T Nation

Immigration Reform


Anyone have any thoughts on the big immigration reform bills wending their ways through the House and Senate?

I need to look into the details of the bills a little more, but having the politicians actually address this issue should be interesting.

Mickey Kaus, a liberal/moderate blogger on Slate, thinks this issue has a lot of potential to help Republicans in November if it's handled adroitly:


A mostly political Weblog.

Has the GOP Found Its 2006 Issue?
Hiding in plain sight.
By Mickey Kaus
Updated Monday, March 27, 2006, at 7:53 PM ET

No Contest: Much is being made, in the press, the blogs ( http://bullmooseblogger.blogspot.com/2006/03/wall.html ), and the email I'm getting, of the split in the Republican party on immigration: there are pro-crackdown conservatives on the one hand, and rich Republican business backers who need immigrant labor on the other. I'm not sure this internal struggle is such a close thing, though, at least this year. Republicans facing the loss of Congress need to mobilize their base, not their lobbyists. They need voters, not money. That points in only one direction, no? Sometime before November, that should become obvious. ... 4:27 P.M.

Never serve John Kerry tomato-based products. ( http://www.thesmokinggun.com//archive/0327061kerry1.html ) 10:42 A.M.

Have the GOPs Found Their 2006 Issue? Republicans are deemed to be in deep trouble in the Congressional midterms ( http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1176997,00.html ) --and searching desperately, without obvious success, for a hot-button issue (gay marriage? flag-burning?) that could mobilize conservative "base" voters. But is it possible they've now found one hiding in plain sight--a tough anti-illegal immigration bill?

Immigration has several characteristics that suggest it's a good locomotive for GOP victory in November: 1) Voters say it's an important issue; 2) A majority wants some sort of border-control action; 3) The GOP base feels intensely about it; 4) Many Congressional Democrats are--by ideology or interest group pressure--locked in to a pro-immigrant, non-tough stance (or if they strike a tough pose it seems just that). In all these respects, immigration resembles welfare reform, a key hot-button base-mobilizing issue for Republicans in the 1994 midterms. ...

So why isn't this the CW** already? Short-term and long-term objections. Short term: President Bush favors a relatively generous approach, proposing a "guest worker" program that would be available illegals already here. Since Bush is his party's leader, isn't his position the GOP position? Long term: Republicans worry that if they angrily crack down on border enforcement--without adding provisions for guest workers or legalization of existing illegals, they'll lose the growing Latino vote for a generation (as California Republicans are said to have lost the state's Latino vote after Gov. Pete Wilson's anti-illegal Prop. 187 in 1994). But there are answers to each objection.

Short term: These are the mid-term elections, remember--not the presidential. Are Republican Congressional candidates really incapable of getting out a message to their base that they are tough on illegals, even if Bush is not? One effective way to do that would be to, er, actually pass a tough enforcement-only bill!

Long term: As for losing the Latino vote, there may be method in the current mad GOP disarray. The method is to let the President set the general, generous tone of the party, while local GOP officeholders run as get-tough individuals. Precisely because Bush, not Congress, leads the party, what he says should have the greater impact on its long-term profile. By praising the illegal immigrant work ethic while taking a compromising, high-minded policy line he might at least avoid permanently alienating Latinos. Meanwhile, GOP House candidates wage local campaigns in which they identify with prevailing anti-illegal sentiment--getting themselves reelected while doing a minimum of damage to the party's national image.

What about those swing districts in which individual House and Senate candidates need to appeal to Latinos? Answer: in those few districts, individual Republicans can tailor their stands accordingly. That's the genius of de-nationalizing the election at the same time as you put the immigration issue on the front burner.

Could individual Republican candidates have run as anti-welfare in 1970, even though a GOP President, Richard Nixon, had proposed a startlingly liberal guaranteed income plan? They could--that was Ronald Reagan's position, for example--and I suspect many did. The same with immigration.

P.S.: According to Chris Matthews, his show's poll of pundits declared, by a lopsided 10-2 margin, that the immigration issue would cost the GOP "key Western states." But are Republicans really going to lose Arizona and New Mexico, say, because they pass a border-security-only bill? New Mexico Gov. Richardson certainly seems to be a popular governor in part because he's made dramatic noises about border control ( http://www.opinionjournal.com/diary/?id=110007108 ).

When President Bush signs that border-security-only bill, he can always give a speech--like the one Clinton gave when he signed welfare reform--in which he expresses his reservations and vows to pass the guest worker and "earned legalization" provisions in the next Congress.

It's also hard to believe that the enforcement-only bill--like welfare reform--won't in the end get a lot of Democratic votes, further diluting the "Latino blowback" against the GOP.

Am I missing something?

** CW= conventional wisdom 11:40 P.M


I've only superficially looked through the reform bills, but I disagree with Kaus' evaluation of the situation. This is based largely on anecdote, but I don't believe people vote Congressionally the way they vote Presidentially, especially based on a single issue and I think parts of his evaluation show this:


If I believed the constituency voted Congressionally in line with the Presidency, I would tend also to believe that a Democrat would have an easier time distancing himself from his party and winning than a Republican.

I think he's correct in thinking its a hot-button issue. I think it's still up in the air which party will capitalize on it.


I'm not so sure -- I've thought for a long time that if this issue was mishandled, it could even cause a political reallignment. The upper classes (meaning, really, the most-educated classes) of both parties are generally much more pro-immigration than the other members. Thus the issue really has populist potential for one side or the other to grab voters -- for the Republicans, they could grab union members and other "Reagan Democrats" by being tough on immigration, while Democrats, if they were tough and Republicans weren't, could grab cultural conservatives in a lot of red states. I actually thought it might lead to a viable third-party if the GOP and Dems ignored it long enough.

I think the potential of these issues is greater on southern border states, but it's becoming more and more of an issue elsewhere as well. I think this issue has much more traction with average voters than Iraq does as well.

We'll see what happens -- but if the Republicans can play it like Kaus suggests, I predict you will see a much better set of mid-terms for the GOP than has been supposed until now -- even a gain in seats in both houses.


Well, for now, looks as if the Senate may pass something distinctly different from the House -- so there may be some intra-GOP fighting over all of this before anything (or, if anything) electorally positive can be achieved. However, nothing has even gone to the floor yet in the Senate, so we'll see.


For now, I'll note that it's probably not the best idea, politically speaking, for the protestors on this issue to be carrying and waving a bunch of Mexican flags...


the government can barely get its act together on legal immigration, kinda scared at how they will handle the illegal kind.


Legal and illegal are part and parcel of many of the same issues, at least on the economic front -- the difference is only in degree. The security issues are very different though.


This is all smoke and mirrors to get away from the main issues: the Republicans' incompetence and the Democrats' lack of a plan or a leader.

Neither party wants to do anything about illegal immigration.

The Republicans represent Big Business (especially agri-business) who make money off the backs of slave labor.

The Democrats know that every single Mexican that crosses the border will one day be a vote in their favor.

The "Homeland Security" issue is entirely disingenuous; the 9/11 hijackers came from where? Yup: Canada.

Vroom, is there something you want to tell us?


It seems the majority is for tighter immigration control.

The Republicans are divided but will pull together eventually on this.

I favor legal immigration.

Illegals can't vote. If they eventually become legal immigrants I'm not so sure they share the social values of the modern Democrats. They will most likely be split down the middle and may lean conservative. Most first generation immigrants don't take socially liberal positions.


Hey, I signed a non-disclosure, and my US government payments will stop if I say anything. Sorry dude.


Remeber when they said, this will be the last amnesty and now we'll tighten the borders? I was optimistic with the House bill and all the sudden interest in immigration reform. I thought after all those Mexicans protested that would seal it and get people to open their eyes. It looks like it's going in the direction of trying to make all the criminals, sorry, I mean undocumented workers legal and pay lip service to the borders. I think it shows just how little people today value being lucky enough to be born in America and how little they believe in the sovereignty of the US that they will give it away to foreign invaders, slow and peacefull or otherwise. If they don't pass a stiff meaningful bill I say just open all borders to anyone from anywhere. They can pour in from around the globe and the immigration will stop when things equalize and the conditions here are as bad as anywhere else so no one has any incentive to come. Sound good?


I agree with this. However, immigrants coming over from Mexico and Puerto Rico and any other South American country are predominantly staunch Catholics- and even with Catholics (historically Democrats) the more religious they are, the more right they will swing. Regardless of anything else, unfortunately.

I don't know about Republicans grabbing union votes, Boston. Maybe if the Mexicans were welders or pipe fitters, that'd be one thing. However, it is mostly unskilled physical labor that they do, most of which isn't unionized. So I don't know about the unions...they are pretty much Democrats. They'll get the sons of immigrants working for them and voting Democrat before they change parties.

And yes, Hedo is right, the people that come over here tend to be capitalists- there's a reason they came here. I've never worked with a recent immigrant that came here for the social security benefits- they came to work their asses off, and get money for it. Something I think alot of Americans have forgotten how to do in the first place.


You sound like Bill the Butcher from Gangs of NY.

"Save us from the foriegn hords!"

How quickly we forget that all of our ancestors were those tired and poor, yearning to breath free....

Of course, obviously Mexicans are worse than any other nationality, as they're the ones that will bring this country to shitsville (even though no other mass immigration has).

Read a fucking book man.

The same has been said about the Irish, the Italians, the Chinese, the Indians, the Poles, the Germans, the Cathlics, the Jews, and every other type of people that have made this country great.

Your lack of education is blaring here.


you seem to forget that our ancestors came to this country TO BE AMERICAN.

They didn't get off the boat waving italian or german flags. They werent demanding to be catered to in polish or russian. They wanted to be AMERICAN.

If i actually believed that all the mexicans who came to this country wanted to be americans, i'd have absolutely np with allowing them amnesty. Instead, they show up with mexican flags and signs in spanish.


Opinion piece from the Washington Times with interesting summary of polling data.

Mexican illegals vs. American voters
By Tony Blankley
Published March 29, 2006

It is lucky America has more than two centuries of mostly calm experience with self-government. We are going to need to fall back on that invaluable patrimony if the immigration debate continues as it has started this season. The Senate is attempting to legislate into the teeth of the will of the American public. The Senate Judiciary Committeemen ? and probably a majority of the Senate ? are convinced that they know that the American people don't know what is best for them.
National polling data could not be more emphatic ? and has been so for decades. Gallup Poll (March 27) finds 80 percent of the public wants the federal government to get tougher on illegal immigration. A Quinnipiac University Poll (March 3) finds 62 percent oppose making it easier for illegals to become citizens (72 percent in that poll don't even want illegals to be permitted to have driver's licenses). Time Magazine's recent poll (Jan. 24-26) found 75 percent favor "major penalties" on employers of illegals, 70 percent believe illegals increase the likelihood of terrorism and 57 percent would use military force at the Mexican-American border.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll (March 10-13) found 59 percent opposing a guest-worker proposal, and 71 percent would more likely vote for a congressional candidate who would tighten immigration controls.
An IQ Research poll (March 10) found 92 percent saying that securing the U.S. border should be a top priority of the White House and Congress.
Yet, according to a National Journal survey of Congress, 73 percent of Republican and 77 percent of Democratic congressmen and senators say they would support guest-worker legislation.
I commend to all those presumptuous senators and congressmen the sardonic and wise words of Edmund Burke in his 1792 letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe: "No man will assert seriously, that when people are of a turbulent spirit, the best way to keep them in order is to furnish them with something substantial to complain of." The senators should remember that they are American senators, not Roman proconsuls. Nor is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee some latter-day Praetor Maximus.
But if they would be dictators, it would be nice if they could at least be wise (until such time as the people can electorally forcefully project with a violent pedal thrust their regrettable backsides out of town). It was gut-wrenching (which in my case is a substantial event) to watch the senators prattle on in their idle ignorance concerning the manifold economic benefits that will accrue to the body politic if we can just cram a few million more uneducated illegals into the country. ( I guess ignorance loves company.) Beyond the Senate last week, in a remarkable example of intellectual integrity (in the face of the editorial positions of their newspapers) the chief economic columnists for the New York Times and The Washington Post ? Paul Krugman and Robert Samuelson, respectively ? laid out the sad facts regarding the economics of the matter. Senators, congressmen and Mr. President, please take note.
Regarding the Senate's and the president's guest-worker proposals, The Post's Robert Samuelson writes: "Gosh, they're all bad ideas ... We'd be importing poverty. This isn't because these immigrants aren't hardworking, many are. Nor is it because they don't assimilate, many do. But they generally don't go home, assimilation is slow and the ranks of the poor are constantly replenished ... [It] is a conscious policy of creating poverty in the United States while relieving it in Mexico ... The most lunatic notion is that admitting more poor Latino workers would ease the labor market strains of retiring baby boomers ? Far from softening the social problems of an aging society, more poor immigrants might aggravate them by pitting older retirees against younger Hispanics for limited government benefits ... [Moreover], [i]t's a myth that the U.S. economy 'needs' more poor immigrants.
"The illegal immigrants already here represent only about 4.9 percent of the labor force." (For all Mr. Samuelson's supporting statistics, see his Washington Post column of March 22, from which this is taken.) Likewise, a few days later, the very liberal and often partisan Paul Krugman of the New York Times courageously wrote : "Unfortunately, low-skill immigrants don't pay enough taxes to cover the cost of the [government] benefits they receive ? As the Swiss writer Max Frisch wrote about his own country's experience with immigration, 'We wanted a labor force, but human beings came.' " Mr. Krugman also observed ? citing a leading Harvard study ? "that U.S. high school dropouts would earn as much as 8 percent more if it weren't for Mexican immigration. That's why it's intellectually dishonest to say, as President Bush does, that immigrants 'do jobs that Americans will not do.' The willingness of Americans to do a job depends on how much that job pays ? and the reason some jobs pay too little to attract native-born Americans is competition from poorly paid immigrants." Thusly do the two leading economic writers for the nation's two leading liberal newspapers summarily debunk the economic underpinning of the president's and the Senate's immigration proposals.
Under such circumstances, advocates of guest-worker/amnesty bills will find it frustratingly hard to defend their arrogant plans by their preferred tactic of slandering those who disagree with them as racist, nativist and xenophobic.
When the slandered ones include not only The Washington Post and the New York Times, but about 70 percent of the public, it is not only bad manners, but bad politics.
The public demand to protect our borders will triumph sooner or later. And, the more brazen the opposing politicians, the sooner will come the triumph.
So legislate on, you proud and foolish senators ? and hasten your political demise.


I don't see how this isn't a big problem issue for the Democrats.

A massive influx of unskilled labor drives down available wages for the people with whom they compete -- native-born workers with the least education. These native born workers are normally Democrats, and many times are minorities as well -- particularly black males.


If the Democratic Party was true to its ideals it would be a problem.

They have morphed into a party that opposes most everything that comes along rather than trying to actually fix things.


Personally I believe the task is too large for our Fearless Leaders. They will argue about it until everyone can not remember what subject started the argument. I am not sure they even need any new laws. I think they could enforce our present laws and all would be well .I do not mean the way it has been since 1990.

I have lived in Az. Since 1985, I worked construction then. When an I.N.S. vehicle drove through the job site you would see all the illegal immigrants run. I can not remember seeing an I.N.S. vehicle (unless on the border) since 1993. They used to fine employers seriously for hiring illegals .I have not heard of someone being fined since the early 90?s. I mean some industries are so beaten down price wise that you can not do business legally.

I have been self employed since 1989. No rocket science just labor mostly. To get jobs I have to compete with illegals that do not even have to pay taxes. Competing with a few illegals would be fine. But there are so many illegals they are competing with them selves.


Wow, brilliant assessment.

"a party that opposes most everything that comes along."

Stick to the Sunday funny pages.


DING DING DING!!! We have a winner. No new laws are needed, just the enforcement of existing laws against hiring illegals. Only three companies in America paid a fine for hiring illegal aliens last year... hardly representative of all the illegal hiring that is being done. The laws on the books are not enforced.

Immigration is a wedge issue like abortion and gay marriage. Only token efforts will be made to address it by the Republicans, as a way to win back the base for November's election. They don't actually want to cause a split in the party by (for example) ammending the constitution to ban gay marriage. But talking about issues like this is great for fundraising and it gives off the appearance that the Republican party leaders actually care. They care to the extent that they hope it wins votes.


So by not cooperating with Bush, they're not staying true to their base ideals? Really?

Because Bush doesn't sound like a Democrat...at all. Why would they suport him in anything he does, when everything he wants to do is contrary to their fundamental beliefs on what's right for the country?

If they acquisced with Bush, then its valid. But they don't, so its not.