The Corner

Conservatives for Obama

I was disappointed today to see Robert George, Grover Norquist, and others launch a new initiative to push Barack Obama’s immigration initiative. At first, the goals of the new “Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles” sound great:

Our programs and initiatives focus on:

1. Promoting conservative values and ideals within the Latino community.

2. Informing conservatives about Latinos’ conservative views and aspirations.

3. Increasing Latino support for conservative candidates and causes.

4. Promoting and facilitating the emergence of local, state and national conservative Latino groups, leaders and candidates.

Who could disagree? But then you get to the fifth, most concrete, and therefore I suspect the most important focus:

5. Encouraging increased support and advocacy among conservatives for comprehensive immigration reform.

I wasn’t at today’s press conference announcing the new effort, but the reporters I’ve spoken with said promoting Obama’s plan for amnesty and increased immigration (“comprehensive immigration reform”) was a major topic. If the point is to increase the Republican share of the Hispanic vote, this sure isn’t going to help; the only thing that will is closing down mass immigration so that — as we saw the last time we did it — immigrants and their children will Americanize over time and vote more like other Americans, i.e., more Republican.

And even apart from the immigration issue, the objectification of Hispanics that efforts like this engage in really can be cringe-inducing. For instance, this from a video at the website by Professor George:

“Latinos, after all, are people who share the basic commitment that we have to hard work, to individual responsibility, to the family, and to the sanctity of human life.”

George has made huge contributions to conservatism, but even Homer nods. I’m afraid this kind of sentimentalism is just the flip side of the denigration of Hispanics that you sometimes hear from the fringier talk-show set; the difference is that the negative objectification of Hispanics is rightly shunned, whereas their positive objectification is celebrated.

In fact, they’re not objects at all — they’re people like any other, trying to cope with the challenges and contradictions of modernity as best they can. And while a significant share do successfully assimilate into the middle class, a very large share assimilate into the underclass; more than 40 percent of births to Hispanic immigrants are illegitimate, a figure that rises to 50 percent for native-born Hispanics. Among Mexican-Americans, by far the largest Hispanic group, educational and economic advancement stops at the second generation, so that there is no further improvement even among the great-grandchildren of the original Mexican immigrants. What’s more, over half of immigrant families with children are on welfare.

And as for the size of government, a Pew survey found that, regardless of income, Hispanics preferred higher taxes and larger government by nearly 2 to 1, more than white or blacks. Even those who identify as Republicans are more supportive of bigger government than non-Hispanic white Democrats (see Table 18).

The point is not that today’s immigrants are somehow inferior to your grandma from Sicily; they’re really not that different. But yesterday’s immigrants came to yesterday’s America. Today’s immigrants are 19th century-style workers, just like your grandma, but they’re coming to a 21st-century society, with all the changes, good and bad, that come with it. We now have a knowledge-based economy where high-school dropouts can’t earn enough to support a family; where there is an extensive welfare state and, more generally, many tax-funded government services; where air fares, telephones, and Internet connections are cheaper than ever, meaning that you never really have to cut ties with the old country; and where popular culture is awash in filth. Let’s see your grandma from Sicily come to this actually-existing America and turn out differently from today’s newcomers.

Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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