Amnesty: The Open Borders Lobby Strikes Back
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If the Republican Party ever betrays even a glimmer of good sense about such issues as mass immigration and amnesty for illegal aliens, you can count on the open borders lobby to march in to fix it quick. Last week, as President Bush's amnesty concept sank lower and lower among congressional Republicans, the chief organ of the lobby, the Wall Street Journal, predictably was on the spot.

More particularly, its main Washington columnist and soon-to-be editor, Paul Gigot, an ideological libertarian who is virtually obsessive in his support for more immigration, came up with a small armada of arguments as to why conservatives really should like the amnesty idea. The problem is that every argument he floated can be torpedoed. Let's take them one by one.

The main argument Mr. Gigot offers is purely political. "Look down the road and the only way Republicans can be a majority party is if they do better among Hispanics," he writes. "A Bush amnesty is precisely the kind of large political event that could shake up those allegiances." Whether an amnesty for millions of illegal aliens who broke our laws to come here is a good thing for the country, for the rule of law itself or for immigrants who obey the laws is never even mentioned. All that matters is whether amnesty will help pull Hispanics into Republican ranks.

But it's not true that Republicans can remain a majority party only by gaining Hispanics. As I and others have argued repeatedly, they can remain a majority party far more easily if they increase their non-Hispanic white share of the vote to what it was in the 1970s.

Mr. Gigot also assumes that any restrictions on immigration (let alone mere refusal to grant amnesty) will alienate all Hispanics. That's not true either, and it happens to be intensely ethnocentric, assuming a stereotype of Hispanics as overwhelmingly and necessarily in favor of immigration. Many are, but immigration isn't the only issue that determines the Hispanic vote.

Mr. Gigot also tells us that "Hispanics are gaining in overall voter share, from 5 percent in 1996 to 7 percent last year and an expected 9 percent in 2004. Matthew Dowd, Mr. Bush's pollster, says that this trend is already turning safe GOP states into tossups, notably Nevada and Florida."

But this argument ignores contrary analyses that suggest that the Hispanic proportion of the electorate in the next few years will be considerably more limited (Mr. Gigot often seems to confuse Hispanics as a proportion of the national population with Hispanic share of the registered electorate, which is far smaller). Moreover, if Mr. Bush's own pollster says more Hispanic voters turn safe GOP states into tossups, why is that an argument for Republicans to encourage more immigration and more Hispanic voters?

Mr. Gigot is right that eventually there will be more Hispanic voters and probably that an increasing number will support more immigration and vote against politicians who favor restricting it. But why should such trends be encouraged by pandering to the Hispanic bloc? Why shouldn't Republicans cut off immigration now, work to return illegals to their native countries and rally their traditional white, middle-class voting base that has given them landslides for the last 30 years? Mr. Gigot never tells us.

He also cites Mr. Dowd as claiming that "Hispanics change their perception of the GOP as they move up the income scale. Liberalism is not part of their ethnic identity. A February 2000 Zogby poll showed that Democratic affiliation plunges among Hispanics who make more than $50,000 a year."

That's also not true, and it's contradicted by a new study of Hispanic political trends from the Center for Immigration Studies. The report, released just this week, finds that "Democrats lead Republicans by a comfortable margin in the partisan identification of Latino voters. The gap is even wider among immigrant Latinos who have not yet become citizens. As many of these non-citizens naturalize, the political affiliation of Latinos is likely to shift still further toward the Democratic Party."

The same report also finds that "Latinos become more Democratic, not less, with increasing education and tenure in the United States. Rising income also does not appreciably change Latino partisanship. Contrary to the thinking within the Bush White House, there is no evidence that a significant percentage of the Latino vote is 'in play.' Current immigration policy is slowly but steadily shifting the nation's electorate toward the Democratic Party."

As a well-known [ VDARE note: Click here for Slate Magazine's low opinion of Gigot's abilities]  libertarian ideologue, Mr. Gigot favors mass immigration for philosophical reasons that are transparent to those who know his writing—not because of the political pragmatism he spouts in his column. He'd be well-advised to stick to those dogmas, because when he deviates from them into what he imagines is "pragmatism," his arguments are transparently silly.


August 23, 2001

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