April 2, 2006

Immigration Politics

"The Republican Party is Split on Immigration" scream the headlines. We certainly have some disagreement around here. I don't see Democrats providing real leadership here, and I question that a united front is doing them much good.

I have had to face opposition to my views from Thomas Sowell and Victor Davis Hanson. A friend emailed this article with the Subject "Hanson." I thought it was the band. Of course, VDH has written a whole book about adverse effects of rampant illegal immigration and unassimilated Mexican people in has native California.

I have repeatedly made the case for a guest worker program, and said early that it could be packaged as a compromise with stricter security, resulting in a GOP win. I have faced the squeamish task of defending those who broke the law, those who refuse to assimilate, and even the ridiculous marchers who flaunted their ignorance and opposition to this country's ideals.

That's tough work for a law-and-order guy but I think that the economic advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, and that a guest worker program is a step toward a legal, controlled process that recognizes the exigencies of 11 million folks who are, well, here.

A very good point made by the other side was poll numbers showing overwhelming support for enforcement. As blog pragmatist, I have to look toward victory but feel that the support is "a mile wide and an inch thick," and that leadership could show people the benefits and overcome the demagoguery that has plagued this issue.

Bill Kristol seems to back me up in this week's Weekly Standard." In Y is for Yahoo, Kristol indulges in some name calling to a Representative from my state. But he also repeats the truth that the electorate has not been that kind to those who espouse policies that can be thought anti-immigrant.

The leaders of what he calls "THE HOUSE CAUCUS TO RETURN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY TO MINORITY STATUS--also known as the House Immigration Reform Caucus" all happen to be from safe seats. Statewide office holders have to be more moderate.

Dana Rohrabacher has represented a safe GOP seat in Orange County for almost two decades. He's chosen never to run statewide. In California, Republican governor Pete Wilson exploited the immigration issue to help get reelected in 1994, and the voters passed a Republican-backed anti-immigration measure, proposition 187. No Republican candidate except the idiosyncratic Arnold Schwarzenegger has won statewide since.

Virgil Goode has a safe GOP seat in Southside Virginia. He's never run statewide. Last fall, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Jerry Kilgore, tried to exploit illegal immigration by denouncing a local community that wanted to build a shelter that might accommodate some illegals. He lost, in a red state, a race he had been favored to win.

Anti-immigration yahoo Tom Tancredo carried the sixth district of Colorado comfortably in 2004 (though running slightly behind pro-immigration George W. Bush). But in Tancredo's state, the GOP did miserably in 2004, with Democrat Ken Salazar winning the Senate seat and Democrats gaining control of both houses of the legislature. Meanwhile, in the safe fifth district of Iowa, Steve King did run two points ahead of George W. Bush in 2004. King was able to outspend his challenger 10-1, while Bush faced a huge Kerry effort in that swing state.

Four GOP senators voted in the Senate Judiciary Committee for the comprehensive immigration bill these blustering House members believe is electoral suicide: Arlen Specter, elected and reelected in blue state Pennsylvania; Mike DeWine, elected and reelected in swing state Ohio; and Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, and Sam Brownback from Kansas--both very popular in their red states. John McCain, lead sponsor of a bill that resembles the Senate Judiciary Committee bill, has a pretty impressive electoral record in Arizona, a competitive state. George W. Bush, a pro-immigration Republican, has won two presidential elections--as did another pro-immigration Republican, Ronald Reagan.

Adding these examples to Pete Wilson's temporary gains but long term GOP minority in California, I do not see this as an election winner.
The American people are worried about immigration. In a Pew Survey released last week, 52 percent of Americans saw immigration as a burden, while 41 percent said it strengthened the country; 53 percent support sending illegals home, while 40 percent endorsed a path to citizenship. Given the hoopla about illegal immigration, this division is in fact surprisingly close. In any case, it means GOP senators and congressmen--and presidents--have plenty of room to show leadership and to resist demagoguery. Most Republican officeholders know that the political--and moral--cost of turning the GOP into an anti-immigration, Know Nothing party would be very great. It could easily dash Republican hopes of becoming a long-term governing party. How many Republicans will have the courage to stand up and prevent the yahoos from driving the party off a cliff?

UPDATE: An AP/Ipsos poll shows support for guest worker programs.
The survey found 62 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans favored temporary worker status.

"If I were in the White House, I would be pretty pleased about this," said Charles Franklin, a University of Wisconsin political science professor who studies public opinion. "It does suggest pretty strongly that the president has the opportunity to drive public opinion on this."

Immigration Internecine Posted by John Kranz at April 2, 2006 12:13 PM

VDH's last two paragraphs say about everything I believe on this subject.

I'll be your huckleberry, JK: "How does a 'guest worker' program stop the future flow of illegal immigrants?"

It will do that, won't it? Isn't that a problem that needs to be solved? Do we agree on that?

Posted by: johngalt at April 3, 2006 3:11 PM

I agree with almost all of VDH's last two paragraphs. I said in an email the other day that a permanent underclass is a concern with a guest worker program. I think that the advantages outweigh this risk and Iím not sure Professor Hanson agrees.

Huck? The guest worker program does three things to reduce illegal immigration:

1) Given a safe and legal method, most legal workers would abjure the dangerous coyotes and illegal crossings;
2) Given access to legal guest workers, companies would hire these legal workers at a premium over illegals;
3) This would give the US a more solid economic and moral footing to toughen border security.

Posted by: jk at April 3, 2006 4:06 PM

First of all, "reduce" is a weasel word. One percent is a "reduction." I said "stop." By this I mean cut by 95% or more. Isn't that the goal? Efficacy?

To analyze the rest I tried to find the links to the Senate subcommittee bill I was reading over the weekend but couldn't put my mouse on it today. I wanted to look for definitive measures that would address each of your points. Failing that, for now, I'll wing it.

1) Wouldn't this be simpler and more effectively achieved by merely raising the quota on legal immigrations from Mexico?

2) If this were true then wouldn't companies be hiring legal citizen and resident alien workers now, also at a premium?

3) I disagree with this one at its root. Our moral footing is nonexistent as long as we refuse to officially acknowledge the premise I put forth in your first elevator talk. Beside that, what makes you think if border security isn't tightened now that it will be in the future? It's not just terrorists that need to be kept out, its anyone who's not willing to follow our laws. The first one they're faced with is, you don't get to come in without scrutiny, due process and intent to assimilate. Sorry, that's just the way it is (and the way it has to be.)

Posted by: johngalt at April 4, 2006 3:34 PM

By reduce I mean greater than 50%, likely towards 80-90. The efficacy will be determined by the other part of a "comprehensive" immigration package, which is increased enforcement. I know that Congress will provide heightened enforcement enough for me, I lobby for the part that is up in the air: the guest worker program.

1) Yes, a dramatic increase in H2-B visas would meet most of my needs, I consider that equivalent to a guest worker program. A large difference is what to do with 11 million people who are already here.

2) I assume that there is currently a premium for legal workers and know there is a huge premium for assimilated, English speaking workers. This would provide more workers that are cheap and legal, which is good for the economy.

3a) If we close the border tomorrow and send everybody home, jobs will go unfulfilled, that is the economic footing. When we supply sufficient legal workers, we can enforce the border without economic damage.

3b) As for moral footing (I propose jk's law: you and I will never agree on anything that has the word "moral" in it), I find it immoral to tell people who want the work that they cannot have it. Right now, we have this crazy anti-Bastiat way to look the other way when some come in. Give me your lucky and shifty enough not be caught masses... A legal method would be moral to those who came and give us every right to be tough on those who ignored these new legal means.

3c) I gave up on the Elevator Talk, it was shot down by shoulder guided missiles from a rogue philosopher junta. I'm back to rambling and dissembling...

Posted by: jk at April 4, 2006 6:31 PM

OK now, please forgive me if I wander a bit here but this is a complicated subject I'm learning more about every day.

You liken the guest worker program to an H2B visa given to some or all of the millions of illegal immigrants already here. That implies that, as with the H2B visa, these workers are here TEMPORARILY and are coming for a job with an expressly stated duration of 1 year or less.

But your explanations of points 2 and 3 above imply that the worker is already here and available to employers looking for help. But when an H2B visa expires the worker is REQUIRED (save for up to 2 years of extensions) to leave the country, ostensibly to return home. Will this be the case with "guest worker?"

Please don't be so despondent over our differences friend. We certainly agree it is immoral to "shoot a man in Reno, just to watch him die." We also agree that individuals have a natural right to create and to take jobs without permission from the government. But there is also an important tool for self-preservation known as citizenship that must sometimes trump the rights of individual NON-citizens. That's what's at issue here after all.

Posted by: johngalt at April 6, 2006 3:00 PM | What do you think? [5]