Democrats Should Fight For Immigrants, Not New Voters

Latinos want driving rights more than voting rights

On immigration reform, Republicans are supposed to be the bad guys and Democrats the good guys. Republicans think only about their own political interests, Democrats only about poor immigrants and the country.

The part about Republicans is certainly true. But the part about Democrats? Not quite.

Democrats could likely pass comprehensive immigration reform today without sacrificing any immigrant — legal or illegal, high-tech or low-skilled — if they'd simply give up their quest for a new vote bank.

Every aspect of our immigration system is broken, especially the employment-based part.

A majority of foreign techies can't get a work permit or H1-B because of the insanely low annual cap on these visas. And if they do get one, they have to wait decades for their green cards because those, too, have an insanely low cap. During this time, these workers can't switch jobs and their spouses can't work. In effect, they and their families are in indentured servitude to their sponsoring company. Every sensible lawmaker aside from a small band of ultra-restrictionists — largely though not exclusively in the GOP — agrees that removing these quotas upon quotas is a noble goal.

But Democrats want "comprehensive" — as opposed to piecemeal — immigration reform that simultaneously tackles not just the issues of high-skilled workers, but also low-skilled ones, including amnesty for a very large and mostly Latino unauthorized population. Republicans claim that unless the border is sealed, an amnesty deal would only encourage more border jumping.

This is backward thinking. Latinos come to the country illegally not because they like breaking the law, but because they have no choice. If landing H1-Bs is hard, landing H2-Bs — temporary work permits that nonagricultural low-skilled foreigners need -- is nearly impossible. Latinos who get them have to leave immediately after their job is done. They can't stay on and apply for green cards. The upshot is that they are forced to either enter illegally or stay illegally. Or both.

It is not fair to penalize Latinos who responded to such perverse incentives by denying them amnesty. And fixing these incentives for future Latinos would require creating a usable guest worker program complete with a green card option, just like skilled workers have.

Republicans understand the importance of incentives, so the real reason they are resisting is that they fear that amnesty will hand Democrats millions of new voters — which is precisely why Democrats won't give an inch on the issue.

Democrats' insistence on comprehensive reform makes sense to the extent that fixing the high-skilled component piecemeal would leave Republicans little incentive to return to the table to tackle the problem of unauthorized Latinos. However, this doesn't mean that citizenship for illegals can't be deferred if they are given a path to legalization now.

It would be far preferable from the standpoint of the American polity to extend full citizenship to the unauthorized population sooner rather than later. It is simply not healthy for a country founded on equality to have in its midst a permanent underclass that is taxed but can't vote.

But from the standpoint of the illegals themselves, "green-cards-now-citizenship-later" would be an acceptable compromise. They want to come out of the shadows and build a life in broad daylight. They really want to be able to drive cars legally, and not necessarily to hit the polling booths. Indeed, nearly two-thirds of the 5.4 million Mexicans in the United States who are eligible for naturalization haven't applied for it.

Rush Limbaugh, a fierce critic of amnesty, recently said he would be willing to go along if its beneficiaries weren't able to vote for some years. This isn't exactly noble, but it is progress.

But instead of building on such openings, Democrats seem determined to hold out for the full enchilada. Last week, they even excoriated poor Gov. Jeb Bush, an ardent advocate for regularizing immigrants' status, just because his latest book flirts with the idea of legalization short of full citizenship. For his labors, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., even called him a "fool."

In short, to garner more Latino votes, Democrats seem willing to hold hostage a reform package that might: fix the existing guest worker and permanent residency program for high-skilled workers; create a new guest worker and a permanent residency program for future low-skilled workers; and hand green cards to unauthorized immigrants.

Six years ago, Republican stupidity torpedoed a Republican president's reform efforts. Now Democratic cupidity might derail a Democratic president's reform efforts. The victims then as now will be immigrants of all stripes and hues — not to mention the U.S. economy. It'll be interesting to see what President Obama does about it.

This column was originally published in the Washington Examiner.

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  • Flemur||

    "The part about Republicans is certainly true."

    Reason should really find a less dishonest writer to scribble about immigration.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I'm not sure that it isn't true. Congressional Republicans are about as self-serving as Congressional Democrats, which is very.

  • dinkster||

    Many comments on this story seem to suggest that voting Republican voting Democrat.

  • dinkster||

    "greater than"

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Shikha sez "It would be far preferable from the standpoint of the American polity to extend full citizenship to the unauthorized population sooner rather than later. It is simply not healthy for a country founded on equality to have in its midst a permanent underclass that is taxed but can't vote."

    Democrats support this, Republicans oppose it. So it's the Democrats who are bad. To coin a phrase, Huh?

  • R C Dean||

    It is simply not healthy for a country founded on equality to have in its midst a permanent underclass that is taxed but can't vote.

    As long as it is clear up front that they can live and work here, and pay taxes, but can't vote, and they come voluntarily on that basis, I'm not sure I see a problem. I'm not even sure I think legal immigrants can legitimately be called an "underclass", to tell you the truth.

  • John||

    My wife's boss is one of those underclass immigrants. He is a world renown medical researcher who pulls in over a half a million dollars a year. But since he can't vote here he oppressed or something.

  • H. Protagonist||

    We had 16% turnout in the Mayoral primary here in Los Angeles. Seems like the right to vote isn't worth much to those who have it anyways.

  • John||

    If he wants to trade salaries, he can have my vote.

  • dinkster||

    Los Angeles doesn't elector mayors based on gold teeth count?

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Case # 142,871 demonstrating that Cosmos value equality over liberty.

  • Killazontherun||

    It's Vanneman. The dumbest Jew since the one that starred in Jurassic Park. An embarrassment to the tribe, really.

  • dinkster||

    If you can't trust immigrants to support freedom and liberty, how can you ever expect the people who are already here to do so? Hell, given the 900k votes GJ received, we might as well pass the ball deep and see how they will sing. Libertarians can only go up from here.

  • Sidd Finch||

    Logical consistency is hard for professional concern trolls.

  • John||

    In short, to garner more Latino votes, Democrats seem willing to hold hostage a reform package that might: fix the existing guest worker and permanent residency program for high-skilled workers; create a new guest worker and a permanent residency program for future low-skilled workers; and hand green cards to unauthorized immigrants.

    Well no shit. First, they want voters. Democrats don't care about opportunity or the economy. They care about power and votes. The last thing they want is Latins getting jobs and starting businesses and such. They want them on the dole and they want them voting. Any immigration bill that doesn't accomplish these two goals, more people on the dole and more Dem voters, is DOA.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Yep.

    Earlier this year they killed an attempt to shift immigration quotas from family reunification to skilled workers.

  • Tim||

    Democrats want voters and Republicans like to scare their base with boogey men. Both sides want their lawns mowed for sub minimum wage. All interests converge.

  • John||

    Yup. And Democrats also don't want competition with unions. Keeping illegals illegal keeps them from competing with unions.

  • ChrisO||

    Not necessarily. The political calculus has changed somewhat in recent years. SEIU sees millions of potential dues-paying members.

  • John||

    And one other thing, the more blindly left wing Latins become, the less likely there will ever be immigration reform. Why should the Republicans support something that won't get them votes? And why should Democrats support a bill that is opposed by blacks and unions and satisfies a group whose votes they are going to get anyway?

  • Tony||

    Unions are on board with immigration reform, but not a guest worker program.

    Why wouldn't Democrats want more Latinos able to vote?

  • Tim||

    "Cage goes in the water, you go in the water. Shark's in the water. Our shark...
    [sings] Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain. For we've received orders for to sail back to Boston. And so nevermore shall we see you again. "

  • ChrisO||

    "Comprehensive" reform tends to be crap, whatever the subject. Dalmia's right in that immigration is really a bunch of different issues that should be addressed separately.

    The best real-world outcome would probably be the one that makes everyone unhappy. Nobody's going to get everything they want on immigration policy, since there are too many conflicting aims.

  • Homple||

    "Democrats could likely pass comprehensive immigration reform today without sacrificing any immigrant — legal or illegal, high-tech or low-skilled — if they'd simply give up their quest for a new vote bank."

    Yes, but the only thing they want is a new vote bank. That's been the goal of their immigration strategy since 1965. That strategy had done well for them, so why should they deviate from it?

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Who hacked Shikha's account?

  • ||

    Republicans understand the importance of incentives

    [citation needed]

  • dinkster||

    shareholder incentives, maybe.

  • Nyk1||

    And we're supposed to believe Shikha Dalmia is actually a libertarian? Ha! It should be clear to everyone by now that Whites (with their unique Western culture) practically invented classical liberalism and libertarianism and thus are the most likely to hold libertarian beliefs. Yet Shikha would want to lower the proportion of the people with libertarian outlook and increase those who think that having a caste system is the best thing since sliced bread.

    Dalmia, do yourself a favor and return to your native India or Pakistan, because at the end of the day the US will be looking just like India, Pakistan, or Mexico as soon as the non-Whites become the overwhelming majority of the US. So there will soon be no advantage for you to live in the US as opposed to India.

  • ||

    Look who's back, everyone!

  • GW||

    This has merit. Don't think so? Allow open immigration with immediate citizenship and the right to vote. In 10 years, you will not recognize this country.

  • dinkster||

    Because open borders automatically creates free and immediate citizenship? False dilemma much? Should we dream up some other false and highly unlikely scenario in order to discredit some basic human right? You sound like Tony.

  • dinkster||

    And why does it worry you in either case? Do you falsely believe in Republicans?

  • dinkster||

    You seem concerned that immigrants are going to vote Democrat over Republican. My response is "Who Cares?"

    If 10% of them swing Libertarian, I call it a victory.

  • JeremyR||

    -10%, maybe. 100% Democrat (counting voter fraud), 10% Republican

  • effinayright||

    The country was also founded on the rule of law.

    Illegal immigrants came here illegally....remember?

  • dinkster||

    The Irish had a caste system. In Ireland. They immigrated just fine. PS Fuck off slaver.

  • dinkster||

  • Tony||

    Poor Republicans. They can't win on this issue. Latinos don't like their anti-immigrant rhetoric, but if the GOP embraces reform then all we'll have is a bunch more Latinos voting for Democrats. Surely whoever thought up the "fire up the base" strategy realized it couldn't work forever. Old white people die off same as anyone else.

  • dinkster||

    So what are the hyper progs in SF and NY going to do when they realize the vast majority of Latinos are orthodox catholic? Try to ban religion?

  • dinkster||

    http://cara.georgetown.edu/Hispanic Catholics.pdf

    More than half to 90% identify as Roman Catholic, according to this source.

  • dinkster||

    Like some self identified libertarians actually being racist xenophobes?

  • XM||

    The US allows around 500,000 people to be permanent residents, depending on what category you belong. If you didn't make it in a given year, you just have to wait until next year, or whenever it's your turn.

    Unless what you want is a truly open borders policy, I don't see the immigration process will be reformed to the point where there's ZERO incentive to cross the border or overstay your visas after you flew in here. We're probably dealing with millions of applicants every year. We would have to change the way the government itself runs to see any difference, and we'll be reliably blocked by our left wing friends in that effort.

    If we ever went full on open borders, we might indeed see foreign engineers, doctors, techies, and other skilled workers flood the job market. At that point, the left leaning American folks in the tech industry might get just a bit nervous.

  • mollyblixtegelind||

    my buddy's sister makes $70/hr on the computer. She has been out of work for 8 months but last month her pay check was $18807 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this site http://www.jump30.com

  • dinkster||

    You think your job is threatened by unskilled immigrant labor? How sad for you. The skilled workers, scientists, and engineers get visa's anyways.

  • dinkster||

    Every one in a performance based field shouldn't overly concern themselves.

  • dinkster||

    Shit i'm a victim of the same fallacy, apparently. Correction, no one should concern themselves.

  • dinkster||

    Oh yeah, you also seem to be the victim of the lump of labor fallacy. These people want to buy stuff the same as everyone else. The economy will grow.

  • dinkster||

    Free trade and closed borders are simply incompatible ideologies. Human capital will drive costs down.

  • dinkster||

    Africa has MASSIVE amounts of market distortion via other countries walking around and shooting people.

  • JeremyR||

    I disagree

    Free trade is only possible if you have people living in other places that have something worth trading.

    If all the scientists and engineers and doctors (and other highly skilled people) emigrate from their home countries to the US, who is going to stay home and produce trade goods? Who is going to be able to afford the luxury goods the US makes?

    And conversely, you have all these people in the US you no longer can get jobs, because they face competition from people immigrating. If Americans can't find good jobs in engineering fields or the like, because someone off the boat will work for half the salary (or even simply be better at it), then they go on the dole.

    You're creating an underclass of people in the US, people who are educated but can't find jobs.

    In an open borders plan, these people would be expected to move to other countries to find work. But how many Americans are going to move to a 3rd world country to find a job?

  • grey||

    Is Jeremy some kind of random word generating bot? Just give me the porno link, at least that makes sense. Go read Bastiat's Essays on Political Economies and see if you can still type this kind of tripe without throwing up in your mouth..

  • JeremyR||

    No, they want to send the money they earn back to their home countries.

  • dinkster||

    You don't think the work they do for that money contributes to the local economy? I thought these multitudes of zero-sum fallacies weren't present in a libertarian forum.

  • grey||

    Zero sum fallacies are pervasive. Everywhere I look the gentle hand of government, nobody mentions the rough hand.

    The OPs statement is as ignorant as believing low cost imports hurt us. Hurt us more please, send us labor and low priced products and materials.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "A majority of foreign techies can't get a work permit or H1-B because of the insanely low annual cap on these visas."

    Why should there be any guest worker programs, subsidizing corporations with less than citizen human widgets?

    Political asylum is a fine reason to allow immigration. Corporate subsidies are not. Any immigration for economic benefit should be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Set the limit. Auction the supply.

  • mauboy_j||

    my roomate's ex-wife makes $62/hr on the internet. She has been without work for ten months but last month her pay was $20049 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this web site http://www.jump30.com

  • Dona Marina||

    Go to hell.

  • Dona Marina||

    BS, Shikha.
    Do you remember the amnesty of 1986 - the amnesty to end all amnesties?
    Do you know it was made illegal at that time to hire illegal aliens in our country?
    Do you know it was made illegal at that time to harbor an illegal or encourage him/her to enter or remain in our country?

    Do you realize those 1986 laws have been mostly ignored?
    Do you realize those 1986 laws are openly violated by American municipalities with their "Sanctuary City" declarations?
    Do you realize Portland, Oregon, supports, with tax revenues, a day labor site for illegal aliens?

    Shikha, I find it impossible for you to know the above-facts and still cry tears for those people who openly flaunt our laws, overcrowd and dumb down or educational system, overcrowd our prisons and drain our social resources.

    Shikha, if you want a person or a group of people to be practical about illegal immigration, may I suggest support for Mandatory National E-Verify?

    You admit jobs are the major attraction for those who violate our immigration laws. Prevent them from being hired in our country and they will self-deport back to where they came from, and where jobs are available to them.

    Common sense, Shikha.

  • christacampbell147||

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  • Dona Marina||

    Go fuck yourself.

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