George Bush’s political strategists have long promoted amnesty for illegal aliens as a device for increasing the Republican vote among Hispanics. They also warn that denying rights to illegal aliens will hurt the GOP. A Hispanic backlash in California after Proposition 187 (the 1994 voter initiative that denied illegal aliens many publicly funded services) turned the state from red to blue, they claim; a similar rout awaits the party if it does not embrace liberal immigration policies.
There is scant evidence for either of these ideas. The 1986 amnesty signed by President Reagan did not trigger a Latino surge into the Republican Party. And California’s Hispanics leaned as strongly Democratic before Prop. 187 as after it. Hispanic voting patterns in California have held steady since 1988—they vote approximately two-to-one for Democratic presidential candidates. California’s shift from red to blue would have happened with or without Prop. 187, as defense-industry whites left the state, replaced by liberal high-tech professionals, and as the Hispanic portion of the electorate tripled from 7 percent to 21 percent.
“But Hispanics are Republicans waiting to emerge,” counter the Bush strategists. Socially conservative on homosexuality and abortion, Hispanics just need to be invited into the party by an amnesty and not scared off by immigration enforcement. This “social values” argument has been around since the early 1980s, and it’s still awaiting confirmation. The majority of Hispanics vote their perceived economic interests, rather than their social values (evangelical Hispanics may be an exception to this rule). Blacks are equally conservative on gay rights and other favorite liberal crusades, and that doesn’t affect their allegiance to the Democratic party.
Even Republican Hispanics are not particularly conservative on economic issues. A 2002 poll by the Pew and Kaiser foundations found that 52 percent of registered Latino Republicans supported a higher-taxing, larger state sector, a higher percentage for big government than one finds among white Democrats, reports Steve Sailer. As for the majority of Latinos—poor and poorly-educated—the more government services, the better. Mexican consulates across the country are busily signing up illegal Mexicans for all the free government-funded health care that the consulates can find—that would be American- not Mexican-funded health care, mind you. “We have the right to health services,” an illegal Mexican in Santa Clarita, California, told the Los Angeles Times.
This attitude of entitlement—not only among illegal aliens but also among legal Hispanic immigrants and their children—extends to the full array of welfare programs. In fact, welfare use actually increases between the second and third generation of Mexican-Americans—to 31 percent of all third-generation Mexican-American households.
The rising Hispanic population also means stronger unions. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is a harbinger of rising Latino political clout. A former union organizer for the Service Employees International Union and United Teachers Los Angeles, his ascent through California state politics was made possible by union funding and organizing. Los Angeles passed two “living wage” ordinances last year, a favorite union cause. California’s public employee unions have successfully blocked Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s efforts to privatize some government infrastructure projects.
“Democrats—we’re not in the business of contracting out state services,” said Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, a Los Angeles Democrat, according to the Los Angeles Times. “It doesn’t fit well with our political diet.”
The rapidly growing Hispanic population “helped decimate the California GOP,” report John Judis and Ruy Teixeira. There is little reason to think that the outcome will be much different in other states. Republicans should craft their immigration policy based on principle, not on politics. But if they insist on deciding the future direction of American sovereignty based on political expediency, they should at least get their politics right.