First appeared in print in The The Rhino Times, Greensboro, NC
Winning with Immigration
America has never needed a change of government more than we do right now. With the weakest yet most dictatorial President in American history -- and the most rigidly partisan Senate -- it's vital that the Republican Party carry Congress resoundingly in this year's election.
But let's never underestimate the ability of the Republican Party to shoot itself in the foot.
Republicans already start out far behind, because the news media will be uniformly against them -- touting every Democrat and disparaging every Republican.
But it's not as if the Republicans don't give them plenty of ammunition.
There is an issue on which the Republican position is anti-American, self-destructive, and inconsistent with Republican values -- and it has cost the Republican Party millions of votes: immigration reform.
Those millions of votes are the votes of citizens of Latin American ancestry. These are people who should be conservatives. On economics, on foreign policy, on values, they are natural Republicans.
But the Republican loathing for Spanish-speaking immigrants has been so virulent that Hispanic voters have no choice but to vote for the Democrats, even though they actually dislike almost every position the Democrats take.
Oh, I know: Officially, the Republican position isn't anti-immigrant, it's only against illegal immigrants.
But hispanics aren't stupid. They remember the "English-only" movement; they hear Republicans talking about immigrants who only come to America to get on welfare. These views don't single out illegal immigrants. They attack all hispanic immigrants.
It's hard to cast a vote for a party full of bigots who clearly hate you for your brown skin and your Spanish accent. They recognize that all the talk about "enforcement before reform" and "no amnesty" is really a thin disguise for "ship 'em all back home."
If you're a Republican who isn't a bigot, your voice has long since been drowned out.
George W. Bush once offered an excellent compromise to solve the whole immigration problem. But the rigid anti-hispanics in the Republican Party shot it down.
The result is that there are millions of votes that should, by culture and values, be Republican votes -- which are cast for anybody but the Republican candidate.
Stupidest idea ever: "No immigration law reform until the existing law is fully enforced!"
This is exactly like a guy who is hitting himself in the head with a hammer, but refuses to stop until somebody cures his headache.
The only reason we had an "illegal immigrant" problem is that our economy desperately needed low-wage workers, but our racist immigration laws blocked the very people willing to do that work for those wages.
There is nothing sacred about the quotas we impose. They were always designed to preserve the racial mixture that we had at the time they were written. It seems that there are always pinheads in America who want to block the very people who most want to come here.
It used to be the Irish, then the Italians, then Chinese, the Japanese, the Russian Jews. Yet given enough time, they have all assimilated and become as American as anybody. The hispanics will, too -- already are, in fact -- and the people who opposed them will look as bigoted and stupid as the people who tried to keep out the Irish, Italians, Jews, Chinese, and Japanese.
That's because they are as bigoted and stupid.
If our economy didn't need those workers, they wouldn't have been able to find jobs here, and if they hadn't known there were jobs here, they wouldn't have come and they wouldn't have stayed.
In fact, when our economy went up in smoke, the illegal immigrant "problem" slackened off considerably.
Illegal immigrants have contributed hugely to American prosperity. The bigots who can only see that a few of them take advantage of government services are missing a key fact: By working hard for substandard wages, illegal immigrants have kept prices low.
The illegal immigrants have been subsidizing American prosperity by giving us, in effect, a rebate on all the commodities they help produce at such low prices.
If the illegal immigrants hadn't come across our border -- at their own expense and at great hazard -- then those jobs either wouldn't have been done at all, meaning those goods and services wouldn't have been available, or the jobs would have been done at much higher wages, meaning that their cost would have been much higher.
Complete immigration reform -- and by that I mean making it possible for anyone who wants to live honestly and work hard to enter the country legally -- would allow these ambitious people to prosper.
No longer needing to hide from authorities, they could start their own businesses or rise to income levels where they would pay income taxes. And they've been paying sales taxes and, indirectly, property taxes all along.
In other words, by refusing to reform immigration, Republicans push all hispanics into the Democratic Party. But if Republicans became the champions of immigration reform, most hispanics -- hard-working, traditional, family-centered, religious people -- would naturally gravitate toward the Republican Party.
The change wouldn't happen overnight -- it will take a while for hispanics to see that Republicans mean it.
An essential part of any immigration reform, however, is to recognize the fact that everybody who is already here is here to stay.
But don't call it "amnesty." These people haven't committed a crime, they've been providing for their families. In order to do that, they sacrificed everything they had and risked their lives to get here. And the whole time they've been here, they've had to live furtively, unable to call on the police to protect them, exploited by unprincipled employers and rapacious criminals.
They've experienced the worst that America has to offer, while giving us their best. As far as I'm concerned, we wouldn't be giving them amnesty, we'd be recognizing that they have already paid the price for their "crime."
They aren't getting away with anything. Amnesty means sentencing them to time already served.
What I find most bitterly amusing is that most of the "no amnesty ever" people call themselves Christians. They proclaim their own dependence on Christ's amnesty for their sins -- while refusing to forgive others, ever, for the trivial crime of crossing a border without consent.
Such Christians would do well to reread (in Matthew 18) the parable of the indebted servant, whose master forgives him for a debt of ten thousand talents; but the servant then throws a fellow servant into prison for a debt of one hundred pennies.
Here is the punishment that Republicans have already received for their harsh, unforgiving attitude toward illegal immigrants, and the ugly anti-hispanic rhetoric and policies they have endorsed or tolerated: They have lost elections they should have won, and now live in a country much worse governed than it needed to be, because the Democratic Party has been able to count on the votes of those that the Republican Party has shoved away.
Leaders of the Republican Party -- and I include the talk-show hosts as well, because they are the primary agitators for anti-hispanic policies -- not only need to stop opposing serious immigration-law reform, they need to openly repudiate the no-amnesty, enforcement-before-reform policy.
They need to say, "We were wrong. Our economy needs you, America needs you, please stay -- and vote for the party that is trying to restore our free-market economy to health."
It wouldn't even hurt if Republicans added the magic words "por favor" and "gracias."
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