The president of the League of United Latin American Citizens issued a statement in the wake of Tuesday’s elections: “The elections of 2010 are further proof of the power of the Latino vote.” In fact, though, the elections are further proof that Hispanic Americans are Americans, and that amnesty isn’t a winning political issue even among them.
The 112th Congress is going to be a lot more hawkish on immigration than its predecessors were. Numbers USA figures that the new House of Representatives will have at least 50 fewer supporters of increased immigration than the current one. The current House has 206 members that the organization considers to support higher immigration most or all of the time, compared with 155 higher-immigration members in races so far decided.
Those pro-amnesty, mass-immigration congressmen were replaced with the likes of Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania, who rose to national prominence as the mayor of Hazleton, Pa., where he tried to enact a local ordinance to limit the settlement of illegal aliens. Joining him in the House will be “true reformers” (as defined by responses to Numbers USA’s candidate survey) Allen West, Steve Southerland, Daniel Webster, Scott DesJarlais, Ben Quayle, Paul Gosar, David Schweikert, Joe Heck, and others.
Contrary to Harry Reid’s notorious comment that “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican,” the most notable Hispanic winners Tuesday were Republicans – and immigration hawks. Senator-elect Marco Rubio of Florida and Governors-elect Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval of Nevada all support Arizona’s SB1070 and other measures to clamp down on illegal immigration.
Likewise in the House of Representatives. Bill Flores, also listed by Numbers USA as a “true reformer,” wiped out 20-year incumbent and amnesty supporter Chet Edwards, who’d earned a grade of D-minus on immigration, in a district that stretches between Dallas and Houston.
In Texas’s 23rd district, which includes the western half of the state’s border with Mexico, Quico Conseco — who hasn’t filled out Numbers USA’s survey but is pretty hawkish on immigration and border issues — defeated Ciro Rodriguez, who’d earned a D-plus grade on immigration this past Congress.
In southwest Washington State, Republican immigration hawk Jaime Herrera beat Democrat Denny Heck, who was apparently so wary of the issue he didn’t even mention border security or illegal immigration on his website. Likewise with Raul Labrador in Idaho, who beat freshman Blue Dog Walt Minnick, who’d earned a respectable B from Numbers USA but unsuccessfully ran for even more cover by promising to back restrictionists on almost all issues.
Ordinary Hispanic voters didn’t seem any more wedded to the immigration issue, reflecting the recent Pew Hispanic Center finding that immigration ranked fifth in importance out of seven issues among Hispanic registered voters. Exit polling shows that in House races nationwide, Hispanic support for Republicans increased to 34 percent of the vote, up from 29 percent in 2008 and 30 percent in 2006. Between one-quarter and one-third of the Hispanic vote is the normal range for Republicans, and this election followed the same pattern, with Meg Whitman getting 30 percent, Carly Fiorina getting 28 percent, and Sharron Angle getting 30 percent. Even Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, a hate figure for the open-borders crowd, got 28 percent of the Hispanic vote — which is actually two points more than Janet Napolitano’s Republican opponent got in 2006.
In fact, for all of Harry Reid’s demagoguery, he got almost exactly the same percentage of the Hispanic vote this time (68 percent) as he did in 2004 (67 percent). And Barbara Boxer got only 65 percent of the Hispanic vote this time, compared with 73 percent in 2004.
But let me end on a cautionary note. None of these encouraging results changes the fact that continued mass immigration guarantees the doom of conservatism (as I spell out in detail in my Encounter Broadside on the subject). The cause of limited government cannot succeed in the long term, even if the GOP does somewhat better among Hispanic voters, so long as the federal immigration program continues to admit a million-plus newcomers a year. And the overwhelming Hispanic preference for Democrats is not something that can be addressed with tweaks to immigration policy — even if such tweaks would do any good, which evidence suggests they wouldn’t.
The fact is that mass immigration is inevitably made up of the relatively poor, who in a modern society will make disproportionate use of taxpayer-funded services (the majority of families headed by a Mexican immigrant, for instance, use at least one welfare program, even though the overwhelming majority have at least one worker in them). Therefore, the conservative message of smaller government is simply not going to resonate with a large share of immigrant voters, and may, in fact, repel them. What’s more, the huge majority of immigrants, not just Hispanics, are eligible for affirmative-action quotas as soon as they set foot in the United States, making it harder for them to embrace the party opposed to such benefits. On top of that, Hispanic immigrants, and even more their children, are more likely to have children out of wedlock than native-born Americans, another factor drawing them away from the Right and toward the Left.
Nor is it just a matter of voting power. Mass immigration actually creates the political and economic conditions the Left needs to thrive. Not only does it provide extra House and state-legislative seats for left-wing politicians through the reapportionment and redistricting that take place after each census, but it also exacerbates such problems as poverty and the lack of health insurance, which lead non-immigrant voters, not even thinking about immigration, to be more receptive to statist solutions. For example, about three-fourths of the increase in the size of the uninsured population in the last decade was among newly arrived immigrants and their U.S.-born children; does anyone doubt that this immigration-driven growth in the number of the uninsured helps further the Democrats’ agenda to socialize health care?
Tuesday’s results were hugely encouraging for the cause of immigration control and national sovereignty. But unless the new Republican House (with, we can hope, a GOP Senate after 2012) uses its power to reduce future immigration levels — through both better enforcement and changes to legal-immigration rules such as ending family chain migration — this week’s joyous news will simply be a rest stop on the road to serfdom.
– Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, an NRO contributor, and author of The New Case Against Immigration, Both Legal and Illegal and How Obama Is Transforming America Through Immigration.