The Politics of Immigration

In the Atlantic Monthly Peter Beinart, a self-avowed liberal, writes the following:

“In 2005, a left-leaning blogger wrote, “Illegal immigration wreaks havoc economically, socially, and culturally; makes a mockery of the rule of law; and is disgraceful just on basic fairness grounds alone.” In 2006, a liberal columnist wrote that “immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants” and that “the fiscal burden of low-wage immigrants is also pretty clear.” His conclusion: “We’ll need to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants.” That same year, a Democratic senator wrote, “When I see Mexican flags waved at pro-immigration demonstrations, I sometimes feel a flush of patriotic resentment. When I’m forced to use a translator to communicate with the guy fixing my car, I feel a certain frustration.”

The blogger was Glenn Greenwald. The columnist was Paul Krugman. The senator was Barack Obama.”

Beinart writes about how the liberals and Democrats in particular have lost their way on the issue of immigration. He points out how only a few years ago the Democrat platform used the word “illegal immigrant” and over the next couple of years that word has disappeared. The question is why?

Democrats have watched the changing demographics of our nation and the explosive birth rate among immigrants to this nation. This is a pattern that is being repeated in Europe where you substitute Middle Eastern immigrants for Latino immigrants and you see the huge differential in birth rates from the native population. Knowing this trend the Democrats moved away from any pretense of halting illegal immigration to a policy of embracing those that cross the border and decrying any attempts to enforce border security or deport those that have entered the nation illegally. They are banking on border states like Arizona and Texas to swing to their column over time.

The results of that change in policy have driven a faction of their normal voting bloc away. The blue-collar white vote turned their back on Democrats in the last election and cost Hillary Clinton in the so-called Rust Belt. They see illegal immigration as a threat to their economic goals and become almost xenophobic in their opposition.

Among the liberal white elites that populate the urban centers of our nation they don’t see the immigrants as a threat to them. They are normally better educated and illegal immigrants are not normally qualified for the jobs they hold. They also reap the benefits of the immigrants in cheap labor to take care of their yards and clean their houses. I say this with the full knowledge that the crews that come to clean our house are all women from Central America. Normally only the crew chief speaks English.

Beinart makes the point that early on liberals wrote about how illegal immigrants hurt the workingman. I was never really aware of the issue until I built a house in 2005. At the end of the construction we were going to sod a large segment of our yard. Two tractor-trailers full of sod pulled up to unload the pallets of grass. The guy delivering it asked me a perfectly reasonable question about when they were going to lay the sod.   Obviously it would not survive well in the September heat if it sat on the pallets. I told him I thought they would be doing it the next day.

His response is what got me to first think of the effects of illegal immigration. He said, “They will probably have 10 Mexicans doing it.” I paused and told him I guess he was right. He then informed me that it was a problem for him. He lived in Warrenton, VA, about 25 miles from my home in Northern Virginia, and he said that friends of his used to work in the building industry here in Northern Virginia. They were carpenters, electricians, plumbers, roofers, sheet rockers, etc… and now they could not find jobs. The builders had begun hiring Hispanic workers and once that move started the crew quickly became all Hispanic.   That was for two reasons. First for communication and second for security. Nobody would be turning another worker in to ICE.

I thought about this and realized that almost all of the workers in the building of this home had been Hispanic. My son-in-law at the time spoke Spanish and so when we came to look over the work he always came with me. He was from Guatemala and he soon ascertained that all of the sheet rockers were also from Guatemala. The difference was my son-in-law was here legally and had gone to college and they have come here illegally.

The issue was not quality of work. They did fine work. The issue was, as a finally realized, these were jobs that American workers would do and wanted to do.   This was not picking agriculture crops, this was not cleaning toilets or other menial tasks. These were well paying craftsman jobs in the building industry and the flood of illegal workers had forced them out of the job market. The builders could pay these workers less (I don’t think he cut the price of the house for me) and increase his profit margins.

So now back to the issue of immigration today. Republicans and Democrats have taken opposite stances. Republicans are for border security and deporting those that come here illegally. They say they are only deporting those with criminal records but in their hearts many would like to deport all of them.   Democrats say we should make and attempt to secure the border but those that are already here should be allowed to remain and become citizens if they desire. In their hearts many of they would like to open the borders and allow anyone in so long as they think they will support Democrats for office.

I have written in the past on how I think immigration should be handled but I am not holding my breath for a comprehensive compromise on this difficult issue. It needs to be solved and the only way we will do it is by both parties finding some common ground.

One of the difficulties with immigration today, whether it is legal or illegal, is the difference in how the immigrants view the United States. In the past we had large waves of immigrants and they strived to assimilate into the nation. Many of them Anglicized their names and a large number refused to allow their children to speak their native language. They wanted to become Americans and left their former country behind. Today we have large immigrant communities that want to keep their customs and resist assimilating into the nation. They demand that government and business accommodate them and their language. Once again you see this happening in Europe as well and it is not being well received.

The Democrats in Congress and at the national level are committed to a strategy of catering to immigrants and cannot walk it back now. They are banking on the Hispanic vote becoming large enough to eventually carry them to victories. What they may not understand is with each passing generation the issue of immigration becomes less important if these immigrants finally assimilate and they will become Americans first and immigrants second. They will see the influx of illegal immigrants as a threat to them as well. Democrats are hoping they do not fully assimilate and continue to view themselves by their ethnicity first and their nationality second. This is the divisive strategy they are employing and banking on it succeeding. It might pay dividends for them politically but it will be harmful to the nation as we slide further down into division as opposed to unity.

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