There are a number of reasons to reform our nation’s immigration laws. I’m married to an immigrant and can think of several. Of course, these reforms should be linked to better enforcement of immigration laws and better border security. But one reason NOT to support immigration reform is to improve Republican prospects with Latino voters.
Whether it’s characterized as craven pandering for political gain, or, as a prudent response to changing voter preferences – the bottom line is that immigration reform is not an answer to the Republican’s poor standing with Latino voters.
Rather than make a bone-headed, reflexive response, let’s try to actually understand the political preferences of Latino voters. My view is that Latinos, as a group, are just very liberal and that pursuing immigration reform has little upside and a lot of down-side risk. Basically, there is little chance of actually producing sound immigration reform that will engender Latino support, but there is a great chance that a failed attempt at reform will only put us in a deeper hole.
We could have a long discussion on Latino’s cultural worldviews, but for brevity, I would point to Pew’s poll of American Political Preferences – http://www.people-press.org/2011/12/28/little-change-in-publics-response-to-capitalism-socialism/
On Capitalism: most ethnic, age, income, and political groups view Capitalism positively. One exception was supporters of Occupy Wall Street: 45% were positive toward Capitalism against 47% negative. Latinos? 32% were positive towards Capitalism and 55% were negative towards Capitalism! Latinos are more hostile towards Capitalism than Occupy Wall Street! By a large margin. Literally no ethnic grouping, no age grouping, no income group, or any set of political identifications (Democrat, liberal, or Occupy Wall Street) were as hostile to Capitalism as Latinos.
On Socialism: most ethnic, age, income, and political groups view Socialism negatively. Occupy Wall Street, surprisingly, were negative to Socialism by a 52%-39% margin (perhaps they don’t understand what Socialism is – or they’re just stupid). But again, Latinos were more favorable to Socialism than Occupy Wall Street – with 44% viewing it favorably to 49% unfavorably. Only Blacks, those aged 18-29, and Liberal Democrats viewed Socialism more favorably than Latinos. Not exactly “natural Republican voters.”
So let’s think about this. How exactly is any immigration reform going to cause people who are hostile towards Capitalism to vote Republican? It won’t, and it’s a pipe dream to think otherwise. Mind you, the very same people pushing this line of thought are the very individuals who were convinced that Mitt Romney would win. Why should we, again, defer to the ‘wisdom’ of the D.C. consulting class?
I think Charles Krauthammer, in the quote above, phrased the case for “Latinos should be Republican” most succinctly. So let’s break this down:
“… striving immigrant community …” What about being an immigrant makes you conservative? The ‘striving’ part? Does ‘striving’ make you conservative?
“…religious, Catholic, family-oriented and socially conservative (on abortion)” Ok, this is really what the “Latinos should be Republican” logic is all about. First of all, as I showed above, Latinos are not conservative when it comes to economics. But could they be socially conservative?
I’m skeptical to this view simply because it’s no secret which party is Pro-life and which party is pro-abortion. It’s no secret that Republicans are the tradition, religious, and family values party. If Latinos were going to vote based on abortion, or traditional family values in general, then Republicans wouldn’t have a problem with Latinos! I would posit that any Latino who would vote Republican because of social issues is already voting Republican.
Now, you could say that, perhaps resolving the immigration issue, or at least softening some of the rhetoric, might make it easier for Latinos to vote based on social issues. But you still have the problem that Latinos are unambiguously liberal on economic issues. Abortion hasn’t changed this, and neither will amnesty, or any kind of immigration reform.
Black voters are very liberal economically and a significant, and growing, constituency. What are Republican doing to pander to them? What about young people, who are also very liberal politically? Should we pander to them to?
If we’re going to be serious about competing for Latino votes we have to address the core problem – their economic liberalism. Either we find ways to win without the Latino vote, or, we need to pursue realistic and persuasive measures to convince them of the virtues of economic conservatism. Because, right now, a more Latino nation means a more liberal nation.