that isn’t what’s at stake in this debate. Nobody is saying that the kids shouldn’t be cared for. But the notion, pushed by the United Nations and a growing volume of liberal commentators, is that we must treat these illegals as refugees and let them stay in America rather than being sent back home.

The argument for this proposition rests principally on the idea that the kids are in genuine danger from violence in their own countries. Looked at from that point of view, sending them back would be a death sentence. Thus, granting them asylum is being represented as not merely ethical but our obligation as civilized people.

But the problem with this reasoning is that if this position is allowed to stand, Central America and indeed, much of the rest of the world, might well empty out as immigrants seeking a better life pour into the United States.

It may well be that some of the unaccompanied minors who have come here recently in their tens of thousands would be in danger back home. But the laws regarding refugees were intended to provide a haven to those with a genuine fear of persecution because of their politics, ethnicity, or religious beliefs, not merely those who had the bad luck to live in a country where the rule of law has broken down. Violence is nothing new in Central American countries and even if it has surged lately, declaring that anyone who had fled these nations has a right to stay in the U.S. would render all existing immigration law and even the concept of borders meaningless.

Such compassion is, after all, relative. Those declaring that the United States must absorb children sent streaming over our borders by parents who hope they will be allowed to stay are not, after all, also advocating that war refugees from Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan or conflicts in dozens of other countries also be taken in with no questions asked. The point of such demands is not merely humanitarian but to underscore demands that those already in the country illegally be allowed a path to legalization if not citizenship.

I have always been sympathetic to such arguments since it seems to me that 11 million people cannot be deported and therefore amnesty is what we’re experiencing now. But the border surge and the subsequent demands to grant tens of thousands of illegal aliens who are minors asylum demonstrates the danger of signaling that illegals will not be deported.

Granting refugee status to the current group of unaccompanied minors will herald the start of future surges that no amount of border patrol or improved security will be able to halt.

If these children deserve compassion, and they do, then by all means the U.S. should extend it to them. If it means more aid to the countries where they must be repatriated or the creation of centers in those countries where they can be protected against predators and poverty, then so be it. But if they are allowed to stay we might as well kiss goodbye any hope of America being able to police its borders or to have a say in who comes or goes.

As the people of many Central American nations have learned to their sorrow, the collapse of the rule of law means is the beginning of the rule of predators and the end of compassion. If we are to avoid the same fate and to be of any use to those who understandably wish to come here–whether legally or illegally–we must not allow a false argument for compassion to undermine our rule of law.

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Obama’s Katrina? It’s Actually Worse

For once, I have to agree with the White House. They’re right to deny that the debacle along the border with Mexico is President Obama’s Hurricane Katrina moment. It’s actually much worse.

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For once, I have to agree with the White House. They’re right to deny that the debacle along the border with Mexico is President Obama’s Hurricane Katrina moment. It’s actually much worse.

White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz said it wasn’t fair to compare the debacle along the border with Mexico to Hurricane Katrina. She’s right about that. The Katrina analogy has been mooted by a number of conservative writers but got some extra juice this week when Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar, whose Texas district is situated along the border where locals have been overwhelmed by the surge of illegal immigration, used the K word when discussing President Obama’s reaction to the problem. Obama’s decision to avoid the border this week even though he was already scheduled to go to Texas for a political fundraiser was widely compared to the awful optics that ensued when President Bush was photographed flying over New Orleans after it was devastated by the storm.

Bush had good reasons for not parachuting into an area where first responders and reinforcements were already overwhelmed by the disaster. His presence on the ground would have done nothing to help anyone. Nor is it clear that Obama going to the border would do a thing to fix the crisis there. Yet both presidents suffered for those decisions because their physical distance from events was interpreted by the public as symbolic of their indifference to problems the federal government seemed unable to fix.

But contrary to the White House interpretation of events, the injustice here is not to Obama but to Bush. After all, despite some of the more extreme criticisms aimed at the 43rd president, nobody really believed Bush was capable of causing bad weather or had any impact on whether the levees were strong enough to prevent floods. Katrina was a natural disaster and though the response to it was clearly inadequate, the failures were mostly the fault of the collapse of local and state authorities rather than federal bungling. The push to blame Bush for it was largely the result of media distortions in which the perception of racism overwhelmed the facts.

Though real, the suffering along the border isn’t quite on the scale of the destruction of a major American city, but it must also be pointed out that this isn’t a natural disaster. While we can debate about what the best response to it now would be, attempts to deny that the massive increase in the influx of illegals is largely due to the president’s statements about allowing children to stay are unpersuasive. Bush didn’t make the weather but, like it or not, Obama did encourage the people of Central America to believe that all they had to do to attain residency in the U.S. was to make it across the border. Even worse, his response to the crisis has seemed to center on attempts to blame it on Republican unwillingness to adopt immigration reform rather than on an effort to defend the border and to ensure that the influx of illegals are swiftly sent home.

But the problem here isn’t merely one of perception. Nor is it strictly speaking a matter of fixing an immigration system badly in need of repair.

Even if House Republicans had embraced the bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill passed by the Senate last year, the situation along the border might be just as bad. The legislation did call for a massive increase in spending on border security. But even though I think the bill was worthy of support, it’s hard to argue with conservatives who point out that Obama has shown little interest in policing the border while simultaneously making it clear that he was willing to allow illegals to stay in the country.

Moreover, the push from the United Nations, welcomed by some liberals, to treat illegals from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras as “refugees” rather than mere illegal aliens shows the danger that stems from Obama’s attitudes. The violence in these countries is nothing new. Those who came here did so primarily for understandable economic reasons. While Republicans need to consider administration calls for granting the government $3.7 billion in emergency funds to deal with the crisis, the real problem is an administration that has acted to bypass Congress and refused to enforce immigration laws that it doesn’t like.

Will Obama be hurt as much by the border fiasco as Bush was by the hurricane? No. Though the president has damaged his standing with the public—including many who agree with him on immigration reform—by the indifferent response to the crisis, the mainstream media continues to have his back even as his second term heads inevitably toward lame duck status. There will be no press pile-on about Obama hobnobbing with Democratic donors who paid $10,000 to nosh on barbecue in the presidential presence the way Bush was crucified for his Katrina fly-by.

But what we are witnessing is a humanitarian disaster that was created by a thoughtless administration that has trashed the rule of law on immigration and found itself surprised by a crisis of its own making. As bad as Bush’s hurricane optics were, history will judge Obama’s behavior far more harshly.

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Border Chaos Will Hurt Democrats

For most of the last two years, immigration has been an issue that worked in favor of President Obama and Democrats. But the flood of illegals in the past few months that has brought large numbers of unaccompanied minors as well as adults into the country is changing the national conversation about this topic as well as the politics of immigration.

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For most of the last two years, immigration has been an issue that worked in favor of President Obama and Democrats. But the flood of illegals in the past few months that has brought large numbers of unaccompanied minors as well as adults into the country is changing the national conversation about this topic as well as the politics of immigration.

The spectacle of angry citizens trying to stop busloads of undocumented children being sent to a federal shelter in Murrieta, California last week shocked many around the nation. Yet while those outbursts were considered unseemly, the inability of the government to do anything to stem, let alone stop the wave of illegals was yet another disaster for an Obama administration that lately seems as if it is going through the motions. While the president is sticking to the same script he’s been using since before his reelection in which he blames Republicans for the failure to pass immigration reform, there’s no evading the fact that the latest surge of those coming into the country without permission is being widely blamed on his past statements opposing deportation of illegals. As much as hostility to Hispanic immigrants, many of whom are illegal, is a distinct liability for Republicans, the drama along the border is further undermining Obama’s authority and demonstrating that he seems to have lost any ability to control events.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s appearance yesterday on NBC’s Meet the Press only added to the impression that the administration has no plan to deal to with the problem other than talking about GOP obstructionism. When asked point blank whether the more than 50,000 children who had streamed illegally into the country would be deported, he responded carefully about how complicated the subject was. But the bottom line here is that many of the illegals appear to have made a safe bet. If they can make it across the border after a harrowing journey in which many are victimized by criminal gangs or subjected to violence and other hardships, there is every reason to believe that most will wind up being allowed to stay.

I believe that those, like Mitt Romney, who have spoken in recent years about “self-deportation” as a solution to this problem have been engaged in magical thinking. The illegals are not going to deport themselves. Nor is there any prospect that even a less lethargic federal government under better leadership than we currently enjoy could possibly deport the 12 million people who are estimated to be here illegally. President Obama is right that comprehensive immigration reform is necessary. Republicans have been wrong to block it, especially since it presented an excellent opportunity to beef up border security. The negative message many on the right have been sending to Hispanics is also a long-term problem since it writes off a huge and growing demographic group.

But even if we admit that Republicans have failed here, that doesn’t constitute an excuse for Obama’s failure to govern or to control the border. Indeed, it’s clear that this particular surge was set off, in no small measure, by statements from the president that led many thinking about entering illegally to the not unreasonable conclusion that they had a good chance of being allowed to stay once they got here. This underlines the point that Republican backers of immigration reform like Senator Marco Rubio have tried to make: the “amnesty” for illegals that immigration foes dread is what is happening now under our current broken system. As much as we need it to be fixed, the president has exacerbated the crisis and Jeh Johnson’s poor performance in the face of this wave of young illegals is only making it worse.

The president’s defenders claim that what is happening now is a regional problem that has more to do with endemic violence in Central America and the desire of so many people there to come to this country rather than any statement issued by the White House. But this excuse doesn’t cut it. Regional violence and the dream of North American prosperity is nothing new. What is different now is that the illegals believe Barack Obama won’t throw them out.

Even supporters of immigration reform understand that what we are witnessing along the border is more than a humanitarian crisis. It is also the collapse of the rule of law. However great the misjudgments of many Republican lawmakers might be, Obama can’t evade his responsibility for governing and enforcing the law. His failure to do so creates the impression that government doesn’t function anymore, a factor that is more responsible for the hysteria in Murrieta than anti-immigrant sentiments. The problem with incumbency is not just the boredom of the public with a president after six years. It’s that they expect the president to govern and it is on this question that Obama will be judged. Democrats who think this won’t hurt them in the midterm elections aren’t thinking clearly.

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What’s Love Got to Do with It, Jeb?

Yesterday Jeb Bush said his decision to run for president in 2016 would hinge in small part on if he can advocate for his beliefs without getting drawn into a “political mud fight.” I’m not sure how anyone can expect to avoid the no-holds-barred style of political combat that comes with a presidential candidacy but if Bush does run, it’s likely that another passage in that Fox News interview will supply his detractors with some of the ammunition that they will use against him:

There are means by which we can control our border better than we have. And there should be penalties for breaking the law. But the way I look at this — and I’m going to say this, and it’ll be on tape and so be it. The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally, they come to our country because their families — the dad who loved their children — was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table. And they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.

Bush’s position makes a lot of sense but unfortunately—and he knew when he uttered those words—only one phrase will be remembered: “act of love.” Suffice it to say that this son and younger brother of presidents will be endlessly mocked by many, if not most, conservatives for expressing what will be depicted as a bleeding heart liberal’s view of illegal immigrants. That Bush would campaign as an advocate for immigration reform—a position that is considered anathema by many in the Republican Party’s grass roots—was never in doubt. But what makes this a political gaffe of a sort is that Bush chose to make the argument for a rational approach to the fact that 12 million illegals are in the country by playing the sympathy card rather than an appeal to cold, hard economic logic.

Those who believe that the rule of law is at stake in the effort to punish illegals can’t be blamed for taking out the proverbial world’s smallest violin in response to Jeb Bush’s effort to evoke compassion for those who cross the border without permission. People don’t come to the United States out of pure love. They do it because there are jobs waiting for them that are not being filled by those already here.

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Yesterday Jeb Bush said his decision to run for president in 2016 would hinge in small part on if he can advocate for his beliefs without getting drawn into a “political mud fight.” I’m not sure how anyone can expect to avoid the no-holds-barred style of political combat that comes with a presidential candidacy but if Bush does run, it’s likely that another passage in that Fox News interview will supply his detractors with some of the ammunition that they will use against him:

There are means by which we can control our border better than we have. And there should be penalties for breaking the law. But the way I look at this — and I’m going to say this, and it’ll be on tape and so be it. The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally, they come to our country because their families — the dad who loved their children — was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table. And they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.

Bush’s position makes a lot of sense but unfortunately—and he knew when he uttered those words—only one phrase will be remembered: “act of love.” Suffice it to say that this son and younger brother of presidents will be endlessly mocked by many, if not most, conservatives for expressing what will be depicted as a bleeding heart liberal’s view of illegal immigrants. That Bush would campaign as an advocate for immigration reform—a position that is considered anathema by many in the Republican Party’s grass roots—was never in doubt. But what makes this a political gaffe of a sort is that Bush chose to make the argument for a rational approach to the fact that 12 million illegals are in the country by playing the sympathy card rather than an appeal to cold, hard economic logic.

Those who believe that the rule of law is at stake in the effort to punish illegals can’t be blamed for taking out the proverbial world’s smallest violin in response to Jeb Bush’s effort to evoke compassion for those who cross the border without permission. People don’t come to the United States out of pure love. They do it because there are jobs waiting for them that are not being filled by those already here.

This goes to the heart of the long-running argument about immigration on the right. Much of the left spent most of the last century trying to rewrite or ignore basic economic truths in order to make it conform to false Marxist theories. Nowadays, conservatives seek to do the same by saying that basic laws of supply and demand with regard to employment can be overcome in order to keep immigrants from Mexico or other Latin American countries out. Some make these arguments because of a reasonable concern over our porous borders. Others do so because they want to exclude Hispanics for either racial or political reasons. But either way, they are asking us to ignore the basic fact that as long as there are low paying jobs that most Americans won’t fill, immigrants, whether legal or illegal will find a way to take them.

As much as there is a strong case to be made for strengthening border security, the idea that 12 million people can be deported at the stroke of a pen or that there will be no negative consequences (regardless of the negative impact on the future prospects of Republicans if they continue to alienate Hispanics with negative stands on immigration) is fanciful.

It’s an open question as to whether enough Republican primary voters will listen to such commonsense arguments in 2016, whether made by Jeb Bush or someone else. But there is certainly an opening for someone to speak truth to them on this issue rather than merely engaging in the sort of “severely conservative” rabble rousing on immigration that Mitt Romney employed in order to distract GOP voters from his inconsistency on state-run health care. But my advice to anyone who tries to do so would be to leave love out of it.

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The GOP and Scott’s Immigration Flip

When Rick Scott successfully ran for governor of Florida in 2010 beating Democrat Alex Sink, he called for a crackdown on illegal immigration. He endorsed Arizona’s controversial law calling for law enforcement authorities to check the immigration status of those who were arrested, blamed illegals for taking jobs away from Floridians, and said they should be sent back where they came from. But, due in no small part to support from the Cuban-American community, he wound up winning a whopping 50 percent of the Hispanic vote according to exit polls that year.

Despite calls from other Republicans who interpreted their 2012 defeat in the presidential election as a sign they needed to start thinking differently about immigration, he has generally stuck to that hard line, even vetoing a bill passed by the GOP-controlled legislature that would have allowed the children of illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses. But apparently Scott, who trails his predecessor Charlie Crist in all the polls, may be thinking that now would be a good time to reach out to Hispanics who regard immigration as a litmus test.

As Fox News Latino reports:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who urged a crackdown on immigration four years ago, is throwing his support behind a bill that would allow qualified Florida students to pay in-state college tuition rates even if they are in the country illegally. But Scott is supporting the idea as long as it is combined with his own proposal to place limits on how much state universities can raise tuition each year.

It’s not entirely clear what Scott is up to, but this has the feel of an election-year conversion that is more likely to anger right-wing opponents of immigration than it will entice Hispanic voters to vote for him. If so and if Scott winds up losing to the former Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Crist, then it is likely that conservatives will blame it on the governor’s lack of principles rather than on faulty policies. But Scott’s fate is not the only matter at stake in this debate. Though Florida’s electorate has a different makeup than other states with large Hispanic populations, the governor’s flip-flop may be a sign that even those who benefitted from rabble-rousing anti-immigrant stands in the past are starting to realize that the negative fallout from that position may be greater than the benefits.

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When Rick Scott successfully ran for governor of Florida in 2010 beating Democrat Alex Sink, he called for a crackdown on illegal immigration. He endorsed Arizona’s controversial law calling for law enforcement authorities to check the immigration status of those who were arrested, blamed illegals for taking jobs away from Floridians, and said they should be sent back where they came from. But, due in no small part to support from the Cuban-American community, he wound up winning a whopping 50 percent of the Hispanic vote according to exit polls that year.

Despite calls from other Republicans who interpreted their 2012 defeat in the presidential election as a sign they needed to start thinking differently about immigration, he has generally stuck to that hard line, even vetoing a bill passed by the GOP-controlled legislature that would have allowed the children of illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses. But apparently Scott, who trails his predecessor Charlie Crist in all the polls, may be thinking that now would be a good time to reach out to Hispanics who regard immigration as a litmus test.

As Fox News Latino reports:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who urged a crackdown on immigration four years ago, is throwing his support behind a bill that would allow qualified Florida students to pay in-state college tuition rates even if they are in the country illegally. But Scott is supporting the idea as long as it is combined with his own proposal to place limits on how much state universities can raise tuition each year.

It’s not entirely clear what Scott is up to, but this has the feel of an election-year conversion that is more likely to anger right-wing opponents of immigration than it will entice Hispanic voters to vote for him. If so and if Scott winds up losing to the former Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Crist, then it is likely that conservatives will blame it on the governor’s lack of principles rather than on faulty policies. But Scott’s fate is not the only matter at stake in this debate. Though Florida’s electorate has a different makeup than other states with large Hispanic populations, the governor’s flip-flop may be a sign that even those who benefitted from rabble-rousing anti-immigrant stands in the past are starting to realize that the negative fallout from that position may be greater than the benefits.

Given the desire of conservatives to turn out to send a message to Washington against President Obama and especially ObamaCare, perhaps it’s smart politics for Scott to risk a backlash from conservatives. But his decision to break down and start mending fences with those who want a softer approach to illegal immigration has an air of desperation about it. The governor has had a rocky term in Tallahassee and is easily among the most vulnerable GOP incumbents in 2014. Even taking into account the fact that the large Cuban-American demographic in Florida is more Republican than any other group of Hispanics, his standing among Hispanic voters has dropped since his 2010 win. Though he remains within striking distance of Crist and can count on a midterm environment that looks to be very friendly to Republicans (as the vote in the special election in Florida’s 13th Congressional District showed on Tuesday), Scott remains an underdog heading toward November.

Nevertheless, Scott’s abandonment of the anti-immigration crowd this year may be a signal that some Republicans are starting to understand that bashing illegals may not be quite as potent a talking point as it was only four years ago. It was one thing for Scott to urge that the 800,000 illegals in Florida be deported when he was running for office. But that sort of empty threat rings hollow from someone sitting in the governor’s chair. Support for DREAM Act-type measures such as those involving in-state tuition rates are growing, making those holding the line against them look mean-spirited and out of touch with reality. That’s why GOP majorities in the legislature have backed such stands.

Moreover, if Republicans are going to be able to build winning coalitions in the future, they’re going to need Hispanic votes. In Florida, that once meant just taking a strong stand against the Communist regime in Havana. But even Cuban-Americans may now require more than a casual swipe at Castro in order to gain their support.

If Scott is defeated this year, it’s likely that it won’t be due primarily to his position(s) on immigration. But by doing an about-face on the issue in the middle of a tough reelection race, he has certainly given other Republicans food for thought about how best to build a majority in an era when Hispanic votes are up for grabs.

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Can Israel Solve Africa’s Economic Woes?

One of the leading talking points of Israel-bashers these days is the treatment of African economic migrants who have illegally crossed into the Jewish state. Nearly 60,000 of these people who are for the most part from the Sudan or Eritrea and have no ties to the country or claim on its people have made their way to Israel in the last several years. In a nation of only seven million people living in a country the size of New Jersey, that’s the equivalent of about 2.7 million illegal immigrants showing up in the Garden State. As such, a group of this size arriving uninvited present a huge problem for any nation, even one whose entire identity is based on immigration, as is Israel’s.

But instead of sympathy or perhaps a helping hand from an international community that surely bears more responsibility for the plight of people from the Horn of Africa than Israel, its struggles to deal with this insoluble problem have become yet another club with which anti-Zionists seek to delegitimize the Jewish state. This is hypocrisy of the first order and the inordinate attention given these Africans by the Western media—such as the article published today by the New York Times—in a world where tens of millions of refugees and economic migrants are to be found, once again illustrates the double standard by which Israel is judged on any conceivable issue.

It is to be conceded that not everyone in Israel has behaved appropriately toward the migrants. Anger, insults, and threats from people in neighborhoods where illegals have concentrated, as well as from a few rabble-rousing politicians, hasn’t helped the country’s reputation. The plight of people stuck in limbo without legal status where they are and nowhere else to go should arouse the sympathy of any decent person. But the notion that it is somehow Israel’s responsibility to cope with the impact of economic distress in the Horn of Africa is not a defensible or reasonable position to take.

Were that many people to show up in virtually any country in the world, especially all the other countries of the Middle East which are ruled by various kinds of tyrants, it doesn’t take much imagination to consider the kind of treatment they would get. But in democratic Israel where Jewish religious values about welcoming the stranger are part of the culture, these African newcomers have been spared the sort of abuse they would have gotten anywhere else in the region. Indeed that, and the fact that Israel has a booming First World economy, is the only reason why so many have tried to sneak into Israel to find work. Were they just a few, they might well have been allowed to stay. But once the number reached the tens of thousands, with many working illegally and with some committing crimes, that wasn’t an option. Since deportation back to their home countries would likely result in dire consequences for the migrants and no one else wants them, Israel is stuck with them until someone can come up with a solution.

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One of the leading talking points of Israel-bashers these days is the treatment of African economic migrants who have illegally crossed into the Jewish state. Nearly 60,000 of these people who are for the most part from the Sudan or Eritrea and have no ties to the country or claim on its people have made their way to Israel in the last several years. In a nation of only seven million people living in a country the size of New Jersey, that’s the equivalent of about 2.7 million illegal immigrants showing up in the Garden State. As such, a group of this size arriving uninvited present a huge problem for any nation, even one whose entire identity is based on immigration, as is Israel’s.

But instead of sympathy or perhaps a helping hand from an international community that surely bears more responsibility for the plight of people from the Horn of Africa than Israel, its struggles to deal with this insoluble problem have become yet another club with which anti-Zionists seek to delegitimize the Jewish state. This is hypocrisy of the first order and the inordinate attention given these Africans by the Western media—such as the article published today by the New York Times—in a world where tens of millions of refugees and economic migrants are to be found, once again illustrates the double standard by which Israel is judged on any conceivable issue.

It is to be conceded that not everyone in Israel has behaved appropriately toward the migrants. Anger, insults, and threats from people in neighborhoods where illegals have concentrated, as well as from a few rabble-rousing politicians, hasn’t helped the country’s reputation. The plight of people stuck in limbo without legal status where they are and nowhere else to go should arouse the sympathy of any decent person. But the notion that it is somehow Israel’s responsibility to cope with the impact of economic distress in the Horn of Africa is not a defensible or reasonable position to take.

Were that many people to show up in virtually any country in the world, especially all the other countries of the Middle East which are ruled by various kinds of tyrants, it doesn’t take much imagination to consider the kind of treatment they would get. But in democratic Israel where Jewish religious values about welcoming the stranger are part of the culture, these African newcomers have been spared the sort of abuse they would have gotten anywhere else in the region. Indeed that, and the fact that Israel has a booming First World economy, is the only reason why so many have tried to sneak into Israel to find work. Were they just a few, they might well have been allowed to stay. But once the number reached the tens of thousands, with many working illegally and with some committing crimes, that wasn’t an option. Since deportation back to their home countries would likely result in dire consequences for the migrants and no one else wants them, Israel is stuck with them until someone can come up with a solution.

For Israel-haters, the scattered sentiments of some Israelis in South Tel Aviv neighborhoods that found themselves hosting thousands of desperate illegals and suffering the normal increase in crime as a result is proof that racism is normative behavior in the state. But anyone who knows anything about Israel’s history knows that this is bunk. Israel absorbed tens of thousands of black Jews from Ethiopia in the last 30 years. Though their absorption has not been seamless or without incident, they are now part of the fabric of the country, serve in the army, and even in the Knesset.

But under what distorted sense of morality is Israel held to be particularly at fault for treating people who cross its borders illegally as having committed a criminal act and therefore subject to detention? Even if you are deeply sympathetic to the migrants, as many Israelis are, is there a sovereign nation in the world that does not feel entitled to control its borders, especially when those frontiers also need to be defended against terrorists and hostile powers? Do those who protest Israel’s treatment of these people, in which many are kept in open detainment centers think that other democracies, such as the United States, would treat such people any better? Under those circumstances how can any reasonable person criticize Prime Minister Netanyahu’s pledge to defend his country’s borders and to enforce its laws.

Many of the migrants claim they are seeking political asylum rather than just jobs, but this is patently untrue of most of them, as their behavior has suggested. If Westerners would like to help them, they are free to welcome them into their own countries. Failing that, Israel deserves either some constructive help, such as an international diplomatic initiative that would force Sudan and Eritrea to guarantee their safety upon their return home, or be allowed to deal with the situation as best they can. Until they do either of those things or come up with a solution that doesn’t involve Israel being forced to accept economic refugees as legal immigrants in a manner that no other nation on the planet would ever consider, Western critics should pipe down.

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Is Reid Bluffing on Border Security?

The bipartisan immigration reform seems to have gathered momentum in recent weeks, but the path to eventual passage is by no means clear. As Seth noted again yesterday, President Obama continues to walk the fine line between cheerleading for the legislation and statements that could be aimed at alienating potential Republican supporters for the bill. But Obama’s histrionics, such as his completely unnecessary dog-and-pony show for the media yesterday, may not be the real problem. As the Senate prepares to debate the measure and consider amendments, the real obstacle could turn out to be Harry Reid. The majority leader weighed in today on the bill and issued a warning that should worry the gang of eight that produced the reform package more than its opponents.

As Politico reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated on Wednesday that he would not allow the Gang of Eight immigration bill to require stricter border security measures merely in order to attract Republican votes.

“Our goal now is to pass the strongest legislation possible with as many votes as possible while staying true to our principles,” Reid said.

Staying true to principles is one thing, but a refusal to negotiate in good faith with Republicans who are looking to find a way to support the measure is quite another. Reid is on record calling Texas Senator John Cornyn’s amendment that would include a “hard trigger” on enforcement before illegal immigrants can hope for citizenship a poison pill. But unlike Reid, gang leader Chuck Schumer is keeping quiet while making it clear that he is ready to talk to GOP senators who remain on the fence and to come up with a compromise that will strengthen enforcement. Schumer is intent on getting a bill that will have the kind of broad-based support that will give it a chance of passage in the House of Representatives while Reid seems more interested in a result that would ensure it fails in the other body so as to give Democrats a chance to blame the GOP for failure.

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The bipartisan immigration reform seems to have gathered momentum in recent weeks, but the path to eventual passage is by no means clear. As Seth noted again yesterday, President Obama continues to walk the fine line between cheerleading for the legislation and statements that could be aimed at alienating potential Republican supporters for the bill. But Obama’s histrionics, such as his completely unnecessary dog-and-pony show for the media yesterday, may not be the real problem. As the Senate prepares to debate the measure and consider amendments, the real obstacle could turn out to be Harry Reid. The majority leader weighed in today on the bill and issued a warning that should worry the gang of eight that produced the reform package more than its opponents.

As Politico reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated on Wednesday that he would not allow the Gang of Eight immigration bill to require stricter border security measures merely in order to attract Republican votes.

“Our goal now is to pass the strongest legislation possible with as many votes as possible while staying true to our principles,” Reid said.

Staying true to principles is one thing, but a refusal to negotiate in good faith with Republicans who are looking to find a way to support the measure is quite another. Reid is on record calling Texas Senator John Cornyn’s amendment that would include a “hard trigger” on enforcement before illegal immigrants can hope for citizenship a poison pill. But unlike Reid, gang leader Chuck Schumer is keeping quiet while making it clear that he is ready to talk to GOP senators who remain on the fence and to come up with a compromise that will strengthen enforcement. Schumer is intent on getting a bill that will have the kind of broad-based support that will give it a chance of passage in the House of Representatives while Reid seems more interested in a result that would ensure it fails in the other body so as to give Democrats a chance to blame the GOP for failure.

Reid has a point when he says that Cornyn’s insistence on a 90 percent illegal border apprehension rate is probably unrealistic. Nothing short of a great wall that stretches along the length of the border accompanied by massive patrols would be enough to ensure that rate. But, as even gang member Marco Rubio has stated, the bill can stand to have its enforcement mechanism strengthened. What’s needed now is a willingness on the part of both sides of the aisle to compromise on a measure that would make the trigger provisions harder while not making them so tough so as to make it impossible to achieve.

While this may seem like the usual partisan jockeying back and forth that accompanies every legislative challenge, how each side handles the issue of border security is a true test of their sincerity on wanting a solution to a broken immigration system.

For Democrats, a willingness to toughen the measure will answer the question as to whether their goal here is to actually pass a bill or, as many Republicans have long suspected, an attempt to orchestrate a process by which the GOP can be blamed for failure. Schumer understands that while he has the votes for Senate passage, in its current form, the gang’s bipartisan compromise will have little chance in the House. While the two bodies are certain to pass versions that will be different and require delicate negotiations in conference, if the Senate version includes a tougher enforcement mechanism, a deal will be possible.

On the other hand, Republican motives are likewise suspect. If Republicans won’t agree to enforcement mechanisms that contain realistic goals, they will be rightly suspected of merely attempting to sabotage the bill. Just as Democrats act at times as if they are merely trying to maneuver the bill to failure, some conservatives appear to be more interested in preventing the passage of any bill that will allow illegals a path to citizenship than they are in actually fixing a broken system.

As Rubio has repeatedly stated, the talk about “amnesty” from the right is empty rhetoric. The real “amnesty” is the status quo that may not give illegals a way to citizenship but also offers no hope of resolving an untenable situation where more than 11 million persons are in legal limbo. The loose talk among conservatives that immigration reform will merely facilitate the legalization of millions of new Democratic voters merely worsens the Republican Party’s already dismal appeal to Hispanics. If House and Senate conservatives aren’t willing to compromise and accept a tougher enforcement regime in exchange for legalization, it will be possible for Democrats to claim their only goal was denying citizenship to illegals.

The rule of law that right-wingers claim to be defending in this debate isn’t enhanced by votes that will preserve the status quo. Likewise, Democrats who say they want to help resolve the dilemma of 11 million illegals must compromise on enforcement if their campaign is to be viewed as anything but a 2014 election maneuver. Right now, Harry Reid needs to prove that he really wants immigration reform and be willing to change the bill to toughen it up. If that happens, Republicans will face a similar test.

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Will Obama Sabotage Immigration Deal?

Eight years after Congressional opponents pronounced President George W. Bush’s immigration reform plan dead on arrival, there appears to be a real opportunity that a far-reaching proposal on the subject will pass the Senate.  As the Washington Post reports, a working group of senators, including heavy hitters from both sides of the aisle, are close to an agreement on the principles for changing the country’s immigration laws. According to the Post, the proposal, which could be announced as early as a week from today will include the following:

The working group’s principles would address stricter border control, better employer verification of workers’ immigration status, new visas for temporary agriculture workers and expanding the number of visas available for skilled engineers. They would also include a call to help young people who were brought to the country illegally as children by their parents become citizens and to normalize the status of the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants.

The plan, which is the result of talks including Democrats Robert Menendez, Richard Dubin, Charles Schumer, Michael Bennett and Republicans Marco Rubio, Lindsay Graham, John McCain and Jeff Flake. While there are still some disagreements to be ironed out since Rubio believes that illegals should have to wait for citizenship until those who arrived legally are accommodated while Democrats disagree, this may be the best chance to pass a bill dealing with the problem in decades. But there is one potential obstacle: President Obama.

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Eight years after Congressional opponents pronounced President George W. Bush’s immigration reform plan dead on arrival, there appears to be a real opportunity that a far-reaching proposal on the subject will pass the Senate.  As the Washington Post reports, a working group of senators, including heavy hitters from both sides of the aisle, are close to an agreement on the principles for changing the country’s immigration laws. According to the Post, the proposal, which could be announced as early as a week from today will include the following:

The working group’s principles would address stricter border control, better employer verification of workers’ immigration status, new visas for temporary agriculture workers and expanding the number of visas available for skilled engineers. They would also include a call to help young people who were brought to the country illegally as children by their parents become citizens and to normalize the status of the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants.

The plan, which is the result of talks including Democrats Robert Menendez, Richard Dubin, Charles Schumer, Michael Bennett and Republicans Marco Rubio, Lindsay Graham, John McCain and Jeff Flake. While there are still some disagreements to be ironed out since Rubio believes that illegals should have to wait for citizenship until those who arrived legally are accommodated while Democrats disagree, this may be the best chance to pass a bill dealing with the problem in decades. But there is one potential obstacle: President Obama.

The question facing Senate negotiators this weekend is whether their hard work crafting a bipartisan compromise will be blown up by the president’s determination to exploit the issue for political purposes. Though he has said that immigration reform is a priority, the senators may be holding their breath this weekend to see if Obama’s scheduled speech in Las Vegas next week will reinforce their efforts or making it more difficult for Republicans to work with the Democrats on the legislation.

Though the president spent most of his first term posing somewhat disingenuously as an advocate of balanced approaches on the issues and working for bipartisan consensus. But since his re-election he has dropped that pretense and adopted a more straightforward strategy aimed at demonizing Republicans and branding them as extremists. Since he knows it is more in the interests of his party to ensure that Hispanics believe all Republicans are enemies of immigrants than to pass a common sense bill, it would be entirely in character for him to spend the upcoming weeks blasting the GOP on the issue rather than piping down just at the moment when a deal is in the offing.

Rubio’s work in paving the way for Republican acceptance of a reform bill has been exemplary. As the Huffington Post reported, Rubio has taken to the airwaves speaking on conservative talk shows and has, surprisingly, received a good reception even from heretofore-staunch opponents of any solution other than the fantasy of deporting 12 million illegals. With the support of other conservatives like Paul Ryan, his initiative stands a good chance of passing in the House, provided the Senate has already adopted it.

But even Democrats are worried that Obama’s slash and burn tactics will turn immigration into a partisan issue and make it impossible to carry through both Houses of Congress.

As the Post notes:

Some Democrats in the House, including Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.), have cautioned that the White House could harm the bid for bipartisan support if it acts too aggressively by authoring its own legislative proposal.

But left-wing activists whose primary purpose is to recruit Hispanics to vote for the Democrats aren’t the least interested in Gutierrez’s legitimate concerns. Rather than urging, as they should, that Obama stand aside and let this be a bipartisan compromise, some union hacks like the Service Employees International Union’s Eliseo Medina are egging the president on to grandstand on the issue.

Rubio has been making progress towards persuading conservatives that their worries about “amnesty” are wrongheaded since the existing mismanaged and inefficient system neither protects our borders nor deals fairly with immigrants. He’s right. Republicans should understand that the current mess harms our economy and undermines support for the rule of law. A bill along the outlines that the Senate group is working on is long overdue. Bringing undocumented aliens into the system is good public policy and it is also good politics for Republicans who need to stop playing the anti-immigrant card as Mitt Romney did last year.

But after years of advocating for genuine compromise with Republicans on tough issues, it’s by no means clear whether the president has any interest in seizing a chance to pass immigration reform if it means a bipartisan deal.

The president said last week that he’s not to blame for the lack of communication between the White House and Congress. But the fiscal cliff agreement brokered by Vice President Biden illustrated that his boss was neither interested in nor capable of working with Congress. At times, the president seemed to be working to undermine the deal that eventually passed with inflammatory rhetoric intended to make conservatives dig in rather than to bend a bit. Should the president continue to play partisan politics on immigration just at the moment when he ought to be working quietly behind the scenes to get Republicans on board, it will be the immigrants who will suffer. If immigration reform fails again this year, the likely culprit will not be a faction of conservative hardliners but a liberal president more interested in exploiting Hispanic fears than getting a bill passed.

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GOP Can’t Be the Party of Old White Men

Mitt Romney did not lose the presidency last night because he was too “moderate” or because he was “severely conservative.” He did not lose because hurricane Sandy stopped his momentum or because he coasted to the finish line or because he did not press harder on questions about Benghazi. Romney lost because the Democratic Party enjoyed a six-point advantage in party identification last night, nearly as wide a gap between the parties as its seven-point advantage in 2008. Whether this is the emerging Democratic majority that John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira predicted eight years ago, or whether it is merely an ad hoc coalition in support of Barack Obama’s unique candidacy, is a question that only time (and another election or two) can answer.

What is clear is that the Republican Party has painted itself into a demographic corner. Hispanics have turned decisively against it, and the young have too. On Fox News last night, the Democratic pollster and consultant Pat Caddell said the Republicans’ “branding problem is reminiscent of the Whigs.” Exactly so. If the party does not adapt to the shifting demographics of the American electorate, it will become a permanent minority, if not extinct.

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Mitt Romney did not lose the presidency last night because he was too “moderate” or because he was “severely conservative.” He did not lose because hurricane Sandy stopped his momentum or because he coasted to the finish line or because he did not press harder on questions about Benghazi. Romney lost because the Democratic Party enjoyed a six-point advantage in party identification last night, nearly as wide a gap between the parties as its seven-point advantage in 2008. Whether this is the emerging Democratic majority that John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira predicted eight years ago, or whether it is merely an ad hoc coalition in support of Barack Obama’s unique candidacy, is a question that only time (and another election or two) can answer.

What is clear is that the Republican Party has painted itself into a demographic corner. Hispanics have turned decisively against it, and the young have too. On Fox News last night, the Democratic pollster and consultant Pat Caddell said the Republicans’ “branding problem is reminiscent of the Whigs.” Exactly so. If the party does not adapt to the shifting demographics of the American electorate, it will become a permanent minority, if not extinct.

The party—and the conservative movement for which it serves as the electoral arm—must be reformed. But where to begin? I am only a poor literary critic, not a political pundit, but I have some ideas. The Republicans are the party of married churchgoers at a time when marriage and churchgoing are in decline. Hence (at least in part) its declining share of the vote total. It can’t suddenly cease to be the party of married churchgoers without betraying itself and its core constituency. Marriage and churches are among the “mediating institutions” that conservatism most warmly affirms, because they stand between the individual and the encroachments of the state. To defend them is to defend freedom. (Calling the GOP the party of married churchgoers is just another way of calling it the party of freedom). Besides, to change course at this stage of history, to abandon the party’s core, is hardly guaranteed to arrest the decline.

If the Republicans are going to be the party of married churchgoers, though, they need to change their tune on two key issues. They must drop their opposition to same-sex marriage, and they must quit obsessing over illegal immigrants. These two issues alone are almost entirely responsible for the Republicans’ image and reputation as the party of old white men.

What conservatives do not seem to grasp is that same-sex marriage is not an issue for gays only, but also for the young, who support it overwhelmingly, without question. And if the GOP really is the party of marriage, shouldn’t it be in favor of extending the goods of marriage to as many as possible? If marriage is everything we conservatives say it is, why should we want to deny its moral benefits to gays? The point is to stand for marriage, for an institution that promotes human freedom, and not to barricade ourselves behind the status quo ante. That’s how the party of freedom becomes the party of reaction.

So too on immigration. What many on the right have failed to understand is that demands to tighten the border, loud howls of outrage over any proposal to grant amnesty to “illegal aliens,” are deeply offensive to Hispanics and likely to estrange them from the Republican Party for a generation. Tom Wolfe explains why. Like many on the right, he had always assumed that

Mexicans who had gone to the trouble of coming to the United States legally, going through all the prescribed steps, would resent the fact that millions of Mexicans were now coming into the United States illegally across the desert border. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. I discovered that everyone who thought of himself as Latin, even people who had been in this country for two and three generations, were wholeheartedly in favor of immediate amnesty and immediate citizenship for all Mexicans who happened now to be in the United States. And this feeling had nothing to do with immigration policy itself, nothing to do with law, nothing to do with politics, for that matter. To them, this was not a debate about immigration. The very existence of the debate itself was to them a besmirching of their fiction-absolute, of their conception of themselves as Latins. Somehow the debate, simply as a debate, cast an aspersion upon all Latins, implying doubt about their fitness to be within the border of such a superior nation.

The voices of immigration restrictionists on the right have pushed Hispanics into identifying with their ethnic group rather than encouraging them to identify themselves as something else instead—as churchgoers, for instance.

The Republican Party cannot win by playing the Democrats’ game of identity politics, but perhaps it might improve its chances by emphasizing a different kind of identity altogether—not identification with the special-interest groups that make up an unsteady coalition, but with stable institutions like marriage and church that enable men and women to be free.

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Arizona’s Partial Victory is Trap for Obama

After the Arizona legislature passed a bill seeking to force the federal government to enforce immigration laws, the state was subjected to an avalanche of criticism lambasting it for legislation that was characterized as racist. But now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the key element of the law was constitutional, the state’s critics, including the president of the United States, have found themselves on the losing side of the argument. Though most of the law, which trespassed on an issue that is a federal responsibility was overturned, the High Court unanimously ruled that the most controversial part of the measure — the requirement that law enforcement officials check the immigration status of anyone they arrest or stop for questioning — was constitutional. Though that issue will be sent back to the appeals level to allow for further challenges, much-maligned Arizonans can view themselves as largely vindicated, at least for the moment.

But now that the Court has ruled, this decision, like the long-awaited ruling on ObamaCare which will be handed down on Thursday, may become fodder for Democratic strategists who hope to enhance the president’s chances of re-election by making the conservative majority on the Court a campaign issue. Because so much effort has already been expended by the liberal mainstream media in demonizing the Arizona law for what was widely characterized as a form of discrimination, this may well play into Democratic talking points aimed at Hispanic voters. But however much this may help the president with some Hispanics, any effort to make the plight of illegal immigrants a central part of the president’s election narrative runs the risk of alienating the majority of Americans who sympathized with the Arizona law.

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After the Arizona legislature passed a bill seeking to force the federal government to enforce immigration laws, the state was subjected to an avalanche of criticism lambasting it for legislation that was characterized as racist. But now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the key element of the law was constitutional, the state’s critics, including the president of the United States, have found themselves on the losing side of the argument. Though most of the law, which trespassed on an issue that is a federal responsibility was overturned, the High Court unanimously ruled that the most controversial part of the measure — the requirement that law enforcement officials check the immigration status of anyone they arrest or stop for questioning — was constitutional. Though that issue will be sent back to the appeals level to allow for further challenges, much-maligned Arizonans can view themselves as largely vindicated, at least for the moment.

But now that the Court has ruled, this decision, like the long-awaited ruling on ObamaCare which will be handed down on Thursday, may become fodder for Democratic strategists who hope to enhance the president’s chances of re-election by making the conservative majority on the Court a campaign issue. Because so much effort has already been expended by the liberal mainstream media in demonizing the Arizona law for what was widely characterized as a form of discrimination, this may well play into Democratic talking points aimed at Hispanic voters. But however much this may help the president with some Hispanics, any effort to make the plight of illegal immigrants a central part of the president’s election narrative runs the risk of alienating the majority of Americans who sympathized with the Arizona law.

Some liberals are declaring the Court ruling a victory because much of it was tossed out. But for most of those who cared about this issue, the “check your papers” measure was the key to the controversy, and its survival must be considered a limited victory for Arizona. It is possible, as liberals are hoping, that even that point will be eventually ruled unconstitutional if it can be proved that it is enforced on a racial or ethnic basis. But it’s worth remembering that the Solicitor General who argued the administration’s case for throwing out the entire law flopped because even liberal justices agreed that his position was, as Chief Justice Roberts pointed out, “that the federal government just doesn’t want to know who is here illegally or not.”

As much as his tougher line on illegals is one that will cost Mitt Romney Hispanic votes in November, taking a position that the government should not enforce existing immigration laws and offering amnesty to large numbers of undocumented aliens will hurt the president with the rest of the country. As David Paul Kuhn pointed out in an insightful analysis on RealClearPolitics.com, the president’s growing problem with voters who are neither African-American nor Hispanic is a far greater obstacle to victory than Romney’s problems with Hispanics. Though non-whites are an increasingly larger percentage of the electorate, as Kuhn writes, Obama is currently getting a smaller share of the white vote than any Democrat since Walter Mondale and far less than the 43 percent he got in 2008.

The Court’s ruling may turn out to be a trap for the president if he continues to focus on the rights of illegals not to be asked about their status. The Democratic obsession with winning the Hispanic vote could come at a very high price. Though Obama’s position denouncing all of the Arizona law was applauded in the media, this is not a winner with those non-minorities Obama is losing to Romney.

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Romney Can’t Outbid Obama on Illegals

President Obama is heading to Florida today to address the same group of Hispanic legislators who heard Mitt Romney take a more conciliatory line on illegal immigrants. Romney’s walk back of his previous opposition to the substance of the DREAM Act is a good idea, and he was right to point out that the president’s election year decision to stop the deportation of young illegals is cynical. But it isn’t likely to gain him much traction with Hispanic voters. On this issue, he needs to quit now while he’s behind.

Though many pundits have been hounding Republicans to do more to appeal to Hispanics, at least as far as 2012 is concerned it’s a lost cause. Romney should not be tempted to waste any more time trying to outbid the president on an issue where he has far more to lose than to gain by changing his position. Any further shifts on immigration — an issue on which he staked out a hard right-wing position during the Republican primaries — will only remind voters of his reputation as a flip-flopper. In doing so, Romney also seems to be forgetting that the reason why he did his best to outflank Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich on immigration is that his opposition to amnesty programs happens to be popular.

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President Obama is heading to Florida today to address the same group of Hispanic legislators who heard Mitt Romney take a more conciliatory line on illegal immigrants. Romney’s walk back of his previous opposition to the substance of the DREAM Act is a good idea, and he was right to point out that the president’s election year decision to stop the deportation of young illegals is cynical. But it isn’t likely to gain him much traction with Hispanic voters. On this issue, he needs to quit now while he’s behind.

Though many pundits have been hounding Republicans to do more to appeal to Hispanics, at least as far as 2012 is concerned it’s a lost cause. Romney should not be tempted to waste any more time trying to outbid the president on an issue where he has far more to lose than to gain by changing his position. Any further shifts on immigration — an issue on which he staked out a hard right-wing position during the Republican primaries — will only remind voters of his reputation as a flip-flopper. In doing so, Romney also seems to be forgetting that the reason why he did his best to outflank Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich on immigration is that his opposition to amnesty programs happens to be popular.

President Obama may have spent most of his presidency ignoring the wishes of his Hispanic supporters who wished him to use his executive power to stop enforcement of immigration laws. But now that he has belatedly done as they asked, Romney is in no position to keep up with the president on the issue. That demonstrates the power of incumbency, but even if the president hadn’t changed his position, the idea that there was a massive opening for Romney with Hispanic voters was probably always something of a myth.

It should also be remembered the assumption that the Hispanic vote is monolithic is also mythical. The community is really several groups whose members identify more strongly with their country of origin than the amorphous Hispanic tag. Cuban-Americans do not generally treat the plight of undocumented aliens from Mexico or Central America as a top issue. Nor do Puerto Ricans who are already American citizens.

Also forgotten in the rush to win the loyalty of Hispanics is the fact that in many key states, there are still far more votes to be won by taking a stand against illegal immigration than for it. It is possible that there is a large enough constituency that regards illegal immigrants with sympathy in swing states like Colorado and Nevada to reward the president for his stand. But the no deportation order could represent the end of his hopes in Arizona, where anger about the government’s failure to protect the border is far greater. The same could be true of other states where Romney’s previous tough stance was not a weakness.

There is good reason for both the president and his challenger to endorse the substance of the DREAM Act. But even if he thought it was in his interest to do so, Romney has to understand this is a losing fight and move on. The less attention he pays to the issue the better off he will be.

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Romney’s DREAM Act Pivot

The biggest news coming out of Mitt Romney’s speech to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference today is that he appeared to soften his stance on illegal immigration (as expected after the primary) and even endorsed a key portion of the DREAM Act that provides a path to citizenship. The Hill reports:

He also reversed course on a key part of the DREAM Act, pledging to provide permanent residency for illegal immigrants who came to the United States and children and graduate from college. This is a major shift from Romney’s message in the GOP primaries, when he only pledged to provide that path for illegal immigrants who serve in the military.

Will this be enough to convince Hispanic voters, after the tougher tone Romney took during the primaries? Maybe not, but one possible saving grace for Romney is that his opponent has also been far from perfect on these issues. Immigration reform advocates had placed enormous hope in Obama after his repeated promises in 2008, and he never came through. It’s not lost on them that the president waited until mere months before his next election to issue some quick-bandaid deportation guidelines — and only when he was backed into a wall by the possibility that Sen. Marco Rubio could co-opt the issue.

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The biggest news coming out of Mitt Romney’s speech to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference today is that he appeared to soften his stance on illegal immigration (as expected after the primary) and even endorsed a key portion of the DREAM Act that provides a path to citizenship. The Hill reports:

He also reversed course on a key part of the DREAM Act, pledging to provide permanent residency for illegal immigrants who came to the United States and children and graduate from college. This is a major shift from Romney’s message in the GOP primaries, when he only pledged to provide that path for illegal immigrants who serve in the military.

Will this be enough to convince Hispanic voters, after the tougher tone Romney took during the primaries? Maybe not, but one possible saving grace for Romney is that his opponent has also been far from perfect on these issues. Immigration reform advocates had placed enormous hope in Obama after his repeated promises in 2008, and he never came through. It’s not lost on them that the president waited until mere months before his next election to issue some quick-bandaid deportation guidelines — and only when he was backed into a wall by the possibility that Sen. Marco Rubio could co-opt the issue.

Romney highlighted Obama’s broken promises, playing into a concern that many Hispanic leaders have held for awhile. Namely, that politicians talk a good game to them during election seasons, but don’t follow through and never expect any electoral consequences:

“Tomorrow, President Obama will speak here, for the first time since his last campaign. He may admit that he hasn’t kept every promise. And he’ll probably say that, even though you aren’t better off today than you were four years ago, things could be worse,” Romney said.

“He’ll imply that you really don’t have an alternative. He’s taking your vote for granted,” Romney continued. “I’ve come here today with a simple message: You do have an alternative. Your vote should be respected. And your voice is more important now than ever before.”

This is probably the strongest case Romney can make to Hispanic voters, as long as he couples it with serious proposals on immigration reform and keeps the emphasis on the economy and unemployment. He’s obviously never going to win the Hispanic vote, and he probably won’t even come close. But if he can convince people that he’s not an anti-immigration zealot, and that there should be consequences for Obama’s broken promises, then maybe he can make a dent in the huge wave of Hispanic support the Obama campaign is counting on.

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Rubio: Obama Derailed DREAM Act

No surprise here, as killing Sen. Marco Rubio’s proposed DREAM Act was exactly the point of Obama’s announcement on Friday. But it certainly is interesting that the same guy who took to the pages of Time today to urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform is the same guy who has been frantically working behind the scenes to spike Rubio’s legislation. Mission accomplished:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Monday that President Barack Obama’s move last week to block deportations for some young illegal immigrants in the U.S. has likely derailed his own similar efforts, at least until after the election.

“People are going to say to me, ‘Why are we going to need to do anything on this now. It has been dealt with. We can wait until after the election,’” Sen. Rubio said in an interview. “And it is going to be hard to argue against that.”

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No surprise here, as killing Sen. Marco Rubio’s proposed DREAM Act was exactly the point of Obama’s announcement on Friday. But it certainly is interesting that the same guy who took to the pages of Time today to urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform is the same guy who has been frantically working behind the scenes to spike Rubio’s legislation. Mission accomplished:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Monday that President Barack Obama’s move last week to block deportations for some young illegal immigrants in the U.S. has likely derailed his own similar efforts, at least until after the election.

“People are going to say to me, ‘Why are we going to need to do anything on this now. It has been dealt with. We can wait until after the election,’” Sen. Rubio said in an interview. “And it is going to be hard to argue against that.”

The conventional wisdom is that Obama pulled some brilliant political footwork, knocking the GOP off message and locking up the Hispanic vote for November. In fact, Obama seems to be the one who was played here, though he may not even realize it. One immigration advocate tells the National Journal that pro-DREAM groups bounced Obama and Rubio off each other, knowing it was going to take some significant political pressure to get the White House to cave on the issue:

“The game changer here was Marco Rubio,’’ said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, one of a number of groups that has been pushing the White House on reform. “He was a legitimate conservative trying to find a solution to the broken immigration system … and the administration realized they had to do something.’’

White House sources dismissed the idea that the president acted under pressure from Rubio, saying that the fate of the yet-to-be-filed legislation was unclear. Still, the White House clearly seized the chance to gain the upper hand on the DREAM Act while Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney dithered on whether to back Rubio’s proposal and the senator scrambled to file the legislation.

“The big takeaway from this is that it doesn’t pay to be a friend of Democrats, and it doesn’t pay to be a friend of Republicans,’’ Noorani added. “We were able to ping-pong back and forth between Rubio and the White House.’’

That last paragraph is why Obama’s move may not move the dial with the Hispanic community as much as the White House hopes. Hispanic voters are an increasingly influential voting bloc, but they have often failed to wield this power effectively on a national stage once the elections are over. As a candidate, President Obama promised them the extensive reform, but immediately put immigration issues on the back burner once he took office. It was only when Rubio’s DREAM Act became a threat that Obama jumped into action — but, again, during an election season.

That’s the problem with groups whose votes are taken for granted by one party. Their concerns are often seen as less urgent by the favored party, and the disfavored party has little incentive to act because it won’t get the votes anyway. Immigration advocates seem to realize their agenda won’t progress quickly on a national level unless they have influence with both Republicans and Democrats, and that means they can’t have one party taking Hispanic votes for granted.

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Obama’s Deportation Deja Vu

It’s a wonder why President Obama’s newest deportation guidelines would even be necessary, as the administration has long insisted it doesn’t focus deportation efforts on young, non-criminal illegal immigrants who would otherwise be covered under the DREAM Act. As the always enlightening Ruben Navarrette points out:

Then there is the inconvenient fact that we’re not supposed to even need this kind of policy change because, according to Obama, his administration isn’t deporting DREAM’ers at all; instead, it’s concentrating its enforcement efforts on criminals. That’s exactly what Obama told Univision anchor Jorge Ramos during a March 2011 trip to El Salvador. A couple of weeks later, Obama had to swallow those words when — during an education town hall meeting in Washington, sponsored by Univision — he was confronted by a DREAM’er holding deportation papers. So now we’re supposed to applaud the administration for not deporting people the president had claimed weren’t being deported in the first place.

Here is what Obama claimed during his Univision interview in March 2011:

President [Obama] said,“we have refocused our efforts on those who have engaged in criminal activity.” Furthermore, he said, “We aren’t going around rounding up students,” the president told Ramos last Wednesday, “that is completely false.”

As Navarrette writes, this was debunked just weeks later when a student confronted Obama with her deportation papers at a Q&A session.

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It’s a wonder why President Obama’s newest deportation guidelines would even be necessary, as the administration has long insisted it doesn’t focus deportation efforts on young, non-criminal illegal immigrants who would otherwise be covered under the DREAM Act. As the always enlightening Ruben Navarrette points out:

Then there is the inconvenient fact that we’re not supposed to even need this kind of policy change because, according to Obama, his administration isn’t deporting DREAM’ers at all; instead, it’s concentrating its enforcement efforts on criminals. That’s exactly what Obama told Univision anchor Jorge Ramos during a March 2011 trip to El Salvador. A couple of weeks later, Obama had to swallow those words when — during an education town hall meeting in Washington, sponsored by Univision — he was confronted by a DREAM’er holding deportation papers. So now we’re supposed to applaud the administration for not deporting people the president had claimed weren’t being deported in the first place.

Here is what Obama claimed during his Univision interview in March 2011:

President [Obama] said,“we have refocused our efforts on those who have engaged in criminal activity.” Furthermore, he said, “We aren’t going around rounding up students,” the president told Ramos last Wednesday, “that is completely false.”

As Navarrette writes, this was debunked just weeks later when a student confronted Obama with her deportation papers at a Q&A session.

That’s not all. Remember less than a year ago, when the left was heralding (and conservatives were decrying) President Obama’s decision to supposedly “enforce the Dream Act” by “executive fiat”?

In August of 2011, President Obama was under pressure from Democratic lawmakers to do something about the spike in deportations. So the Department of Homeland Security issued new illegal immigration enforcement guidelines, saying that it would curb deportations of non-criminals, people who had been in the U.S. for an extended time, veterans, young people, and other groups.

“If fully implemented, the new process should stop virtually all DREAM Act deportations,” read a press release from DREAM advocate Sen. Dick Durbin’s office.

At the time, Obama himself likened the rules to the DREAM Act in a speech to Hispanic political leaders. “[T]he Department of Homeland Security is applying common-sense standards for immigration enforcement,” he said. “And we’ve made progress so that our enforcement policies prioritize criminals who endanger our communities, not students trying to achieve the American Dream.”

If these students were already supposed to be protected, per Obama’s “common-sense” policy, why would this latest move even be necessary?

Sure, there are some provisions that seem to expand the August 2011 memo. The previous guidelines only impacted illegal immigrants who were presently involved in deportation proceedings, but, under the new guidelines, it appears that any illegal immigrant who meets the qualifications can apply for a work permit and two-year reprieve from deportation.

However — that also means they’ll have to intentionally make themselves known to the deportation authorities, with no guarantee that they’ll be approved.

And the newer guidelines do not exempt whole groups from deportation. The DHS says it will still consider illegal immigrants on a case-by-case basis, even if they meet all of the requirements.

In many ways, the new guidelines actually appear to be narrower than the guidelines issued in 2011. The new ones focus on specific ages (i.e. prioritizing those who came to the U.S. under the age of 15, and those who are currently under the age of 30). The specifics hew closely to the details in Sen. Marco Rubio’s version of the DREAM Act — which Obama has set back with this announcement — but they actually ignore many of the people who were already supposed to be protected under DHS’s 2011 guidelines.

The substance of Obama’s policy is laudable. Young, noncriminal illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. through not fault of their own should not be a deportation priority — not just because we don’t have the resources to round them up, but because it’s the right thing to do. These illegal immigrants are blameless, and many of them know no other home than America. The question is whether Obama’s new guidelines will have much of an effect. Despite DHS’s decision to focus mainly on criminal deportations last summer, the proportion of criminal to noncriminal illegal immigrants undergoing deportation proceedings has actually declined, according to Syracuse University. At the end of the day, Immigration and Customs Enforcement still has the discretion to decide each case on an individual basis, as there has been no law passed by Congress.

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Politics Dictates Deportations Policy

For three and a half years, Hispanic activists have complained the Obama administration was all talk and no action when it came to satisfying their demands for more lenient immigration guidelines. But with the president’s re-election campaign looking increasingly shaky, the need to solidify the Democratic base has led to a not terribly surprising policy about face. The announcement today of an executive order that the United States will cease any efforts to deport young illegal immigrants is just another instance of how politics rules all in the Obama administration.

The change, which resembles to some extent the Dream Act that would have granted a path to citizenship for youngsters who came to the country illegally, will mean that up to 800,000 undocumented people will be able to get a two-year deferral on steps to make them leave the country and then allow them to apply for work permits. Though Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano claims the measure is not a form of amnesty and does not grant immunity, that is exactly what it is. While there is a strong argument to be made that such deportations are a waste of government resources and that the country will be better off if such persons have their status normalized, there is no question the motivation here is purely political. But whether the president’s fiat will help more with Hispanics than it hurts with the clear majority of Americans who take a dim view of policies that seek to legalize the presence of undocumented aliens is yet to be determined.

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For three and a half years, Hispanic activists have complained the Obama administration was all talk and no action when it came to satisfying their demands for more lenient immigration guidelines. But with the president’s re-election campaign looking increasingly shaky, the need to solidify the Democratic base has led to a not terribly surprising policy about face. The announcement today of an executive order that the United States will cease any efforts to deport young illegal immigrants is just another instance of how politics rules all in the Obama administration.

The change, which resembles to some extent the Dream Act that would have granted a path to citizenship for youngsters who came to the country illegally, will mean that up to 800,000 undocumented people will be able to get a two-year deferral on steps to make them leave the country and then allow them to apply for work permits. Though Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano claims the measure is not a form of amnesty and does not grant immunity, that is exactly what it is. While there is a strong argument to be made that such deportations are a waste of government resources and that the country will be better off if such persons have their status normalized, there is no question the motivation here is purely political. But whether the president’s fiat will help more with Hispanics than it hurts with the clear majority of Americans who take a dim view of policies that seek to legalize the presence of undocumented aliens is yet to be determined.

Even Mitt Romney, who swung hard to the right on immigration, has said he was willing to accept some form of the Dream Act, as long as it solely covered those illegals who were willing to serve in the armed services. But public resistance to what might otherwise be considered a humanitarian and prudent course of action has been considerable. Support for stringent enforcement of immigration laws has never waned principally because most Americans see the porous border as a sign the rule of law is breaking down. Amnesty provisions such as this executive order make sense in that deporting all 800,000 illegal youngsters is no more feasible than deporting all of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. But doing so effectively makes a mockery of the concept that laws on the books must be enforced.

However, the timing of the announcement at the start of a long general election campaign strips away any pretense that the decision has been dictated by anything but politics, especially because the president could have issued this executive order at any time in the last three years. As to the impact on the November election, it may help bring out the Hispanic vote for the president in some states, but it is also likely to create a backlash among the majority who believes illegal immigration is a serious problem. That makes it doubtful the move will have much effect on battleground states such as Arizona and New Mexico, where the large number of Hispanics who may be happy about the decision will be offset by other voters who see it as an example of how the administration has disregarded their concerns about the impact of illegal immigration on their communities.

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Rubio and the Mexican-American Vote

At CNN, Ruben Navarrette dismisses the notion that tapping Marco Rubio for the VP nomination would give Republicans an edge with Hispanic voters. Navarrette writes that the preferred status given to Cuban immigrants is a sore spot with the Mexican-American community, and that rift could become an election issue if Rubio’s the VP pick:

When it comes to immigrating to the United States, Cubans get preferred status. Thanks to the Cuban Adjustment Act, which was enacted in 1966 — or four years after Rubio’s grandfather came to the United States — Cuban refugees who flee the Island and reach the U.S. shoreline have a clear path to legal residency and eventual citizenship.

Mexican immigrants aren’t so fortunate. So when Cuban-Americans do what Rubio has done since arriving in the Senate 16 months ago and take a hard line against illegal immigration, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans have been known to cringe. After all, that’s easy for them to say. …

What good does it do the ticket for Rubio to be popular with whites and Cuban-Americans? Republicans are likely to get the majority of those votes anyway. His value is all wrapped up in how well he plays with Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. And right now, the answer is “not well.”

Navarrette’s point on the Cuban-American vote is important. While Obama swept the Hispanic vote in 2008, John McCain still won with the conservative Cuban-American community. The Romney campaign’s big electoral argument for choosing Rubio as VP would be that he could deliver Florida, and in that scenario, winning the Cuban-American vote by a landslide is redundant.

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At CNN, Ruben Navarrette dismisses the notion that tapping Marco Rubio for the VP nomination would give Republicans an edge with Hispanic voters. Navarrette writes that the preferred status given to Cuban immigrants is a sore spot with the Mexican-American community, and that rift could become an election issue if Rubio’s the VP pick:

When it comes to immigrating to the United States, Cubans get preferred status. Thanks to the Cuban Adjustment Act, which was enacted in 1966 — or four years after Rubio’s grandfather came to the United States — Cuban refugees who flee the Island and reach the U.S. shoreline have a clear path to legal residency and eventual citizenship.

Mexican immigrants aren’t so fortunate. So when Cuban-Americans do what Rubio has done since arriving in the Senate 16 months ago and take a hard line against illegal immigration, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans have been known to cringe. After all, that’s easy for them to say. …

What good does it do the ticket for Rubio to be popular with whites and Cuban-Americans? Republicans are likely to get the majority of those votes anyway. His value is all wrapped up in how well he plays with Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. And right now, the answer is “not well.”

Navarrette’s point on the Cuban-American vote is important. While Obama swept the Hispanic vote in 2008, John McCain still won with the conservative Cuban-American community. The Romney campaign’s big electoral argument for choosing Rubio as VP would be that he could deliver Florida, and in that scenario, winning the Cuban-American vote by a landslide is redundant.

Rubio is a strong candidate and there are plenty of other reasons for Romney to consider him. He’s charismatic, serious, bridges the conservative grassroots and the Republican establishment, and has a compelling personal narrative. Of course, there are plenty of other potential VP choices out there with comparable qualities. As Karl Rove argued persuasively in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, choosing the best person for the job should outweigh political considerations when picking a VP. Rubio’s ability to help Republicans make inroads with the Hispanic vote shouldn’t be the chief factor in the equation.

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Myths About the Hispanic Vote

From the beginning of the 2012 presidential campaign, one of the sidebars to which commentators have consistently returned is the impact of the Hispanic vote on the November election. Republicans have been cautioned, not without reason, to remember that the growing percentage of Americans of Hispanic background didn’t think much of their obsession with illegal immigration. And they have been tempted to think that the presence of a Hispanic — most notably Florida Senator Marco Rubio — might not only deliver his home state to the GOP but also allow the party to make inroads nationally on a demographic group that tilts heavily to the Democrats.

Josh Kraushaar writes today in the National Journal to point out that a lot of the assumptions about Hispanic voting trends may be myths. Most notable is the idea that Hispanics are likely to stick with the Democrats even generations after they have arrived in the country. He also is correct to point to that the assumption that Republican attitudes on immigration are similarly set in stone. But there is one more point about the Hispanic vote that also ought to be taken into consideration when discussing 2012 and the future.

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From the beginning of the 2012 presidential campaign, one of the sidebars to which commentators have consistently returned is the impact of the Hispanic vote on the November election. Republicans have been cautioned, not without reason, to remember that the growing percentage of Americans of Hispanic background didn’t think much of their obsession with illegal immigration. And they have been tempted to think that the presence of a Hispanic — most notably Florida Senator Marco Rubio — might not only deliver his home state to the GOP but also allow the party to make inroads nationally on a demographic group that tilts heavily to the Democrats.

Josh Kraushaar writes today in the National Journal to point out that a lot of the assumptions about Hispanic voting trends may be myths. Most notable is the idea that Hispanics are likely to stick with the Democrats even generations after they have arrived in the country. He also is correct to point to that the assumption that Republican attitudes on immigration are similarly set in stone. But there is one more point about the Hispanic vote that also ought to be taken into consideration when discussing 2012 and the future.

The assumption that Hispanic voters are a monolithic group with similar backgrounds and points of view about the issue is also a simplification that has a lot more to do with the desire of pundits and political scientists to make points than it does with political reality.

Those voters who fall under the Hispanic rubric are actually members of a diverse set of groups that are often defined more by their national origin than their language. Puerto Ricans (who are already American citizens before they arrive on the mainland), Cubans and Mexicans are distinct groups with often very different ideas about identity and politics. Thus, the notion that Rubio, the son of Cuban émigrés who would have a real impact on the outcome in Florida, would have a natural appeal to immigrants from Mexico and their descendants or Puerto Ricans may be more of a GOP fantasy than anything else.

Kraushaar, however, is spot on when he punctures the widely held idea that Hispanic political identity is static rather than dynamic and likely to be heavily influenced by economic and social advances by immigrant communities. As he writes, it appears that Hispanic political identification with the left decreases markedly as immigrants and their children become settled. That means that unlike African-Americans, whose social mobility has been more affected by a past history of racism, and Jews, an immigrant group many of whose members have embraced liberalism as part of their religious faith rather than as merely a political avocation, Hispanics are getting more Republican the longer they are in the country. That will present a problem for President Obama and other Democrats who assume they can use the immigration issue to increase their electoral advantage.

Kraushaar may be a bit over-optimistic about Republicans dropping immigration as a conservative litmus test. A harsh response to illegal immigration may be losing traction as a wedge issue in the country at large, but as we saw this past winter and spring, it remained an applause line for GOP audiences at the presidential debates. And because it provided Mitt Romney with the one issue on which he could outflank some of his more conservative opponents on the right, it probably received more attention than it ordinarily would have. However, there has always been a constituency for common sense on immigration within Republican ranks as the support of President George W. Bush and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal and now Marco Rubio demonstrated in the last decade.

All these factors point the way to a political future in which an explosion of voters with Hispanic backgrounds might not be the bonanza for Democrats that they and their cheerleaders in the mainstream media think it is.

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Texas Public Policy Is Case Study

Labor-related immigration to the United States has always been driven by basic economics. Border security is certainly essential to any country’s obligation to safeguard its homeland, but the volume of immigration from Mexico was a blaring message from the labor market that even (sometimes especially) self-described free marketers chose to ignore.

Hopefully those politicians will heed the lessons in a new report, mentioned approvingly here by Michael Barone at the Washington Examiner, that net illegal immigration from Mexico is now zero–that is, immigration has tapered off and is now below replacement levels. Barone says he cannot vouch for the exact numbers in the report, but he thinks “they’re very much in the ballpark.” Falling birthrates in Mexico and an American recession have contributed to the change, but they do not seem to be the main drivers. Here’s Barone:

For some years I feared that Mexico could not achieve higher economic growth than the United States since our economies have been tied so tightly together by NAFTA since 1993. But in the past two years, Mexico’s growth rate has been on the order of 5 percent to 7 percent. It’s looking like Mexico’s growth rate is tied not to that of the United States but to that of Texas, which has been a growth leader because of its intelligent public policies which have prevented public employee unions from plundering the private sector economy.

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Labor-related immigration to the United States has always been driven by basic economics. Border security is certainly essential to any country’s obligation to safeguard its homeland, but the volume of immigration from Mexico was a blaring message from the labor market that even (sometimes especially) self-described free marketers chose to ignore.

Hopefully those politicians will heed the lessons in a new report, mentioned approvingly here by Michael Barone at the Washington Examiner, that net illegal immigration from Mexico is now zero–that is, immigration has tapered off and is now below replacement levels. Barone says he cannot vouch for the exact numbers in the report, but he thinks “they’re very much in the ballpark.” Falling birthrates in Mexico and an American recession have contributed to the change, but they do not seem to be the main drivers. Here’s Barone:

For some years I feared that Mexico could not achieve higher economic growth than the United States since our economies have been tied so tightly together by NAFTA since 1993. But in the past two years, Mexico’s growth rate has been on the order of 5 percent to 7 percent. It’s looking like Mexico’s growth rate is tied not to that of the United States but to that of Texas, which has been a growth leader because of its intelligent public policies which have prevented public employee unions from plundering the private sector economy.

Remember when a certain Texas governor was warning fellow Republicans that education and a strong economy were better solutions than a fence? Though the symbiotic economic relationship between Texas and Mexico is long established, and Mexican reforms in the mid-1990s have helped keep the peso stable, recent trade between the two has increased and been a boon to both countries:

Three Texas customs districts, Laredo, El Paso and Houston, rank among Mexico’s top four trading partners. Collectively, they accounted for roughly $235 billion in trade between Texas and Mexico from January to September 2011, according to United States Census data analyzed by WorldCity, which tracks global trade patterns. The figures show an increase over 2010 despite the American recession and unprecedented violence in Mexico because of warring drug cartels.

One more time: an increase over 2010 despite the American recession and unprecedented violence in Mexico. Texas has been a job creator and engine of growth during a recession and global economic downturn in two countries, stabilizing immigration levels along the way and buttressing the argument for free trade. Of course, it’s worth noting that to produce this economic success story, Texan public policy is just about the polar opposite of that of the Obama administration. If nothing else, the first Obama term has at least given us a tidy case study.

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Can the GOP Gain Ground With Hispanics?

Political observers have been warning Republicans for the last several years that the willingness of many of its leaders to indulge in immigrant bashing was a mistake. While Americans have every right to ask that their laws be enforced, the hyping of illegal immigration as a major campaign issue is a decision that may affect the GOP’s ability to appeal to Hispanic voters for years to come. The question is, are there enough Republicans willing to take the flack from the party’s grass roots to work on legislation that is not only fair-minded but might actually give Republicans a fighting chance to win Hispanic support?

The answer from Senator Marco Rubio is yes. Politico reports the rising Republican star is hoping to gather enough GOP votes to enable the Senate to pass some version of the DREAM act which would create a path to citizenship for children of illegals who seek higher education or military service. But though Rubio’s plan makes sense, Senate Democrats are not wrong to point out that this bill has zero chance of being passed by the Republican House this year.

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Political observers have been warning Republicans for the last several years that the willingness of many of its leaders to indulge in immigrant bashing was a mistake. While Americans have every right to ask that their laws be enforced, the hyping of illegal immigration as a major campaign issue is a decision that may affect the GOP’s ability to appeal to Hispanic voters for years to come. The question is, are there enough Republicans willing to take the flack from the party’s grass roots to work on legislation that is not only fair-minded but might actually give Republicans a fighting chance to win Hispanic support?

The answer from Senator Marco Rubio is yes. Politico reports the rising Republican star is hoping to gather enough GOP votes to enable the Senate to pass some version of the DREAM act which would create a path to citizenship for children of illegals who seek higher education or military service. But though Rubio’s plan makes sense, Senate Democrats are not wrong to point out that this bill has zero chance of being passed by the Republican House this year.

That’s hardly surprising given the way most of the Republican presidential candidates pandered to anti-illegal immigrant sentiment during the primaries. Though accused by conservatives of being a Massachusetts moderate, immigration was one issue on which Mitt Romney was able to get to the right of most of the field. The one outlier on immigration was Newt Gingrich. Gingrich was correct to point out that it was both heartless and impractical to think that 12 million illegals were going to be deported. But his scheme that envisioned the creation of local immigration boards — after the pattern of the draft-era Selective Service boards — was a non-starter.

Romney, who was endorsed this week by Rubio, is opposed to the DREAM act in its current form but has said he would be open to a version that was restricted to those children of undocumented immigrants who wished to join the military. Other Republicans have been willing to go along provided that the act stops short of granting such persons full citizenship.

Given the popularity of a harsh response to illegals within Republican ranks, it’s doubtful that Rubio’s initiative has much chance. Denouncing measures, such as Texas’ decision to grant in-state tuition discounts to such children, as Romney did during the presidential debates, is an easy applause line among conservatives. But, as Rubio points out, penalizing the children of illegals, who broke no laws on their own, doesn’t make much sense or help the country. America needs more productive and educated citizens. Stigmatizing the illegals merely keeps them working in a shadow economy and does no one any good.

As for the GOP, it would do well to follow Rubio’s advice. While Romney won’t lose the 2012 election because of his stance on immigration, in the long run, Republicans need to find a way to reach Hispanic voters. Given the social conservatism of much of that demographic, they ought to be fertile ground for the Republicans. But until the party stops using illegals as a punching bag, Hispanics will remain firmly in the Democrats’ pockets.

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