Throughout his partnership with President George W. Bush, Karl Rove argued that a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens would be a political winner for the Republican Party. His argument, so it went, was that because the so-called Hispanic segment of the population was growing faster than other parts of the body politic, it would be foolish to block amnesty for illegal aliens that those voters wanted. Furthermore, so his logic contended, this growing minority would punish Republicans for not going along with the Democrats' amnesty proposals. In other words, the Republican Party should itself co-opt these proposals for amnesty and make them their own, thereby eroding the Democrats' share of this voting public.
But on what premise is this theory based?
First, it assumes that all U.S. citizens of Hispanic descent favor a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens, whether those aliens come from Malaysia, Ireland, Kosovo, Somalia or Russia. While it obviously is true that the leftist, top-down, unelected leadership of the ethnocentric advocacy organizations La Raza, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the League of United Latin American Citizens, as well as their organized masses of illegal alien street marchers, are boisterous in their clamor for "comprehensive immigration reform," it isn't equally clear how many ordinary, everyday U.S. citizens of Hispanic descent share those passions.
Illegal immigration impacts Hispanic-American communities first and foremost, because foreign nationals from south of the border naturally congregate in already-established enclaves. Those communities therefore sustain the brunt of crime; gang infestation; and competition for already scarce jobs, housing, education and social services. While it may be true that some Hispanic-Americans might nurture a solidarity with their more recently arrived ethnic cousins, is this where their own true interests lie? Are their real-world interests associated with the illegal arrival of millions of neighbors from their old countries or with their fellow American citizens, with the old world they left behind or the new society of which they are a part? Isn't the ethnic demagoguery associated with the so-called "pathway to citizenship" in effect a pathway to Balkanization?
Instead of descending into a competition with Nevada Sen. Harry Reid in a watered-down imitation of liberal Democrats' pandering for the votes of "Amnesty-Hispanics," wouldn't it be more prudent as well as more respectful to Hispanic-Americans for the Republican Party to offer a clear alternative, to appeal to their American patriotism and their own real self-interests as U.S. citizens? Why lump the entire Hispanic-American community, with ancestors from a host of Latin American countries, with a diversity of histories, cultures, traditions, languages and interests, into one homogeneous group as if they all marched to the same drummer? How about offering this vibrant cross section of American citizens an option other than blind obedience to La Raza and the Democrats?
Second, Mr. Rove's theory rests on the assumption that newly amnestied voters will remember that the Republican Party helped pave their pathway to citizenship and reward the party with future support. But let's look at the facts. The overwhelming majority of illegal aliens have less than a high school education, and many are not even literate in their own languages. This doesn't mean they aren't good people, but it does mean they are natural recipients of the welfare state. Once they receive citizenship in the United States, will they be more likely to favor the big-government, wealth-transferring, multiculturalist nanny state promised and promoted by the Democrat Party or the smaller-government, self-reliant, lower-taxing, entrepreneurial, assimilative society championed by the Republican Party?
What's more, the tens of millions of newly amnestied citizens legally would be able to bring in their next of kin through chain migration, swelling the overall number to potentially more than 50 million within a decade of the amnesty - constituting a permanent Democratic majority.
We've become fond of Mr. Rove's cable-TV chalkboards. Here's a four-liner he hasn't shown us yet:
c If 12 million-20 million illegal aliens are amnestied, it can be estimated conservatively that a majority of these new citizens will vote Democrat.
c If there is no amnesty, none of these illegal aliens will vote, period.
c If there is an amnesty, current U.S. citizens of Hispanic origin will vote as they have been voting anyway.
c If there is no amnesty, current U.S. citizens of Hispanic origin will vote as they have been voting anyway.
A majority of U.S. citizens of Hispanic origin (with the exception of Cuban-Americans) have consistently voted Democratic. Many of those within this voting population who ardently support amnesty will blame the Democrats for not getting one because the Democrats will be the ones who did not push through an amnesty when they had the political power and the unprecedented opportunity to do so. So where is the political upside for the Republican Party to support an amnesty, in either the short or long run?
Had there been an amnesty in 2006 or 2007, as Sen. John McCain and the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy proposed, millions more would have entered the country illegally since then, as, in fact, they have anyway. The border wasn't secured before the amnesty votes and hasn't been secured since those votes. Visa violators continued to remain illegally in the country before those votes, and many more recent arrivals have continued illegally to do so since those votes. The federal government under Mr. Bush and President Obama contented itself with cosmetic measures and halfhearted initiatives, abdicating its responsibility to enforce existing immigration law effectively and to secure our borders. Even with the successful passage of McCain-Kennedy in 2006, we would be debating anew today whether to provide amnesty for the 4 million to 5 million illegal aliens who have entered since. And if an amnesty were enacted tomorrow, five years from now, Congress would be debating what to do with the additional 5 million who would have entered by that time.
If the history of past amnesties has taught us anything, it is this: Talk of amnesty, the promise of amnesty - especially the enactment of amnesty legislation as in 1986 - simply encourages more and more illegal immigration. Limited or general, amnesties act as flashing green lights to the likely hundreds of millions on earth who would like to move to America.
Until the borders are really secured, workplace laws are really upheld and the benefits of the welfare state are restricted to U.S. citizens and legal immigrants, any consideration of amnesty is a perilous venture into a fantasyland of false promises, unrealistic expectations, the abrogation of the rule of law and the perpetuation of an immoral, systematic exploitation of unending waves of cheap labor from Third World countries. We already have federal laws in place to get the illegal immigration fiasco under control. Congress has not abdicated its responsibility by failing to enact new laws favored by open-borders utopians. No such laws are required, comprehensive or otherwise. The problem is with the executive branch and the Obama administration, which has turned itself into the greatest collection of scofflaws in the country.
The way to increase the percentage of American-Hispanics voting for the Republican Party is (1) To raise their standard of living (and everyone else's) by a return to free-market principles; (2) by an open appeal to their shared American patriotism and (3) by clearly and unapologetically stating the unequivocal rejection of amnesty in any guise, shape or form. U.S. citizens of Hispanic origin don't love the rule of law less than other Americans and understand that the United States already has the most generous legal immigration policy on earth. Given a clear choice and a positive appeal, many will rally.
These positions won't get Republicans a majority of these voters right away, but they will diminish the Democrats' share of the vote in the short run and hasten the integration of the Hispanic-American community into the great melting pot that is America. A time will come in the not-too-distant future when hyphens matter to Hispanics no more than they do to any of the immigrant groups who preceded them. It is the best path for America and the only practical path for the survival of the Republican Party as a majority party worthy of the electorate.
Tom Garcia is a Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Florida's 24th Congressional District.
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