The Immigration Debate Is Over in California

But it continues at the federal level.


As the cliché goes, elections have consequences. And the Nov. 6 election results have had a dramatic consequence in California. The debate over immigration—legal and otherwise, and especially otherwise—is now over. Even some Republicans are joining with Democrats to promote the "path to citizenship" for people here illegally.

The reason is obvious. Democrats—buoyed by overwhelming support from the state's Latino voters—won every constitutional office in California and gained supermajorities in the Assembly and state Senate. Even the small band of legislative Republicans is noticing the growing percentage of Latino voters in GOP-leaning districts.

The biggest evidence of the shift will be evidenced at this weekend's California Republican Party convention, where immigration policy debates will have a different dynamic. "California's elected Republicans have long had a simple approach to illegal immigration: Those who broke the law coming here should leave," reported the Los Angeles Times in a recent news story. "But the confluence of politics and personal threat have now put many Republican legislators in Washington and Sacramento in a very different place."

It's a place that must be uncomfortable for many Republicans, after years of running hard to the right to appeal to base voters in conservative districts. Some Republicans now are embracing what party activists still refer to as "amnesty" for those immigrants already here illegally. Others are supporting the Obama administration's plan to overhaul the nation's immigration laws. Others still are accepting the once-radical notion of granting drivers' licenses for "undocumented"—and this is the proper use of that loaded word here—drivers.

There no doubt will be a fight over such matters at the party confab in Sacramento and elsewhere, with grassroots activists taking a "hell no" position, but the battle is over. The California party's future is iffy right now, which is bad news given how desperately the state needs serious pushback against the "tax, spend, and tax again" policies of the state's Democratic Party. Without a change in its immigration approach, the party is done.

My views have changed over the years, but tend toward the "open" side given my libertarian dislike of government policies that stop individuals from charting their own course in life. But critics raise some serious questions about Balkanization, and the costly impact on the state's infrastructure and public services. The right has been unduly mean-spirited in its rhetoric on illegal immigration and the left has unconscionably used the issue to divide our state along ethnic lines. Never mind all that. The debate is done because the politics changed.

Fighting over immigration policy in California now is as fruitful as arguing over women's suffrage. Those on the losing side need to get over it and move on—for their own good as well as the good of the party. As one state GOP official said in the past, it's hard to lure people to a party that wants to deport their grandmother.

The issue of illegal immigration has roiled this state since the 1970s and has dominated almost every political discussion I've been a part of since moving here from Ohio in the late 1990s. From education to pension to infrastructure issues to policing issues, the illegal immigration debate has been at least lurking in the background.

This is still a debate at the national level. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll reveals that a majority of American citizens "believe that most or all of the country's 11 million illegal immigrants should be deported," according to a Reuters report. "Only 5 percent believe all illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States legally, and 31 percent want most illegal immigrants to stay." The Obama administration has sparked controversy with its latest reform plans.

Regardless of national politics, the matter is settled in California. Unfortunately for the state's Republicans, the mere softening of their positions may be viewed as pandering. Latino voters who are dismayed by the GOP's long-time hard line policies on immigration are unlikely to be wooed by the party's newfound kinder, gentler approach. This may help in a generation or two, but probably not soon. Meanwhile, Republican base voters who are upset about illegal immigration will lose their enthusiasm for the party.

Instead of fixating on immigration policies, the GOP needs to focus on what policy geeks call the "politics of aspiration." The party needs to advocate policies that help all Californians improve their lives. These are right in the GOP wheelhouse—regulatory reform, pro-growth economics, improved education through competition, union reform, and private-sector jobs creation. This is the old Jack Kemp model of selling the benefits of the free market to Democratic constituencies.

The dismal election results might help the GOP in the long run by convincing its leaders to embrace a more positive agenda on immigration and other matters. That may be grasping at straws but it's better than still grasping onto an old, failed approach.

NEXT: Poll: 61 Percent of California Residents Support Gay Marriage

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  1. To be sure, Paddington left Peru for England. Not the U.S.

    1. my buddy’s mother makes $82/hour on the laptop. She has been out of a job for nine months but last month her check was $18071 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on this web site…

  2. It’s over. The Americans lost.

    1. Re: Drake,

      It’s over. The Americans lost.

      Yes. Prepare to meet your next overlord:

      1. And that is good Old Mexican? They can’t even fix old Mexico. It stinks there and it now stinks in California. Really stinks. Mexicans have destroyed a once
        wonderful country.
        Proud are you? It is sad that there is now graffiti in our forests. Never saw that before your proud nationality came here. Sucks Old Fart.

    2. Let’s not forget Prop. 187 was legally passed by the American citizens. Had it taken effect all these Mexicans would not be here. But of course Mexico flushed it’s toilet on us.

  3. Why does it have to be a path to citizenship? Just make it so anyone who wants one can get a green card. That way they can work and live here and there still can be some controls on who votes and who becomes a citizen.

    1. We should operate like Delta House, only accepting legacies or, well, anyone who pays to get in.

      1. That was a great idea until we elected Obama. Now, I doubt anyone would pay to get in anymore.

    2. Exactly how many should we let in?
      How much land and resources do you think
      We have at the detriment of our own country and people’s future? United States is the only
      Country expected to have poreous borders, why is that? Open borders are not good for a country, maybe we should start tent city like other countries. It is Not illegals right to break the law
      Them say they have rights. Their rights belong on the country they left. American citizens are not sinister for protecting borders, land and resources. Our culture is just as important as any
      Other country, so why are we expected to diversify. No assimilate is what made america
      What it is. People with the same goal, not several groups with their own agendas.

  4. Mexico and the rest of the world is now part of the U.S.? Migration?

    1. Timbuktu is American territory after all!

    2. Maybe CA is part of Mexico now. They can have it if they want.

    3. Is migration not the movement of animals from one place to another?

      1. People immigrate to the United States. They don’t migrate to it. Californians moving to Texas is migration.

        1. One can migrate from anywhere to anywhere. There is no convention that migration is only intranational.

          1. Then why do write of such a thing as immigration if it is all just migration?

            1. “Immigration” helps to distinguish which direction the migration is going. Immigration is into a country, emigration is out of a country.

  5. Democrats?buoyed by overwhelming support from the state’s Latino voters?won every constitutional office in California and gained supermajorities in the Assembly and state Senate.

    And how’s that working out for California?

    1. Re WTF,

      And how’s that working out for California?

      None too well. Are you saying that it is the fault of the immigrants that the Republicans are such assholes?

      1. No, I’m saying electing Democrats to an unopposed supermajority, with their love of state expansion, regulation, fiscal irresponsibility and taxes is foolish. The Republicans can be ‘assholes’ all they want, they have no influence over policy in California.

      2. they’re assholes for believing the country is not a theme park and that illegal entry carries attendant costs for everyone else?

        1. Re: wareagle,

          they’re assholes for believing the country is not a theme park and that illegal entry carries attendant costs for everyone else?

          No, they’re assholes for thinking that immigrants think the US is just a theme park and for thinking that immigrants increase costs instead of lowering them through very real economic phenomena of Division of Labor and Comparative Advantage.

          1. A net calculation is hard to factor due to the interconnectedness of the state and market, especially in a shit hole like California. There’s certainly extremely generous benefits afforded to illegal immigrants in the US though. And the demographic reality favoring Democrats probably has a lot less to do with each party’s immigration policy than it does with the myriad other issues on which the legal and illegal population of California have reached full consensus: MOAR GUBMINT!

          2. “instead of lowering them through very real economic phenomena of Division of Labor and Comparative Advantage.”

            In a laissez faire, market your are correct. However, in our current society with generous education, medical, and welfare benefits that statement is incorrect.

      3. It is the fault of the illegal 3rd world invaders that California has turned into a shithole.

        1. Notice how once these 3rd world invaders came in how awful it is to live here now.

      4. You would think you would call yourself Old American. Are you from Mexico?

    2. Why they’re running budget surpluses now and it’s all sunshine, rainbows, and high speed trains from here on out! Also, extreme levels of unemployment and poverty somehow.

  6. Jack Kemp was a loser time and again, if I recall correctly. Good policy doesn’t necessarily lead to more votes. Hello!!!

    Read up on Henry Clay!!! He never was President. There is a reason for it.

  7. What can the GOP do to avoid further alienating what has become an essential part of the Democratic constitutency?

    How stupid can you be, Steve? If only the GOP supported every leftist position then they wouldn’t be disliked by Leftists?! Genius!

    I suppose the next article will be about how the Dems should abandon support for abortion because it alienates conservatives?

    1. Re: Marshall Gill,

      How stupid can you be, Steve? If only the GOP supported every leftist position then they wouldn’t be disliked by Leftists?! Genius!

      The GOP *is* already supporting a totally and quintescencial leftist position, called “anti-immigration.”

      Don’t believe me? Anti-immigration was pushed by the Progressives the better part of 100 years since the start of the Progressive era.

      1. Really, anti-immigration?

        Damn, OM, I expect better from you. Can you name the GOPer who has proposed ending immigration? Oh, you were just throwing out strawmen because Tony hasn’t shown up yet.

        Don’t you mean unlimited immigration? Of course you do.

        1. Re: Marshall Gill,

          Can you name the GOPer who has proposed ending immigration?

          Not “ending” immigration, but he has proposed curtailing it to make employers use their own money to hire people they didn’t want to hire in the first place.

        2. Re: Marshall Gill,

          Don’t you mean unlimited immigration? Of course you do.

          Speaking of accusing someone of throwing strawmen around…

          There’s no such thing as unlimited immigration, for one thing because of economic reasons, another because of logistical issues, and a third because most people are nostalgic or not very keen on uprooting themselves.

          What I am talking about is not the GOP wanting to “eliminate” immigration, but just keeping an anti-immigration stance.

          1. Numbers USA != the Republican Party writ large. And, in the absence of libertopia, there does, in practical reality, exist a difference between legal and illegal immigration.

      2. And that to me was a great idea. I hate immigrants but I accept legal immigration. And yes I am Native American so I can talk.
        At least the Anglo’s made it nice here.
        The Turd world has brought TB to L.A.
        They suck!

    2. It is more than a bit ironic to see a libertarian publication tell Republicans to abandon their positions because of lack of electoral success.

      1. You forgot to mention that it also happens to be the right thing to do.

        1. so libertarians are going to change positions because of not getting elected?

          1. Re: wareagle,

            There’s no change in position. The libertarian position on immigration is one of defending the right to migrate and the free market.

        2. Says you. Republicans disagree.

        3. John’s posts suggest that he is entirely unconcerned with what’s the right thing to do.

  8. “The debate is over”.

    No, it isn’t. There are plenty of folks in CA not happy with the illegal citizenship process. Geez. Taking your writing cues from AGW types is a weak tactic.

    I agree, issue more green cards AND no illegal immigrants allowed on assistance programs.

  9. Immigration is declining sharply in CA anyway. Look for this trend to continue in the future as the state struggles to maintain a huge, overbearing government that stifles economic growth.…..on-decline


  10. You mean the biggest welfare state in the nation attracts illegal immigrants?!?!?!

    I’m shocked to hear this groundbreaking news.

    1. Re: GW,

      You mean the biggest welfare state in the nation attracts illegal immigrants?

      It’s not because of the Welfare State, but because there are more jobs to fill there due to the higher (and more onerous) Minimum Wage floor.

      We in Texas also have plenty of “illegal” immigrats but that is NOT because of the Texas welfare system, which is much less “charitable.”

      1. There are more jobs mainly because of the huge demand for agricultural labor in CA.

        1. It can’t be both? A huge demand for agriculture labor AND an onerous wage floor?

      2. Jobs in the shadow economy don’t follow the minimum wage. California has an enormous shadow economy. Illegal immigrants are more likely to find work in the shadow economy. Seems pretty simple to me.

        1. Jobs in the shadow economy don’t follow the minimum wage.

          I think that was the point. That the attraction to hiring illegal labor is at least partially in the ability to dodge the min wage price floor. The imbalance between the market value of labor and the legal price floor on it drives the shadow economy.

          I’m not sure if the argument that CA’s min wage is uniquely high and therefore attracts more illegal immigrants due to labor value imbalance really holds water though. At $8.00/hour, CA’s min wage is actually lower than Oregon ($8.95) and NV ($8.25). Arizona is its only georaphical neighbor with a lower min wage at $7.80.

  11. What can the GOP do to avoid further alienating what has become an essential part of the Democratic constitutency?

    Um is that really the best way of phrasing it? Why would you be concerned about a key voting block of your opponents? Libertarians are perfectly fine with alienating essential parts of the Democrats and Republicans afterall.

    I notice that this phrase doesn’t appear in the article itself.

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    1. Re: Manor45,

      my neighbor’s step-mother makes $64 hourly on the computer.

      She has sex with strangers on her computer? How kinky.

      1. Don’t be ridiculous. You could never fit two people onto a computer, let alone have sex that way…

    2. Do you actually think anyone on this site (Tony excluded) would be vapid enough to actually click on your links Manor?

  13. Now that the debate of immigration is over, it’s time to focus on the things that left leaning Latinos REALLY love, such as union and regulatory reform?

    Latinos in CA are fine with the many regulations that theoretically hurt the very industry that hires them. I don’t recall much angst from that group when state and local level pass all sorts of cap and trade-ish measures and ban fast food joints. CA unions are growing in numbers thanks to Latino membership, which bucks national trend.

    There aren’t any safe issues the CA GOP can retreat to now that the immigration debate is over. Limited government is over here. The GOP isn’t going to rebrand themselves somehow by flashing their libertarian cred to appeal to Californians who embrace big government. Immigration is just that ONE issue they overlapped with libertarian ideology.

  14. Low skilled and low intelligent workers are preferred by 94% of US companies, higher skilled and smarter employees demand unreasonable wages for the simple tasks required in the work place. Most college grads cannot find jobs that will help pay off their student loans; they have no choice but to act dumb in order to get hired at 7 bucks an hour and stiff their creditors.

  15. Republicans now are embracing what party activists still refer to as “amnesty”

    Why the scare quotes? Here’s a diction definition of the word:

    am?nes?ty [am-nuh-stee] Show IPA noun, plural am?nes?ties, verb, am?nes?tied, am?nes?ty?ing.
    a general pardon for offenses, especially political offenses, against a government, often granted before any trial or conviction.
    Law. an act of forgiveness for past offenses, especially to a class of persons as a whole.
    a forgetting or overlooking of any past offense.

    That’s pretty much what it sounds like to me when you forgive a past “crime” and remove the punishment. Why is that controversial?

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  17. Yet another issue that separates the libertarians from the pretend libertarians.

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  20. I get the biggest kick out of how Mexicans think California was ever theirs!
    They make fools of themselves always!

    This is a list of Native Tribes of California and they are not Mexican!
    Mexicans have always had to cross a border to enter this territory.
    That is why there was only about 2,000 Mexicans living in the southwest
    when the U.S. took over!

    Mexicans stop your lies! No amnesty and no illegal immigration.

  21. Whenever someone claims that the debate on a particular subject is over, you can usually be sure that what they really mean is that they wish it to be over or that they are tired of talking about it or that they no longer wish to think about it.

    The key issue right now for Republicans in the state of California is not whether the debate on immigration is over, but whether any political party which strongly identifies with the free market can thrive in the state. Immigration as a serious political topic in California was definitively settled in the nineties. Californians concerned about immigration couldn’t even get an Arizona-style initiative on the ballot in the last two elections. So they don’t need Greenhut to tell them how marginalized they are. But the debate about immigration – like all important debates – should continue, and California’s example ought to provide a cautionary tale to conservatives elsewhere.

    Greenhut does not ask the most important questions: How did conservatives in the state get to this awful point? How did the land of Reagan become one of the most blue states in the union? If Greenhut had asked these questions, honestly and without political correctness, he would have to admit that immigrants have played a major role in shifting the state’s politics, and that what they have done for California they are now doing for the rest of the nation.

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