Report: Immigration at Current Levels Will Likely Hurt Republicans. So What?

Credit: Thomas Hawk/wikimediaCredit: Thomas Hawk/wikimediaJames Gimpel, a professor of government at the University of Maryland, has written a report for the Center for Immigration Studies, the restrictionist think tank, on the impact immigrants had on politics from 1980 to 2012. Among Gimpel's findings are the following:

...the enormous flow of legal immigrants in to the country — 29.5 million 1980 to 2012 — has remade and continues to remake the nation's electorate in favor of the Democratic Party.

and,

...if legal immigration levels remain at the current levels of over one million a year, it will likely continue to undermine Republicans' political prospects moving forward. Further, if the substantial increases in legal immigration in Senate's Gang of Eight bill (S.744) were to become law it would accelerate this process.

Gimpel says the following in the conclusion of the report:

Republican reservations about higher immigration levels can be too easily typecast as racist and xenophobic. This is because the party's elites have failed to deliver a clear message that they want a pro-immigrant policy of reduced immigration…

I'm not sure how a "policy of reduced immigration" can be "pro-immigrant," but it is certainly true that the GOP has failed to convey a clear message on immigration policy. This is in part due to the fact that a broad range of opinions on immigration are represented among Republican Party members and lawmakers, some of whom are hesitant to take up immigration reform despite the fact that polling shows that passing immigration reform would not hurt Republicans in this fall's midterms.

Some conservatives might think that the political implication of increased immigration is a good reason to restrict the movement of people into the U.S. I think opposing immigration for fear of immigrants' political opinions is one of the laziest and most selfish reasons to back restrictionist policies, especially considering that it takes years for legal immigrants to become eligible to vote.

I know from personal experience that becoming a U.S. citizen after holding a green card is an absurdly long process. Those who oppose increased immigration because of the political implications should keep in mind that immigrants must have a green card for at least five years before applying for naturalization. Immigrants can become U.S. citizens by marrying an American, although even then they need to have been a green card holder for at least three years. However, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, naturalization is the most common path to U.S. citizenship. I think five years is more than enough time to make a political argument to immigrants that they should back team red instead of team blue. Personally, I'd rather they not vote for either, but I digress. 

As the Reason Foundation's Shikha Dalmia has pointed out, there are things the GOP could do to win immigrant voters if they looked north and learned from the lessons of Jason Kenney, Canada's former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, who not only crafted what Dalmia describes as "the conservative charm offensive toward immigrants" but who also "persuaded conservatives that immigrants’ attachment to their native religions, customs and tongues enrich — not threaten — broader Canadian culture. Strong patriotism in Canada now correlates with strong pro-immigrant attitudes, according to the Migration Policy Institute."

Dalmia goes on to outline changes the Harper administration made in Canada, such as the lowering of arrival fees and cutting taxes for small businesses, which allowed the Conservative government to appeal to immigrants without sacrificing conservative principles. Perhaps Republicans should consider arguing for doing the same. 

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  • Pro Libertate||

    The whole point of the "debate" is the belief that illegal immigrants legalized will largely tend to vote for the Democrats. That's the Democrats sole motivation in the whole discussion.

    For the Republicans, there are, I think two factors. Opposition to the one above and a concern about the dilution of "traditional American values" by the influx of large numbers of aliens.

    So, in essence, the battle is almost purely a political one for votes, and most of the rhetoric is bullshit.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    "traditional American values" is a poor substitute for actual principles

  • Pro Libertate||

    If the GOP based their opposition solely on not adding to the welfare rolls or whatever, it might be a little more defensible. But they've no more enforced immigration laws than the Democrats have, so the problem, such as it is, is their responsibility, too.

  • lap83||

    It might be nice to imagine a world in which people are motivated by principles and not values, but that's not where we live.

    Arguably, you could even say libertarians aren't motivated by principles considering how many don't vote.

  • Virginian||

    So, in essence, the battle is almost purely a political one for votes

    This. It's why the entire topic pisses me off so much. Even more so than most political issues, it's not even close to being about some principle. It's purely about adding voters to TEAM BLUE. Nothing more, nothing less.

    If the Hispanic vote flipped so that most of them were voting Republican, the two parties would switch positions on immigration instantly.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    "So What"?

  • Skip||

    If millions of ex-Warsaw Pact, anti-communist people were coming across the border, liberals would be setting up machine guns and mine fields.

  • John||

    So what is that it is a bit rich to expect a party to vote against its own interests. Also maybe the fact that this would hurt the GOP is a reflection of the fact that it would hurt their supporters? Again, it is awfully easy for you me or anyone else to say these people should jump on that grenade. It is however a bit rich to be surprised when they won't do it.

    This is how democracies work or at least how they are supposed to work. If something is against a particular groups' interest, they express that by voting for a representative who will look out for their interests by objecting. I don't see how you can say that principle should only apply when those interests are something you like.

    It would probably hurt the Democrats to walk away from the Public Sector unions. The way you solve that problem, assuming you want to do something about the public sector unions, is to build a coalition to beat the Democrats. The solution is not just to stamp your foot and demand the Democrats tell their supporters to go fuck themselves for the good of the hive.

  • Dweebston||

    I'm not going to applaud the "buy America first" crowd when they vote in favor of higher tariffs or other barriers to entry, nor liberals when they logroll union concerns out of political self-interest. Why should it be any different if conservatives make a hash of labor economics?

    Besides, it looks like they're already hoisted on their own petard by fighting insipid proxy battles like this while progressives are winning the war.

  • John||

    No one says you have to applaud them. You just have to understand they are what they are. It does no good to just demand that they vote against their own interests because you say so.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Polls are clear that immigration reform would not hurt the GOP's midterm performance.

  • Winston||

    So can Reason stop concern trolling about GOP electability now?

    And does Reason support "immigration reform" itself? Does it matter what it actually says? And why do you expect Congress to put up an immigration reform bill that won't be shitty?

  • Homple||

    Feeny's article makes sense once you realize that libertarians are only interested in talking about their principles rather than working out strategy, tactics, and actions to get them implemented.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Homple's comment makes sense once you realize that he is subconsciously disturbed by his own hypocrisy and needs to deflect from it.

  • Homple||

    And, Cytoxic trots out the old "you disagree with me because you have a psychological defect" argument. Badly played, badly played.

  • PapayaSF||

    Homple is correct. The more-immigration-the-better libertarians are cutting their own throats out of principle. Sure, it squares with the free-movement-of-people principle, but importing millions of voters who tend to be anti-libertarian in ideology (pro-government social conservatives) works against every other libertarian principle.

    And all the talk about "reaching out to immigrants" is nice but largely hopeless. If libertarians can barely reach out to native-born American college students, how much luck are they going to have with Hispanics who come from societies with education systems with an even more pro-government tilt? And then come here and enter the maws of the ethnic victim ideology that controls basically every public school system and welfare system in the country?

  • Hawk Spitui||

    Oh, I don't know... when it comes to needing a rationale for planting their asses in someone else's country without invitation, they get the libertarian religion right quick!

  • MWG||

    As opposed to your religion (Collectivism) that says we need an "invitation" from big daddy to live where we want.

  • OldMexican||

    the enormous flow of legal immigrants in to the country — 29.5 million 1980 to 2012 — has remade and continues to remake the nation's electorate in favor of the Democratic Party.


    And especially when most conservative political pundits have not toned-down the anti-immigrant rhetoric for which they're well-known, in many cases helping the Demo-rats obtain the votes of Latinos and Asians, a voting population that is much less monolithic than the African-American block.

    Due to the abject stupidity of commentators on the right like Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingram and the rest of the economically-illiterate conservatives, the Republican party is finding itself less comfortable talking about more liberty-friendly and economy-friendly concepts like immigration reform. I am reminded of the sad story of Erich Koch, the Reichskommissariat for Ukraine during 1941 to 1943, whose anti-Slav policies drove what was an anti-Soviet population into the arms of the Soviets, something thought to be impossible. In this case, something which seems impossible is about to happen: turning otherwise conservative peoples towards the arms of leftist demagogues.

  • Homple||

    Of course the rhetoric of the conservative pundits is directed against ILLEGAL immigrants, but libertarians seem to have a mental block that prevents them from pairing the word "illegal" and "immigrant" in the same thought. Thus any criticism of illegal immigration is automatically repression of all immigrants.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Homple,

    Of course the rhetoric of the conservative pundits is directed against ILLEGAL immigrants,


    What would be the difference? Both legal and "illegal" immigration IS immigration.

    libertarians seem to have a mental block that prevents them from pairing the word "illegal" and "immigrant" in the same thought


    Because the argument that illegal immigration is bad is a false argument; it is based entirely on the notion that the GOVERNMENT has the last say in what is moral and evil and what is not.

    Also, I don't think you have heard or read the arguments posited by these pundits. They talk about the great wrong that is illegal immigration while, at the same time, espouse the idea of the "right" kind of legal immigrant - the so-called highly skilled - as if they had some superhuman insight on what the market needs or wants. Never mind that even immigration for highly-skilled workers is a painful and protracted process precisely because of the irrationality of current laws which leave too much to immigrant bureaucrats' discretion. The talk about the "right kind" of immigrant only serves to distract the uninformed listener from the real issue which is the still-high demand for unskilled labor in the U.S. and the reasons why it is so high.

  • Drake||

    Sure - and cashing checks and robbing banks are both withdrawals. What's the difference?

  • MWG||

    Of course entering the country illegaly is just like robbing a bank.

  • Root Boy||

    Some of that still-high demand for unskilled labor is self fullfilling due to the illegals coming over. Farmers won't invest in labor saving machinery and so they lobby for amnesty. Same with building industry - labor saving tech is not adopted as fast and all the home builders want (and most middle class people who also want a cheap maid/child care) is cheap carpenters and bricklayers.

    Currently we're just importing poverty, because due to that low skilled labor demand we have a self-renewing population of welfare recipients (even if they work).

    I don't see the problem in having an orderly system that is biased towards educated immigrants. And yes, it should be a formula so the bureaucrats aren't picking and choosing and should not be based on family ties.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Root Boy,

    Some of that still-high demand for unskilled labor is self fullfilling due to the illegals coming over.


    Great economic insight! So if there are no more immigrants, the demand becomes, ipso facto... ZERO!

    Right?

    IDIOT!

  • Root Boy||

    Tsk, Tsk. So mad on the internets. Thought you were better than that.

    Demand does not drop to zero. We're talking a range. As the number of unskilled drops wages go up, companies invest in labor saving technology. Everybody gets richer except the campesino who stays in Chihuahua. He pressures his fucked up gov to implement reforms in Mexico. Win-Win.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Root Boy,

    Tsk, Tsk. So mad on the internets. Thought you were better than that.


    Ha! Be a man and learn some economics. What you said had clear implications: remove the supply and the demand will disappear.

    As the number of unskilled drops wages go up, companies invest in labor saving technology.


    Let's get a few things clear here. First, there's a limit to how much you can automate a process. I am an engineer, so I know.

    Second, this idea of yours is nothing more than an iteration of the Broken Windows fallacy: If you impose a cost on businesses, it will be good because it will spur economic development. Except, you cannot know what other investments a company would've made if it didn't have to spend it on automating processes that were previously performed by unskilled labor.

    Again - learn some economics.

  • Root Boy||

    Engineer here too. Supply of low skill workers will not drop to zero if we enforce existing immigration laws and deport illegals. It will drop, and wages will rise. You really doubt that?

    It's not broken windows by any means, and yes there are plenty of things that can't be automated, but look up what an automated tomato picker is and I'm sure you've heard of factory built homes. Both tech that is slowly being adopted due to cheap labor.

    I know I'm arguing from a non-libertarian position. I just know that amnesty (what I thought we were arguing about) and open borders will eventually turn Texas red, make this a poorer country, and give the Democrats a monopoly on power - I probably benefit from illegals, but I don't want Pres. Hillary followed by Pres. Coumo.

    Then you will see me on the roof of my home shooting at looters after the economy collapses.

  • Virginian||

    turning otherwise conservative peoples towards the arms of leftist demagogues.

    Ah yes, the generally laissez-faire governments of Latin America give testament to the fundamental conservatism of Hispanic immigrants.

    Also, that was a beautiful Godwin.

  • Root Boy||

    Rush and Coulter have close to zero influence on immigrant voting patterns. They don't listen to those people. They do however listen to Lulac, MeCha and the DNC who are out pushing the line that Conservatives are racist and do things only for the rich (throw Libertarians into this grouping as well).

    They do this through advertisements and by being out in the neighborhoods. Plus, as Virginian said, Latin Americans are generally not anti-government. They like their handouts and handholding just a little more than most natives and white people.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Virginian,

    Ah yes, the generally laissez-faire governments of Latin America give testament to the fundamental conservatism of Hispanic immigrants.


    Maybe your thinking is simply too insular or you're too obtuse, I can't say. But you are clearly oblivious to the fact that Latinos start businesses at the highest rate in the U.S. compared to the overall rate. That should tell you something.

    Second, whereas most Latin American countries do in fact suffer under authoritarian governments, these are normally so corrupt that they lack the teeth to control people to the level that the US government can achieve, which means Latinos are more accustomed to TRUE laissez-faire life than most Law-abiding (i.e. submissive) Americans.

    Most Latinos are family-centered people, committed to religion. I've found that the second generation immigrants tend to lose their conservative values because of the Amerikan Pulbic Skool Seistem Dat Teeches Tem To Writ and Raid and that also teaches them to disdain freedom.

  • Homple||

    "I've found that the second generation immigrants tend to lose their conservative values because of the Amerikan Pulbic Skool Seistem Dat Teeches Tem To Writ and Raid and that also teaches them to disdain freedom."

    It's not so much that they aren't taught about freedom but they are taught that they are aggrieved minorities. Many of them begin to wonder why dad wears himself out roofing in 100 degree weather and mom cleans the behinds of senile gringos for no money while the rest of the aggrieved minorities get to live and party without any effort at all . This is our racially divided welfare state in action.

  • Winston||

    which allowed the Conservative government to appeal to immigrants without sacrificing conservative principles

    What conservative principles?

  • Cytotoxic||

    .the enormous flow of legal immigrants in to the country — 29.5 million 1980 to 2012

    That's not enormous. That's tiny. America is in desperate need of WAY more immigration.

  • PapayaSF||

    Nonsense. Unemployment isn't high enough? We desperately need more low-skilled workers? The Hispanics who stand around on corners in SF, and all the unemployed black teenagers, would beg to differ.

    It astounds me how libertarians understand supply and demand applies to everything, except labor. Some tightening of the labor market will raise wages at the bottom. It'll also raise prices, but lower welfare costs. On balance, I think it would be good.

  • Root Boy||

    Agreed, and this is the primary reason I'll never know the secret libertarian handshake.

    Sure, if we decimated the welfare state (corporate and individual) the importation of poverty would tail off, but I see no signs of that happening.

  • PapayaSF||

    The whole issue is amusingly reminiscent of ideological struggles within Communism in the '20s and '30s: Socialism in one country, or world-wide revolution? As much as I would like to see libertarianism everywhere, I think it's naive and impractical to think it's a good idea for the one country where it has a small but noticeable following to import millions of anti-libertarians from other countries.

  • Hyperion||

    that immigrants must have a green card for at least five years before applying for naturalization

    Immigrants can become U.S. citizens by marrying an American, although even then they need to have been a green card holder for at least three years.

    This is incorrect.

    If you are married to an American citizen. Then you only have to be married for 2 years and be currently holding a green card, and you can apply for naturalization.

  • Hyperion||

    I have to correct myself here, you have to have been married for 3 years and have had the green card for 3 years - 90 days, or 2 years and 9 months. I think that is now correct. Not sure what I was thinking...

  • MWG||

    This is correct. It's funny how many people assume my wife was granted citizenship the day we got married.

  • pmains||

    Ah, yes. You're referring to the same people who insist that US embassies and military installations abroad are US soil. The ones who think I must have been naturalized at some point, because I was born in a foreign hospital and yet, somehow am an American citizen. In short, I am referring to border agents who hassle me between Phoenix and San Diego.

  • BambiB||

    It doesn't just hurt Republicans. It hurts the Country.

    The Democrat agenda includes socialized and government-run everything. This either means much higher taxes, much larger deficits - or both.

    America is already $17 trillion in debt, facing over $210 trillion in unfunded mandates over the next 50 years, and currently borrows about 1/4 the cost of running the Federal Government.

    The LAST think America needs is more millions of new arrivals voting for "freebie" handouts from the government - which will DESTROY America.

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