National Review: Welfare-Sucking Hispanics Are Politically Hopeless Anyway


The cynical take on President Barack Obama suddenly making an issue out of comprehensive immigration reform is that, passage or no passage, the president and his party will find it politically advantageous to touch off a Republican-on-Republican fight, preferably one that will expose a particularly off-putting strain within the GOP.

That's not just my cynical take–Obama-sympathetic commentators such as Slate's John Dickerson have endorsed this as a basic governing strategy going forward. It may rankle those of us who have dared notice that president is constantly setting new records for family-wrecking deportations, but then, such symbolic opportunism wouldn't work nearly as well without an opposition willing to underperform even the soft bigotry of low liberal expectations.

Cue the National Review:

[I]f we are to take Hispanics at their word, conservative attitudes toward illegal immigration are a minor reason for their voting preferences. While many are in business for themselves, they express hostile attitudes toward free enterprise in polls. They are disproportionately low-income and disproportionately likely to receive some form of government support. More than half of Hispanic births are out of wedlock. Take away the Spanish surname and Latino voters look a great deal like many other Democratic constituencies. Low-income households headed by single mothers and dependent upon some form of welfare are not looking for an excuse to join forces with Paul Ryan and Pat Toomey. Given the growing size of the Hispanic vote, it would help Republicans significantly to lose it by smaller margins than they have recently. But the idea that an amnesty is going to put Latinos squarely in the GOP tent is a fantasy.

Apart from calling them hostile, anti-capitalist, welfare-sucking poors, NR's editorial really insults Americans of Spanish-speaking descent by denying them the basic agency of independent political action. This Romneyesque method of applying Marxist-style economic determinism to entire voting populations is not just wrong, it's self-defeating. Advantage, Obama.

The shame here for actual policy (and the millions of lives such policy impacts), is that National Review is otherwise right (and Obama wrong) that "piecemeal reform" is preferable to "comprehensive" legislative goliaths on such a difficult and politically charged issue. Any comprehensive package would likely speed us further toward national ID cards, even bigger deportation numbers, even more law enforcement on the border, and even more Washington-managed bureaucracies for human movement and employment. Few if any of these measures would be net positives for either freedom or basic rationality. And all would be bitterly contested.

But while those fights soak up the oxygen, there is a piecemeal reform politicians on both sides could and should get behind easily: Dramatically increase the number of legal visas. As Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick recently pointed out, "The best way to prevent illegal immigration is to make sure that we have a fair and workable system of legal immigration." Liberalize the law, and you create fewer lawbreakers.

There is zero reason to hold this good policy hostage to other immigration-related agruments, whether about "amnesty" or border security or workplace raids or drivers' licenses or English-only rules. Those who insist on using shaming exercises to advance pro-immigration policies could produce much more clarity by asking their opponents–and themselves–the same question: What are you doing, concretely and discretely, to significantly increase the number of visas for legal immigrants?