Republicans and Immigration

by Mark Krikorian

The standard line among the high-immigration right (earnestly, if insincerely, seconded by their fellow-travelers on the left) is that Republican opposition to open immigration is driving otherwise-conservative immigrant (and/or Hispanic) voters into the arms of the Democratic party. Some new research suggests it’s actually the other way around. Far from Republican anti-immigration views pushing immigrants further toward the Democrats, it’s immigrant anti-Republican views that push Republicans further toward restriction.

As George Hawley from the University of Houston reports in Social Science Quarterly:

When a county’s non-native-born population is small, there is virtually no difference between Republicans, Democrats, and Independents in regard to views on immigration. I argue that this is because, in such a context, immigrants have no discernable influence on local political outcomes. As this population grows, however, Republicans become more supportive of immigration restrictions, as group conflict theory would suggest. Democrats, in contrast, whose electoral fortunes are likely to improve as the immigrant population grows, become more favorably inclined to liberal immigration policies. . . .

Just as high immigration levels can potentially lead to greater competition for scarce jobs (Camarota, 2007), so too can high immigration levels potentially threaten the political clout of Republicans. These findings suggest that Republicans recognize this fact and become slightly less favorable toward liberal immigration policies as the immigrant population grows. It appears that Democrats also recognize this trend, which would explain why native-born Democrats in particular become more prone to favor liberal immigration policies as the foreign-born population becomes larger.

So, Republican and Democratic voters understand that ongoing high levels of immigration (legal or illegal) are, in part, a tool to promote Democratic political dominance. Democratic leaders also understand this, as I spelled out last year in my Encounter Broadside. It’s only Republican leaders like Bush and McCain (and Graham and Gingrich and Romney and Barbour et al., ad nauseum) that seem to be clueless. No wonder they’re the Stupid party.