The Hispanic vote is receiving renewed attention following the 2012 election fiasco. Businessman Romney may be credited with the dubious achievement of a market share lower than John McCain’s: just 27%. Republicans, including Tea-partiers and talk show hosts like Sean Hannity are waking up to the fact that a demographic that is growing at more than 40 percent in a decade, with more than 20 million eligible to vote, cannot be ignored if the party intends to remain viable. The challenge is how to appeal to Hispanic citizen voters without compromising conservative, limited constitutional government principles. It would be futile to attempt to out-Santa Claus the Democrats; nevertheless Republicans must take a change of strategy, of policy priorities and perhaps most important, of attitude. Too paraphrase Peggy Noonan, some people don’t like Republicans because they perceive that Republicans don’t like them.
It has been observed enough times that the values and interests of Hispanics should make them naturally gravitate to the Republican party. Hispanic immigrants are hard-working, pro-family, pro-traditional marriage, pro-life and religious. A high percentage are small businesses owners and entrepreneurial capitalists and are grateful to the United States of America for the opportunities it has afforded them. Like all Americans they yearn for the American Dream, starting with good job prospects. Ronald Reagan once quipped that most Hispanics are Republicans, they just don’t know it yet. The Republican failure to convince more than a shrinking fraction of them speaks at least as poorly of Republicans as it does people who seem to contradict their own values and interests in the way they vote.
So what do we do? Permit me to propose a 3-pronged strategy:
1. Treat Hispanics/Latinos like everyone else. We are the party of, by and for Americans, not hyphenated-Americans, ethnic victim groups and single-issue special interests.
2. Educate Americans about constitutional, limited-government, and free-market economic principles, in Spanish as well as English. To set an example, this author gives lectures on the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (no partisan political preaching required), together with American Revolution film screenings, in Spanish-language churches.
News Flash!: the Spanish-language news media leans Left. But the Spanish-speaking public is just as diverse as the English-speaking public. There is a huge ground-floor opportunity to build a conservative commentary industry on the Spanish-language radio and TV airwaves, cable, satellite and social media. The movers and shakers in the conservative media need to make it happen.
And 3: Take the high road with respect to immigration policy, not just with respect to illegals and low-skilled workers, but at the high end, the PhD in engineering end, as well.
The Republican party should be seen frequently and consistently proposing and promoting its own positive immigration reform, in simple, bite-sized pieces. Rather than inflicting a national root-canal of comprehensive omnibus corrupt pork legislation on the scale of ObamaCare, just propose one simple policy change at a time, say one per month, debate it, vote it up or down and then MoveOn.org to the next bite-sized piece.
• Propose to relax immigration restrictions in exchange for a surcharge on immigrant’s payroll and income taxes.
• or charge a $1000 per head for the right to immigrate, which is a third less than the going rate for coyote fees to risk death to be smuggled across the desert.
• Propose an uncomplicated guest worker program and normalization, NOT CITIZENSHIP but some form of normalized guest status, for people already here who are not felons. We had a guest worker program in the 1950’s called Bracero, and in the main it worked.
• Allow people educated in America legally to work, produce, pay taxes and hire other Americans in America. Right now we educate people in America and then throw them out, which makes no sense. (By the way, just because some people aren’t in the US doesn’t mean we don’t have to compete with them; better to keep them where they do us the most good.) This includes children of illegals whose college education we have already paid for (whether we SHOULD have paid for it or not is beside the point after the fact).
Republicans can propose solutions that are market-based, more effective and more humane than enforcement-only; reforms that are consistent with limited government and free-market principles which the Democrats will be embarrassed to oppose. We can put Democrats on defense even as we interleave proposals for such things as repealing the 1975 amendment to the Voting Rights Act that required printing election materials in foreign languages. So we can include proposals that are dear to our conservative hearts along with olive branches to the Latino community. The list above is only intended to be a starting point.
But, Republicans absolutely need to purge from their brains the idea of deporting 11 million people. It ain’t gonna happen!
Taking the high road means refraining from foaming at the mouth in public over illegal immigration. I love Rush Limbaugh, I love Mark Levin and Michael Savage and Mike Galagher, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin etc, but I don’t think they have helped on net balance to win hearts and minds. The Hispanic community is very family-oriented, and many citizen voters have cousins whose legal status is less than perfect. If you appear hostile to someone’s cousin, whether you mean to or not, you alienate that person. In politics, perception is reality, and the perception is that the Republican party is anti-immigrant in general and anti-Latino, possibly with racist motives, in particular. Our challenge is at the very least not to provide cheap ammunition to the Democrat machine to shoot us with.
This does not mean we have to surrender principle. But it does mean changing the rhetoric and yes, compromising with some people and policies that we might not like so much.
Resistance to change is often based on limited information, therefore permit me to present a few facts and stats about immigration in America today:
• Immigration as a proportion of population today is about half of what it was in the peak years a century ago.
• Net immigration from Mexico for the past two years has been approximately zero.
• Immigrants complement the native population with higher numbers at the low and high end of the skills and education spectrum, while natives are concentrated in the middle.
• New immigrants are more concentrated than are natives in the youthful labor-force ages when people contribute more to the public coffer than they draw from it. The average age is 28.
• In spite of the drug cartel wars, the Mexican economy has improved under President Felipe Calderón, with a rising tide of opportunity for Mexicans at home. I wish our economy were growing half as fast as Mexico’s.
• Putting aside the Great Recession and non-recovery, our economy still creates hundreds of thousands of jobs each year that only require minimal training. The supply of native-born workers without a high school diploma is shrinking by about 300,000 per year. All of Obama’s unemployed college graduates are not pining to pick lettuce. Any immigration policy built on the premise that we won’t need any additional foreign workers in the future is doomed.
• At least one quarter of illegal aliens enter the country legally and overstay their visas and permits. Therefore sealing the border will not solve the whole problem; in fact it may be counter-productive as it discourages people who wish to return home on their own from doing so.
• Cities with high immigrant populations have lower prices for child care, house cleaning, gardening, dry cleaning and other services essential to permitting college-educated women with children to pursue their professional careers.
• Social Security and Medicare are by far the most expensive transfer payments made by the government, and these payments go almost entirely to natives. This is because immigrants typically arrive when they are young and healthy, and also because older recent immigrants do not qualify for Social Security for many years after their arrival.
Now if all of that paints too rosy a picture, let’s talk about problems commonly associated with immigration:
• Crime: While immigration rates have been on the rise in the last two decades, until Obama the violent crime rates had been decreasing. The crime rate is higher for native-born Americans than it is for immigrants. More immigration does not lead to more crime overall, even if a few exceptionally bad cases make the headlines. Offering and accepting employment at mutually agreeable wages is not fundamentally immoral.
• Infectious disease: A more open immigration policy that permitted workers to enter through the front door without fear would provide the opportunity for health screening.
• Terrorism: We need a policy that makes it more difficult for bad people to hide among the masses of honest immigrants who come for work and opportunity. More openness and transparency is the terrorist’s enemy.
• Assimilation: 88% of 2nd-generation immigrants are fluent in English. Immigrants know they can double their income by learning English. The single most formidable obstacle to assimilation is the leftist indoctrination that pupils receive in our public employee union-dominated schools, and that is not the fault of immigrants.
• Similarly regarding Communist infiltration and agitation: This also is a homegrown issue, not an immigration problem. The battleground of radical leftism is in the public schools and universities and in labor union legislation and policy; not the border.
• Narcotraffic is not an ‘immigration’ issue. Putting aside ‘Fast and Furious’, it is American drug consumers that provide the guns for the gangs with their dollars.
Speaking of compromise, it may be time to sit down with the long-haired, maggot-infested, dope-smoking commie pinko hippies like…Pat Robertson, George Schultz, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal -- freaks like that -- who will tell you that drugs are bad, no doubt about it, but that drug wars don’t get a free pass on their track record. Agree or disagree with prohibition vs. legalization, the illicit drug industry is distinct from immigration and we must not be so clumsy as to allow the Democrat party to spin it as a racial issue with Republicans wearing the white sheets.
• Welfare and public service abuse: the problems of the nanny state are inherent to socialism. Government social welfare programs are prone to corruption and abuse. We can’t scapegoat housecleaners and migrant farm workers for the natural consequences of our own socialistic policies. Fight socialism, not immigration.
I believe these facts justify a high-road strategy mostly in favor of immigrants and immigration. I would like to persuade Republicans that the Dream Act, or similar reform, is not the worst thing ever proposed, not the greatest threat we face, but something we can live with. We say that we want illegals to get in line with everyone else, but we haven’t provided any line at all for most of them. Dogmatic opposition to this and any reform like it is costing us far more than we are getting in return.
Many of my friends on the right will find some of these recommendations too liberal to stomach, too much slouching toward amnesty, too offensive to the letter of the law and to the sovereignty of America. To those especially I would ask to consider their priorities. Is sealing the border more important than combating Obamacare? Is it more important that holding the line on tax rates on small businesses? Does punishing illegal immigrants take precedence over reforming Medicare and Social Security, reducing the size and scope of the federal government, and re-launching job creation and economic growth? What constitutes a greater threat to our freedom and prosperity: Cap and Trade, unfunded defined-benefit pensions for government employees, dependence on foreign oil and domestic windmills, expanding entitlement programs, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, China’s rapidly-growing Pacific navy, North Korea, radical Islamic Shariah law -- or Jose Gonzales, minimum wage-earning illegal food-processing worker, with a fake social security number by which he pays taxes to the treasury which he will never be able to collect as benefits?
Republicans need all the help they can get, and high priority goals are worth compromising for.
Permit me to quote a couple of liberals on this issue:
“The problem has to be solved. Because as we’ve made illegal some kinds of labor that I’d like to see legal, we’re doing two things: We’re creating a whole society of really honorable, decent family-loving people that are in violation of the law, and secondly we’re exacerbating relations with Mexico.”
That ‘liberal’ was George Herbert Walker Bush.
“Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems? Make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit--and then while they’re working and earning here, they pay taxes here. And when they want to go back, they can go back. And open the border both ways by understanding their problems.”
That ‘liberal’ was Ronald Reagan.
Let us not forget that the single most effective means of reducing illegal immigration would be to so destroy our economy that no one would want to come here anymore. In other words, it’s a good problem to have, and we have it a lot better here than in socialist countries like France where the immigrant male youth unemployment rate is somewhere between 40 and 50%. That is a social catastrophe we won’t face as long as remain true to our limited government principles.
America’s ideals are universal, not ethnic or limited to the direct descendants of the Mayflower. Regardless of color, accent, flavor or spices, we can still have an America we recognize in 100 years if it is based on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. To achieve this we must fight FOR good policy, not against good people.