Illegal-Alien Amnesty Gives Democrats 7 Million New Voters
Is support for an illegal-alien amnesty the key to GOP salvation?
Since the election, some Republican-leaning pundits have maintained that Mitt Romney lost more than 70% of Hispanics, and thereby the presidency, because of his reputedly tough stance on illegal immigration.
Their "solution" is for Republicans to get behind "comprehensive immigration reform" — amnesty and a path to citizenship for illegal aliens. If they don't, the pundits insist, they will render themselves a permanent political minority at the national level.
By Richard F. Lamountain
Posted 05:28 PM ET
The problem with this analysis: It's wrong. The election didn't prove that Hispanic voters opposed Romney because of his positions on immigration. And Republicans shouldn't sell the farm on the assumption that they did.
Let's look at some analyses, polls and statistics.
The day after the election, immigration-control group NumbersUSA compared Romney's performance to that of 2008 GOP nominee John McCain — at the time a leading amnesty advocate — in the 20 states with the highest percentage of Hispanic voters. In 16 of those states, wrote NumbersUSA President Roy Beck, "pro-enforcement Romney significantly improved his 'spread' ... over that of nonenforcement McCain."
In Illinois, for instance, Romney outperformed McCain by nine points (2008: Obama 63%, McCain 37%; 2012: Obama 58.5%, Romney 41.5%). In Nevada, Romney's spread over McCain was six points; in Texas, Colorado and New Mexico, five; and in McCain's home state of Arizona, three.
Next, consider Pulse Opinion Research's October poll on E-Verify — the federal system that enables employers to vet prospective hires for proof of legal U.S. presence and whose mandatory use Romney supported. Sixty-nine percent of Hispanics polled favored "requiring that every employer use E-Verify to electronically ensure that no U.S. job goes to illegal immigrants in the future."
Also look at past elections. In 1986, Ronald Reagan approved an amnesty for some 3 million illegal aliens — and two years later his vice president, George H.W. Bush, won 30% of Hispanic voters. In 2008, amnesty proponent McCain won 31%.
If not their stands on immigration, then, what drives Hispanic voters from Republican nominees?
Among naturalized Hispanic citizens, the answer is simple.
"Nearly every immigrant group consistently votes at least 2-to-1 for Democrats," explains Beck, "because Democrats always out-promise government programs to immigrants who on average are lower-income" than native-born Americans.
Indeed, columnist Ann Coulter noted recently that while "39% of native households receive some form of government assistance . .. 57% of immigrant households" here legally get such help.
U.S.-born Hispanics are likelier to need assistance as well. "According to Census Bureau data," reports National Review's Rich Lowry, "among native-born Hispanics, 50% of all households with children are headed by unmarried mothers" — a stratum of the population heavily dependent upon government support.
In California alone, writes the Manhattan Institute's Heather MacDonald, "U.S.-born Hispanic households ... use welfare programs at twice the rate of native-born non-Hispanic households."
Hispanic voters, then — be they immigrant or native-born — are likelier to support Democrats, the champions of government, than Republicans, the champions of tax cuts. GOP leaders' support of amnesty would not change this.
But such support would affect the party's own base. For that base opposes amnesty — overwhelmingly. In a mid-November Gallup poll, 82% of Republicans said it was "extremely important" or "very important" to stop illegal immigration. How would they react if their party's presidential nominee touted the amnesty that would encourage more of it?
There may be an example. In 2008, some Republican immigration restrictionists, including me and others I know in my home state of Oregon, refused to vote for McCain because of his support for amnesty. No study ever sought to determine how numerous we were or whether we affected the election's outcome. But it's logical to conclude: even if our numbers comprised but a fraction of Republicans, they may have cost McCain one or more states.
Consider Indiana (11 electoral votes) and North Carolina (15). In those states, Obama's margin of victory over McCain was smaller than the number of votes won by Libertarian nominee Bob Barr, who opposed birthright citizenship for illegal aliens. A number of Barr's supporters likely were Republicans who supported him, rather than McCain, because of McCain's support for amnesty.
Could something like this happen again, only on a much larger scale, to a Republican presidential nominee? Yes. If, by 2016, Republican leaders have capitulated en masse to an illegal-alien amnesty, "nationalists, such as myself, will leave and join a third party," the Washington Times' Jeffrey Kuhner wrote earlier this month. "Many on the right will follow."
And finally: If realized, how would amnesty of an estimated 10 million illegal aliens affect the GOP's chance for the White House?
"Assume in a decade all 10 million became citizens and voted like the Hispanics, black folks, and Asians already here," reflected Pat Buchanan recently. If the 2012 election's "percentages held, Democrats would get ... 7 million new votes to the GOP's less than 3 million."
And it wouldn't end there. Via "chain migration," the newly-amnestied citizens would import millions of their relatives. Over time, their numbers would create an insurmountable Democratic advantage — and put a Republican presidency forever out of reach.
If not with amnesty, how should Republicans appeal to Hispanic citizens? Beck advocates "connecting support for E-Verify to tackling high unemployment among Hispanic Americans." Bob Dane of the Federation for American Immigration Reform says to stress that "enforcing laws against illegal immigration and limiting future immigration help reduce competition for jobs, wages, educational opportunities and health services."
Perhaps the best appeal would be this: that the rule of law and its consistent application — including on matters pertaining to immigration — undergird the order that helps Hispanic parents cultivate strong families.
This argument would recognize the American Hispanic, in the words of commentator Mark R. Levin, as "the good citizen" who "contributes to the social cohesion of the civil society — for his own benefit and the benefit of that society."
Next year and beyond, President Obama and Democrats in Congress will push for illegal-alien amnesties. Republicans — especially those eyeing the White House — shouldn't accede. Support for amnesty would doom, not save, the GOP.
• LaMountain, a former assistant editor of Conservative Digest magazine, serves as vice president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform.