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November 07, 2007

How Immigration is Actually Playing Out

So on one side of the ledger, we have David Paul Kuhn fitting illegal immigration into his Grand Unified Theory that the Democratic Party desperately needs a bigger penis. "The rising American discontent with illegal immigration," he says, "has the potential to sever Democrats from the majority of voters — especially those in the working and middle class — like no issue has in four decades."

On the other side, we have yesterday's elections in Virginia, which the GOP sought to use as a test run for the immigration appeal. And how'd that work out? "Voters across Virginia chose candidates in state and local elections yesterday not out of anger over illegal immigration but based on party affiliation, a preference for moderation and strong views on such key issues as residential growth and traffic congestion. With a few notable exceptions, the trend benefited Democrats and not those who campaigned the loudest for tough sanctions against illegal immigrants."

Indeed, over at TAP, Garance reported on Karen Schultz, a Democrat who was trying to win a GOP seat by accusing her opponent of being bought by "amnesty-lobbying money," and Charles Colgan, a Democrat trying to retain his seat in Prince Williams County, where the immigration issue has exploded. Schulz, running on her anti-immigrant platform, lost, and Colgan, running against a hardcore restrictionist, won.

November 7, 2007 in Immigration | Permalink

Comments

I've thought all week that's what's interesting about the fallout from the debate is the way Washington pundits talk about the driver's license issue without really talking about it: Clinton "messed up" she gave a "non answer answer" and "immigration politics will hurt the Democrats" but no one, really, talked about the substance of what she said. I think anti-immigrant rhetoric works well in theory in arousing protectionist, xenophobic sentiment; it's harder when you're talking about practical questions like licenses (or colleges). That said, I don't think anyone left or right can be too confident about how this issue plays out, particularly when no one, left or right, has any real proposal to address the largest issues. This issue does not cut left/right like other issues, something I've said all along; but I don't think the left can count on easy wins always by painting the rght as intolerant. Some of that intolerance, in some places, has some popularity.

In Virgnia, I think the main thing is that demographics have turned the state from somewhat reliably Republican to leaning Dem; while the Senate results aren't quite as overwhelming as some would like them to be, this shift has been in the cards for ten years, and most of these reversals could have been predicted, even that Schultz's possibility of winning was a tough call. Does immigration make the difference? Maybe; but I suspect the main thing is that Northern Virginia is no longer the bastion of conservatism it once was, while the Hampton Roads/DelMarVa military population has also moved left (and also enjoyed some economic success as a draw for business and a more urban population). And, given that Obama, Edwards and Clinton largely agree on immigration, as well as the lift that comes next year with Mark Warner's likely victory, the bigger question is, immigration aside, can Dems keep Virginia in play at the Presidential level. I tend to think yes... but this is one place where I wonder if Clinton really can do as much Edwards or Obama could.

Posted by: weboy | Nov 7, 2007 11:12:42 AM

Speaking as a Democrat who thinks the illegal immigration issue is at best a draw for the Republicans, because they come off like coldhearted schmucks even when scoring points about perceived crime and fear of brown people, I am heartened by the fact that modern day Republicans still seem to have no concept whatsoever at the moment of what it takes to win elections. Reading the Politico article, and figuring that a non-trivial part of the analysis is regurgitated GOP analysis, they are still trying to figure out how to tune an unsuccessful immigration message for broader appeal, while still lacking any idea whatsoever about either Iraq or the economy. As far as I am concerned, keep it going guys, and see if you can kill off your party for even more electoral cycles!

Posted by: jfaberuiuc | Nov 7, 2007 11:29:22 AM

One of the great things about being in power is you get to be in power. One of the bad things of being in power is you also can get pinned with responsibility. To the extent the D's have avoided the immigration issue so far, it has been because they have not been in power and therefore have not had to take responsibility for a truly difficult issue. So we have every D in a swing district puffing their chests about how they were for "stronger enforcement" knowing that is a load of C-R-A-P, because they really are not in favor of stronger enforcement at all. Now that they are in power in VA or probably in DC next cycle, they will no longer be able to dodge the issue.

So far, we have the pure amnesty people of La Raza and the SEIU, who are an extremely important part of the D coalition. You then have your swing D's who probably are with the amnesty folks, but can't admit it. Then you have your populists who worry about offending their disaffected whites (and blacks) by being immigrant friendly. So far, they have taken the "stronger enforcement" line. However, once the LaRaza/SEIU demands what they want, something is going to have to give. The tougher enforcement lie will no longer work since they will be in position to actually enact enforcement and they won't because they can't without alienating their extremely important constituency.

This is shown by Ezra's completely disingenuous "Don't crack down on illegal immigrants, crack down on employers who hire them!" ruse which is so internally inconsistent as to be laughable (What, the illegals can stay here, they just can't work?). The point of this too long post is the D's will have their own immigration blow-up just like the R's did this year.

Posted by: Scott | Nov 7, 2007 11:30:11 AM

Illegal immigration is something - whackjob nativists like Chris Simcox who has broken far more laws "protecting our borders" than pretty much any illegal immigrant aside - that can arouse tremendous rhetorical passion and very little else.

Here in Kansas, Kris Kobach (now the dimbulb state GOP chair) filed a lawsuit challenging a KS law granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants who met certain requirements. It was part of his primary campaign for the 3rd Congressional District, which is still held by the Democrat against whom Kobach hoped to create a wedge. And the immigration issue, while arousing as I said rhetorical passion, didn't gain any traction against Kathleen Sebelius or Dennis Moore last year even though the KS GOP tried.

I think that sometimes people really do remember the stuff they were taught in elementary school. And our teachers and textbooks all told us that the USA is a "melting pot," a nation of immigrants. Yes, there is the whole stupid idea that my immigrant ancestors came legally - mine didn't; thankfully Squanto didn't seem to mind - but I believe there's enough of these ideas in the back of people's minds to make them uncomfortable with actually putting nativist politicians in power.

Not scientific, but I have a hard time reconciling what I hear and read with electoral outcomes any other way.

Posted by: Stephen | Nov 7, 2007 11:33:38 AM

This is shown by Ezra's completely disingenuous "Don't crack down on illegal immigrants, crack down on employers who hire them!" ruse which is so internally inconsistent as to be laughable (What, the illegals can stay here, they just can't work?).

Well, some people would say that reducing demand would reduce the supply. And some people would suggest that granting amnesty would bring millions of people under minimum wage laws, would require better workplace safety, would increase FICA revenues and would generally take away the negative effect illegal immigrant has on the wages of unskilled workers.

But you're too smart for that.

Posted by: Stephen | Nov 7, 2007 11:40:30 AM

So Stephen, why not just deport them? Why give them drivers licenses? Why give the college education at in-state cost? Why oppose the SS verification system? And on and on and on.

If you're for amnesty, just say it. But it is internally inconsistent to be for amnesty and against hiring illegals. Period.

Posted by: Scott | Nov 7, 2007 11:47:49 AM

Oh, and Stephen, I'm not saying amnesty is necessarily the wrong position. I'm saying it is disingenuous to try to sound pro-enforcement and focus only on employers, since by definition, they are hiring illegal employees. You shut down the employers you shut down the employees.

Posted by: Scott | Nov 7, 2007 12:02:44 PM

Bully, Ezra.

I say, let the GOP devolve into the party of Lou Dobbs. I like our chances in a game of chicken. If the Democrats play their cards right and stick to the high road, I foresee fat Congressional majorities for years to come.

Posted by: Jasper | Nov 7, 2007 12:08:55 PM

"Voters across Virginia chose candidates in state and local elections yesterday not out of anger over illegal immigration but based on party affiliation, a preference for moderation and strong views on such key issues as residential growth and traffic congestion."

You mean, voters would rather have leaders who govern well than leaders who score cheap political points by bashing Mexicans? What a novel idea.

Posted by: Anthony | Nov 7, 2007 12:22:35 PM

Anyone who observed the evolution of California politics since the passage of proposition 187 knows that the end-result is not good for the GOP. Karl Rove was smart enough to know that whipping up anti-immigrant sentiment would put his dreams of a permanent GOP majority to an end. The rest of the party is ready to drive off a cliff over the issue.

And Scott, the reason liberals generally disapprove of the schemes for enforcement cooked up by anti-immigrant agitators (eg, "no renting to illegals!") is for two reasons: first, a person's visa status is an issue between him, his employer, and the federal government. Next, because we Americans should not have to prove our citizenship every time we open a bank account, enroll in a college class, or go to the post office. There's enormous hostility to anything that smacks of having to "produce our papers" outside of very rare circumstances.

Posted by: Tyro | Nov 7, 2007 12:28:31 PM

It's great to see Ezra yet again coming down on the side of corrupt forces that profit from illegal activity, but, based on his history (see especially the wiki link in the first update), I wouldn't put too much stock in his opinion.

Given a fair debate and a strong questioner, those who support massive illegal activity don't have a chance: they only have one "argument" which they use over and over; other than that, they have no real argument. Show me someone who lost after having succeeded at completely discrediting their opponent and Ezra might have a point.

Posted by: TLB | Nov 7, 2007 12:44:50 PM

Anyone who observed the evolution of California politics since the passage of proposition 187

Man, that was an ugly time. It's nice to be on this side of it.

So Stephen, why not just deport them? Why give them drivers licenses? Why give the college education at in-state cost? Why oppose the SS verification system? And on and on and on.

If you're for amnesty, just say it. But it is internally inconsistent to be for amnesty and against hiring illegals. Period.

Scott, are we talking about the same thing when we mention "amnesty?" Because to me amnesty means that their status changes from illegal to legal. It means they get driver licenses legally, they pay into and end up (depending on if they stay) collecting SS benefits legally, they go to school legally and live legally and even buy their groceries legally. It's all legal after amnesty is granted.

You seem to think that amnesty means they all remain illegal immigrants, but that we just won't care about it anymore. So employers can still pay them under minimum wage, can still get around paying for unemployment insurance, workers' comp insurance, FICA, and all the rest. So yeah, under this view cracking down on employers doesn't make sense.

I suspect, however, that there aren't many people who think this way. At least, not people who actually favor amnesty of some sort, especially because those of us who do also want to take measures that actually improve border security - the first step of which should be to get rid of the armed nativist nutjobs who think they're justified in breaking federal law in service of their own "higher law" of hating brown people.

Posted by: Stephen | Nov 7, 2007 12:48:15 PM

"So Stephen, why not just deport them?"

Probably because it would cost billions to track all 12 million down (which wouldn't get them all)? It's much cheaper to penalize the employers than to find all the employees. Anyone who claims the mantle of fiscal responsibility should realize this logic and embrace Ezra's position.

Posted by: verplanck colvin | Nov 7, 2007 1:04:13 PM

Gentlemen...please...let us show some comity.

Can't wealthy Democrats & Republicans agree on a few simple principles?

1) Wealthy households of Democrats & Republicans both NEED cheap nannies for their kids.

2) Wealthy households of Democrats & Republicans both NEED cheap lawncare.

3) Wealthy households of Democrats & Republicans both NEED cheap labor to keep corporate profits rolling for companies that can not off-shore.

This issue won't hunt because Wealthy households of Democrats & Republicans don't give a rat's behind about working poor and lower middle class [below median income] and this post proves the point all to well.

Anybody who knows anything about the Chicago race riots will find that until numbers were great enough to cause economic competition things were pretty enlightened along racial lines.

It is far more common for racism to be a result of economic competition than a precursor.

NAFTA caused tremendous turmoil in Mexico to the benefit of the wealthy elite in both countries. Massive immigration was the result...look for cause not effect.


Posted by: S Brennan | Nov 7, 2007 1:05:54 PM

In NoVa, I'd imagine that a fair chunk of the electorate happens to be non-white citizens (naturalized or nth-gen) who just happen to take the whole 'brown = immigrant = illegal = criminal/terrorist' thing personally.

they only have one "argument" which they use over and over; other than that, they have no real argument.

LOL. As opposed to the much more creative work of Wacko Kelly, the Ladder-Pullers' Friend, where all arguments are a variation on ZOMG!1! The insurgencia is coming!'

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Nov 7, 2007 2:24:10 PM

I wouldn't really gloat. Nobody doubts that immigration had an impact on these races. The overwhelming anger towards the other party is just too great for it to overcome. That will likely be true until after the 2008 elections, when the Republicans are no longer in power. Conditions won't always be so favorable, and anger over this issue isn't likely to dissipate in the next four years.

Posted by: soullite | Nov 7, 2007 2:29:58 PM

Stephen, you are right, my earlier post was unclear re: amnesty. Saying you support amnesty is not necessarily inconsistent with cracking down on employers. It is inconsistent to say you can only crack down on employers while remaining a friend to the illegals. Such is the problem of posting while working.

S Brennan: I see the populist wing of the D's coming out! (or are you a Paulnut?) You are probably right in your analysis, but what to do about it remains the $100 billion question.

Posted by: Scott | Nov 7, 2007 2:32:05 PM

Conditions won't always be so favorable, and anger over this issue isn't likely to dissipate in the next four years.

Actually, the number of registered Latino voters continues to outpace the general growth in the electorate, and there's frankly huge room for upside here, as Latinos still badly trail other ethnic groups in voter registration, even when just considering those who have citizenship (not to mention the additional, massive upside when you take into account that a lot of Latino residents of voting age are not yet citizens). So, "conditions" for Democrats are likely to continue to look rosy, to the extent that the GOP has badly hurt itself with this group.

Ironically, there is plenty (so I'm told) of anti illegal immigration sentiment within the Latino community, so the GOP, which had apparently been making inroads into the Latino vote, could likely at least have fought the Democrats to a draw over this cohort, provided they showed creative leadership in humanely and sensibly dealing with the illegal immigration issue. Instead, they gave us Tom Tancredo.

And in additional bad news for the Republicans, in the fullness of time, anglo anger about the issue of illegal immigration will be an issue the GOP will likely lose as a major vote-gainer. And that's because a Democratic White House and Congress -- in similar fashion to what George W. Bush was angling at -- will eventually craft legislation that will decrease the level of illegal immigration (plus, demographic trends in Mexico are already beginning to help in this regard anyways).

So, I'd say the GOP has royally effed itself on the issue of immigration. Couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch of A-holes.

(sorry for the potty mouth, Ezra).

Posted by: Jasper | Nov 7, 2007 4:27:31 PM

It is inconsistent to say you can only crack down on employers while remaining a friend to the illegals.

If "being a friend" means just ignoring the issue, then we agree. The presence of so many unpersons in this country is a major problem, especially for unskilled workers. That's the place where I really disagree with Ezra, in that any downward tug on wages cannot be morally described as "mild."

Bringing the illegal immigrants into the system while a)cracking down hard on employers who continue to employ illegals and b)taking practical steps to actually secure our borders will have huge benefits for unskilled workers, since there won't be an easily exploited shadow workforce employers can tap to replace them.

Posted by: Stephen | Nov 7, 2007 5:15:43 PM

Jasper writes: "(plus, demographic trends in Mexico are already beginning to help in this regard anyways)"

The phenomenon of demographic momentum means that Mexico's population will rise far into the future even if fertility dropped to replacement this instant (it is actually at 2.4 children per woman). The US census bureau foresees a 130 million mexicans in mexico in 2025, up from 109 million today. See: http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idb/country/mxportal.html
Sure, it could be a lot worse. Mexico isn't doubling every 25 years like some countries are. But don't expect Mexican demographics to cause a lessening in the numbers of Mexicans seeking illegal entry for decades and decades to come.

Posted by: pjgoober | Nov 7, 2007 6:59:57 PM

"Well, some people would say that reducing demand would reduce the supply. And some people would suggest that granting amnesty would bring millions of people under minimum wage laws, would require better workplace safety, would increase FICA revenues and would generally take away the negative effect illegal immigrant has on the wages of unskilled workers."

What does amnesty have to do with anything you said and why do you think anything about illegals would change whatsoever if we had another huge amnesty program?

Are you foolishly assuming that illegal immigration slows down after an amnesty program?

Amnesty causes INCREASED illegal immigration. Everybody figures its better to jump the border then and then wait 20 years for the next round of amnesty.

So really what you have is amnesty program that promises a bunch of bullshit and delivers nothing. You still have millions of illegals coming every year. You still have massive wage suppresion by the new oncoming illegals. You still have tremendous workforce instability by the "newly amnestized" population who is going to be competing against the new illegal influx coming in behind them.

Will it reduce the demand for new illegals? Fuck no. Why would big business pay more for the amensty group when they got millions more illegals waiting?

Would it bring millions of people under minimum wage laws? Yes, but the total percentage would be unchanged. Again, big business will always choose the cheaper option and the cheaper option is the hordes of illegals coming behind the amnesty program.

So amnesty is really just a redefinition of people based on semantics. It has NOTHING to do with the effects of illegal immigration on the economy.

Posted by: joe blow | Nov 7, 2007 9:29:51 PM

"first, a person's visa status is an issue between him, his employer, and the federal government."

Does that mean you believe that the federal govt has the right/responsibility to control borders and deport illegals? Oh wait no you dont really want the fed to do anything about illegals. So its just another bullshit disingenuous ploy.

"Next, because we Americans should not have to prove our citizenship every time we open a bank account, enroll in a college class, or go to the post office. There's enormous hostility to anything that smacks of having to "produce our papers" outside of very rare circumstances"


Whats the big deal? All of Europe runs that way. Dont you think that Europe is a model of what America could be? Oh wait I guess that only applies to social welfare programs.

Posted by: joe blow | Nov 7, 2007 9:35:33 PM

"You seem to think that amnesty means they all remain illegal immigrants, but that we just won't care about it anymore. So employers can still pay them under minimum wage, can still get around paying for unemployment insurance, workers' comp insurance, FICA, and all the rest. So yeah, under this view cracking down on employers doesn't make sense."


Tell me why an employers would deal with all that bullshit when he can just get fresh Joe Blow Mexico instead?

Tell me why amnesty will make illegal immigrants less available to employers.

Posted by: joe blow | Nov 7, 2007 9:37:38 PM

"And that's because a Democratic White House and Congress -- in similar fashion to what George W. Bush was angling at -- will eventually craft legislation that will decrease the level of illegal immigration (plus, demographic trends in Mexico are already beginning to help in this regard anyways)."

Bullshit. Neither repubs nor dems have any interest whatsoever in controlling borders or reducing illegal immigration.

Its the same song and dance as the amnesty bill in 1986. Nobody back then wanted increased enforcement, and nobody wants it this time around either. In 20 years we'll have ANOTHER 20 million or so illegal immigratns and we'll craft another amnesty bill and yet again there will be no interest in controlling borders or enforcement.

And around the fucking mulberry bush we go...

Posted by: joe blow | Nov 7, 2007 9:41:33 PM

Whats the big deal? All of Europe runs that way.

That was precisely my point. Having been traveling in Europe when my bush got flagged down and boarded by the police, followed by a call for the swarthier riders to produce their "papers," this was a reminder that the US was a much more pleasant place to live.

Dont you think that Europe is a model of what America could be? Oh wait I guess that only applies to social welfare programs.

Pretty much, yes. I'm a believer in taking what is good and what works in other places and rejecting what is bad. Isn't that what you do? Or do you mindlessly reject everything just because it comes from "Europe" ?

Posted by: Tyro | Nov 7, 2007 10:36:41 PM

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