Immigration Reform-Part 8: Summing It Up

First and foremost, I would like to thank anyone who took the time to read and comment. I do believe that the issue of immigration reform will play a role in the 2012 elections and possibly beyond. With challenges to Arizona’s SB 1070 working their way to the Supreme Court and the continued problems along the southern border, it is bound to be an issue. Because it is, as someone suggested, everyone’s #20 priority does not make it any less serious. Immigration policy and reform touches upon other areas that ARE of higher priority concern- things like jobs, better wages, the role of unions, education, health care, crime and other issues. One cannot necessarily reform immigration laws without impacting these other areas and vice versa. So simply not discussing it or devoting eight postings to the subject does not make the issue disappear.
Secondly, someone mentioned that the GOP will never win the Hispanic vote and cited examples. In New Mexico and Nevada, two Hispanic Governors were elected losing the Hispanic vote while a third in 2010- Marco Rubio in Florida for Senate- lost the non-Cuban Hispanic vote. All this is true. But doesn’t the fact that they DID win despite losing the Hispanic vote give the GOP pause for hope? I do not think that the goal is to win the Hispanic vote. Just as blacks will never identify with the Republican Party does that mean that we should abandon policies that may benefit blacks along with every other American? Immigration reform would benefit all Americans because it is not a Hispanic issue. In fact, every poll I have read of Hispanic concerns say they are, in order: education, jobs, wages, crime. Immigration reform figures somewhere around #8 among Hispanics.
Also, it is somewhat disingenuous to state that the GOP will never “win” the Hispanic vote. At one time, Republicans owned the Cuban vote because Cubans viewed GOP policies as more sympathetic to their plight than Democratic Party principles. Second, Hispanics are, by and large, a more right-of-center group of people. Granted, not all, but most. For example, Puerto Ricans tend to be more liberal than your Colombian who are to the left of Cubans. The term Hispanic draws in many nationalities all with their own political proclivities. However, let us just assume the GOP will “never” win the Hispanic vote. Just weakening it can turn elections in certain areas.
A co-worker of mine who is Hispanic asked me if I was “afraid” of the growing Hispanic population in the United States and I told him I was not. I was not afraid because, like blacks or any other ethnic group, despite their “fastest growing segment of the population” status, they are still not near taking over the majority of the population. Blacks more than anyone should fear the growing Hispanic population. And also, like any other ethnic group, their electoral effects are greater at the local level than at the national level. That is, they may affect the election of a Congressman from an area of Texas or Florida or even New York, but nationally they still represent only X% of the population. And finally, who is to say that all Hispanics are going to fall lock step behind the Democratic Party? The GOP should be touting our Hispanic elected officials as examples to up and coming Hispanic politicians. Also, as long as they are legal- and I have written in the past that voter ID laws are a must- I have no fear of their voting power as a bloc. While many cite the fact that Obama got 67% of the Hispanic vote, let us not forget that McCain got 33% of that vote. With policies that benefit all Americans- whether Hispanic or not- the GOP can cut into that 67% level of support. However, allying themselves with other ethnic voting blocs could change the equation. That is why it is imperative that the GOP make it known that our values most closely resemble the values of the Hispanic community.
Regarding the number f illegal immigrants, the 11 million number comes from a variety of sources- the Census Bureau, CIS, Pew Hispanic Center, FAIR, etc. Of course on self-reports, there is deception. They lied to get into the country in the first place. The alternate- the cited 20 million- comes from another source that depended on parameters like foreign remittances and ESL enrollment. However, there are pitfalls here. I know of many, many ESL students who are here legally and are not Hispanic. With remittance amounts, I ask which area has a higher illegal population: one where two people remit $50,000 or one where 100 people remit $1,000? Regardless the Heritage Foundation based their analysis on 11 million. Incidentally, the 20 million comes from a single study by Bear Stearns. Given their performance in the housing debacle, I would be suspect of any figure they concluded.
Regarding the fact that illegal immigrants come here to perform jobs that “Americans will not do” and to state that this is akin to some liberal mantra is simply false. No American in their right mind aspires to pick beans, help repair roofs, bus tables and install drywall. However, that does not mean that there is an American potential labor pool lacking. We cannot “force” people to do these menial tasks, but we can reform our penal system to take advantage of “cheap labor.”
Someone commented on the alleged depression is wages theory of illegal immigration. Just using the food industry where many illegal immigrants end up working- be it on the farms or in the processing area- they mentioned that labor costs made little difference. However, the USDA reports that 38.5% of the cost of food is attributable to labor. Hence, any effort by the employer to lower these costs is the obvious motivation in hiring illegal workers. Obviously, this is done to maximize profits. That is Economics 101. The comparisons of the food industry, for example, to the Nevada housing construction industry, which employed illegal immigrants without passing on “savings” to consumers, is like comparing apples to oranges. So many other factors contributed to the spiraling cost of home prices, like easy credit or lax underwriting guidelines, fraud, and speculation. When asserting that employers are unwilling to pay a market wage, we get into a circular argument. What is a market wage for low skill labor? Is it what a union says? What the employer says? The average of the two? What a person is willing to work for? If it is the latter, then we know the results because you will not find too many Americans working these jobs. The point was that by removing illegal immigrants from the equation, it would affect wages a mere 2% meaning that their presence depresses wages very little. Hence, we are at the market wage (less a miniscule 2%). What does a 2% raise buy these days? This is the argument of the unions and nothing else although their motivations are suspect.
Regarding fencing and borders, I was unaware that the Boeing project was halted. And the government is notorious at underestimating the costs of anything let alone something as complex as a border fence. The latest cost I heard for a border fence would be $49 billion, and that is not counting the costs of land acquisition. Obviously, this is prohibitively expensive for something of dubious merit.
The comments regarding “attrition through enforcement” in lieu of some form of limited amnesty- and I call for LIMITED amnesty- is something that should occur on a simultaneous path with other reforms. Note that I stated that enforcement regimens should proceed, that anyone who opts out of what is offered would lose out in the end, that those already in deportation proceedings be excluded (including them WOULD BE blanket amnesty), or those that overstayed visas be excluded.
However, enforcement alone will never solve the issue as it hasn’t to date. Drying up the demand for low skill labor through innovative programs like prison labor or using first time drug offenders, enhanced enforcement with financial penalties with teeth, employer verification, selective border fencing- real or virtual, visa reform and dealing with the long-term illegal immigrant- a candidate we would most likely want as an American citizen anyway, and getting away from the family reunification paradigm, all instituted on a simultaneous path is the only solution to the problem. Statements like “border security first” or “amnesty first” need not be. While heels are dug in, the problem remains.
Final note: Thank you dcacklam for an EXCELLENT history of the concept of birthright citizenship.