Instead, the Democratic party received a major boost in Latino registration from the amnesty. Overall, according to the Pew Research Center, Democratic-party affiliation among Hispanic registered voters had risen to 70 percent by 2012, while falling to 22 percent for the GOP. The figures are even more dramatic for California, which has by far the largest Latino population in the nation. As of 1980, 52.7 percent of California’s registered voters were Republican; California now has just 29 percent registered Republicans. Undoubtedly, a major reason for this change was the amnesty. More than 3 million illegal immigrants nationwide were legalized under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), and more than 50 percent of these newly legalized aliens resided in California. In Los Angeles County alone, 583,963 immigrants were legalized under the IRCA; today the ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans in the county is 51.8 percent to 23.5 percent. Furthermore, L.A. County once again has an illegal population numbering one in ten adults, according to a recent USC study. No wonder L.A. County and California as a whole have been transformed into one-party jurisdictions.
To expect that granting amnesty to the current crop of illegal aliens would have different results is yet another case of the proverbial triumph of hope over experience.
Finally, what about the alleged conservative or Republican values of the Latino immigrants? Surely many of them do share these values, and success stories are far from rare. Otherwise you wouldn’t have a quarter of the immigrants consistently voting Republican. But to argue that they are typical, let alone that they characterize the majority of the immigrant population, is to stand reality on its head.
Scholars such as Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute and Professor George Borjas of Harvard University, among many others, have long documented a progressive deterioration of the prevailing social norms in the Latino community as illegal immigration, especially from Mexico, has exploded since the 1980s. Contrary to what are touted as conservative values, the Hispanic community today exhibits traits typical of the American underclass, such as high rates of broken families, teen pregnancies and out-of-wedlock births, crime, domestic violence, gang violence, and strong dependence on welfare programs. According to Ms. Mac Donald, more than half of California’s Hispanic births at present are out of wedlock, and Latinos “have the highest teen birthrate of all ethnic groups” in California. Four out of ten incarcerated criminals in California in 2008 were Hispanic, and more than 80 percent of households headed by an illegal immigrant were on welfare. Indeed, Professor Borjas has argued that many illegal immigrants seek U.S. citizenship “as a means of retaining welfare eligibility.”
The real reason for this unhappy state of affairs is a combination of the type of illegal immigrants we have been attracting lately and the counterproductive policies pursued by the California state government, which has sought to make them wards of the state and has largely succeeded, with devastating long-term consequences for both the immigrants and the state itself. In the past two or three decades, most of the illegal Latino immigrants, 82 percent of whom are Mexicans, come from the lowest stratum of their society and are largely illiterate or, as an economist would put it, lack the human capital that education endows. And experience has shown that adult immigrants illiterate in Spanish will seldom become literate in English.
The results are there for everyone to see. California today has an adult illiteracy rate of 23 percent. If it were an independent country, this would put it in 151st place among the 205 countries of the world. It is worth noting that the Golden State is now considerably less literate than Mexico itself, which has an illiteracy rate of 13.9 percent. Los Angeles County’s illiteracy rate is 33.5 percent, which would place it in the company of countries like Ghana, Burundi, and Congo. And it’s getting worse. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Latinos were the only ethnic group in America whose illiteracy rate increased significantly between 1992 and 2003.
This need not be a permanent condition, but legalizing another 11 million immigrants and probable Democratic voters would not help. At the very least, the GOP would be likely to lose, and permanently, swing states like Florida, Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada, as well as the chance to elect a Republican president for years to come. To say nothing of the potential reaction by millions of conservative Americans to whom such an amnesty would mean a GOP betrayal of historic proportions. In short, the Republican caucus in the Senate appears embarked on a suicidal course. The choice is clear. Either the GOP majority in the House will kill this toxic bill, or the bill will kill the GOP. Tertium non datur!
— Alex Alexiev is a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center (IASC) in Washington, D.C.