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Editor’s note: This is the fifth installment in an ongoing debate about U.S. immigration policy, featured exclusively at WND. This column by The Center for Immigration Studies’ Steven Camarota responds to the latest offering by Cafe Con Leche Republicans President Bob Quasius, “Reject progressive policies that boost illegals.”
Previous columns include: “Aliens’ fiscal drain on America” by Camarota, “Solution to illegals: More foreign workers” by Quasius and Camarota’s initial piece, “No ‘green card lite’ for illegal aliens.”
Without realizing it, Bob Quasius, who claims to support conservative principles, is actually the best friend big government ever had because of his support for mass immigration and amnesty. Every major poll shows that immigrants and their children overwhelming support expanding the size and scope of government. Additionally, adding to the low-income immigrant population makes political independents and moderates more sympathetic to arguments for expanding government.
Immigration is such an electoral bonanza for liberals and progressives that they are willing to overlook the harm it does to those they supposedly care about – low-income workers and minorities. In an interview with National Journal in 2007, former Rep. Barney Frank conceded that immigration is “bad for blue-collars,” but it can help elect Democratic majorities, and Frank believes “if a Democratic Congress were to significantly strengthen unions, then you would offset the negative effect on the income of workers.”
The fact that Hispanics and Asians, who comprise about three-fourths of the immigrant population, have liberal policy preferences does not make them bad or evil. Further, most immigrants work, love their families, and many are religious. Of course, many hardworking religious Americans not of recent immigrant stock share their liberal point of view. But, there is a near consensus that immigrants and their children are making the national electorate much more liberal.
As the New York Times Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt recently observed, “The two fastest-growing ethnic groups – Latinos and Asian-Americans – are decidedly liberal.” As Ruy Teixeira of the Center for American Progress points out, Republicans will “quite simply” have to “become less conservative” to survive in the new political reality immigration is creating. Mark Mellman of the Hill newspaper has written that Asian-Americans are “quintessentially liberal” on a host of policy issues. After studying several surveys, University of Alabama professor George Hawley observes, “Immigrants are well to the left of the American public on a number of key issues.” He also makes clear that “liberalizing immigration will liberalize the U.S.”
The Pew Research Center has found that Hispanic Americans have the most negative view of capitalism of any group – 55 percent. The share of Hispanics with a negative view of capitalism was actually higher than the 47 percent of supporters of Occupy Wall Street who reported a negative view of capitalism. Pew also found that 75 percent of Hispanics prefer a “bigger government providing more services” compared to 19 percent who wanted a “smaller government providing fewer services.” Pew’s survey of Asian-Americans also shows that 55 percent of Asian-Americans prefer a bigger government and just 36 percent prefer a smaller government. This compares to just 41 percent of the general public who want a bigger government and 48 percent who want a smaller government. The Pew Research Center even found that 68 percent of Muslims prefer a bigger government providing more services, and only 21 percent want a smaller government.
While the general public was divided in 2012 on Obamacare, surveys show that 61 percent of Hispanics supported Obamacare; and three times as many Asian-Americans had a favorable opinion of the program as had an unfavorable opinion of it. Whether the issue is gun control, Obamacare, affirmative action, environmental regulation or the general size of government, significant majorities of immigrants and their children favor liberal policies.
Given their policy preferences, it is no surprise that in 2012, 71 percent of Hispanics and 73 percent of Asians voted for President Obama. It must be emphasized that legal immigration is creating millions of liberal voters, not illegal immigration. Or as Eliseo Medina, a senior official with the SEIU and Democratic Socialists of America, points out, amnesty and continued immigration, “will solidify and expand the progressive coalition for the future.”
Immigration also helps liberals because it adds heavily to the low-income population. Nearly one-third of all children in poverty today live in immigrant households. New immigrants and their children account for two-thirds of the growth in the uninsured population since 2000. Persistently high child poverty and dramatic growth in the uninsured are exactly the kind of situations that tend to make political moderates more supportive of new government programs.
Also, by dramatically increasing the supply of unskilled workers, immigration helps keep wages low at the bottom of the labor market, making the general public more likely to support income redistribution. There is simply no question that immigration not only brings in voters who want more government, it also transforms our society in ways that make liberal arguments more appealing to the rest of the population.
Reducing legal immigration to the still substantial level of 3 to 4 million each decade, from the current 11 million, would allow the free market to work and raise wages for millions of Americans who have no education beyond high school. Despite Bob’s protestations, there is simply no evidence of a labor shortage in the United States. Real wages for the vast majority of workers remain lower now (adjusted for inflation) than they were in 2000. The share of Americans 18 to 65 years of age holding a job is at or near an all-time low, and the number not working is at an all-time high. Testimonials from employers who want to keep wages as low as possible provide the only evidence of a labor shortage.
We have tried the mass immigration approach for four decades. The immigrant population has quadrupled since 1970 from less than 10 million to more than 40 million today. Legal residents comprise about three-fourth of this number. It is the massive level of legal immigration, not illegal immigration, that is transforming the electorate and making it much more liberal.
I cannot help but add one additional point about Bob’s column: Like President Obama, Bob Quasius’ insistence that the current plan is not amnesty because illegals will have to jump through some hoops is disingenuous. As I wrote in a paper last year, amnesties, such as those for parking tickets or taxes, always involve waiving some penalties while retaining others. In this case the normal consequence of being in the country illegally is deportation, which is being waived. What Bob wants is unambiguously an amnesty. If President Obama and Bob will not even describe what they want honestly, then why should we take their promises of future enforcement, careful venting of applicants and other assurances seriously?
Despite the difficult situation of so many American workers, every major liberal and progressive institution in the country supports Bob’s desire for legalization and increasing legal immigration still further. His allies include the Democratic Party, liberal foundations, progressive columnists and bloggers, union leaders and a wide variety of political activists on the left. They want more immigration because they realize that immigrants on balance favor the left’s policy agenda. Like Barney Frank, progressives are making a political calculation to harm the working poor now, in order to advance their political agenda and change the electorate. They are doing so with the enthusiastic support of Bob Quasius.