WASHINGTON – Hispanic immigrants like the Democratic Party because of the vast governmental programs that hand out assistance, aid, benefits and subsidies, according to Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies here.
The center promotes an informed debate on comprehensive immigration reform by providing policymakers, academics, media and citizens with fact-based information on immigration.
Camarota recently was interviewed for WND-TV about the intense, ongoing debate over amnesty for tens of millions of unauthorized immigrants in the United States.
The debate has been conducted with the assumption that a path for citizenship is a necessary part of a legalization program.
He told WND that the Democrats' argument that Republican President Ronald Reagan pushed a 1980s amnesty program isn't entirely accurate.
"It is important to note that although Reagan did sign that amnesty, he was not the primary person pushing it. It was mostly Democrats in Congress, with some Republican allies," Camarota said.
He noted that all of the top sending countries for immigration are also the top sending countries for illegal immigration.
"There's research, say, for example, in Mexico looking at what is one of the best predictors of whether you will come to the United States illegally is if you have a relative in the United States who's here legally," he said
He noted immigration "is the most important issue when it comes to role of government, because immigration creates new voters."
"Immigrants are people and they vote, and the political system has to represent their views," he said.
He said some of the conflict comes because immigrants try to reproduce the country they left.
"Why do immigrants leave countries with big government and then try to re-create that here? Because it's what they're used to, they're used to the idea of an activist government," he said.
He said that's changing America in more than one way.
"Between two thirds and three fourths of the growth in the … people without health insurance in the United States is new immigrants and then the children they've had once they got here, over the last decade. ... It's transforming society in ways to make Democratic arguments heard much more sympathetically," he said.
"A much larger fraction, all the research shows, of white voters will vote on social policy like abortion, like gay marriage. But that's just not true of Hispanics; they are attracted to the Democratic Party mainly through those economic policies, and the social conservative stuff just doesn't matter to them," he said.
"Throughout the world, the idea that the government plays a more central role in the economy and a more expansive role is just heard sympathetically. We see this in the kinds of governments that Europeans elect through free elections, we see this in Latin America.
"The leadership of the Republican Party for decades has gone along with the idea of making more Democratic voters and transforming society in ways makes Democratic arguments heard more sympathetically. In effect we are electing a new people. If you want limited government immigration is probably the most important issue, because it changes what the American people want because it changes who the American people are," he said.
In recent years, Camarota has testified before Congress more than any other non-government expert on the economic and fiscal impact of immigration.
In addition, he was the lead researcher on a contract with the Census Bureau examining the quality of immigrant data in the American Community Survey.