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Immigration and the Future of American Conservatism

“We lose everything if we lose immigration,” bestselling author and columnist Ann Coulter said with respect to conservatives at DSC03144-450x344a March 8, 2014, briefing during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).  Coulter and her fellow panelists convincingly demonstrated that continued mass immigration of largely impoverished individuals would make conservative governance politically and economically untenable. 

The panel drew upon the Eagle Forum’s recent report How Mass (Legal) Immigration Dooms a Conservative Republican Party to demonstrate, in Coulter’s words, that “there is no point in talking about any other issue.”  “Each decade,” distributed copies of the report noted, “current policy adds about 11 million new legal immigrants” to American society who are largely politically liberal.  These numbers entail 5.1 and 8.4 million potential new voters by 2024 and 2028, respectively, numbers that rise in Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections to 9.7 and 17.9 million under the Senate “Gang of Eight” S.744 illegal immigrant amnesty bill.

“[V]ery similar to the pattern…among immigrants in other Western countries,” America’s immigrants lean left politically, the report notes.  “Being liberal is not a moral failing on the part of immigrants; it is simply reflective of their backgrounds.”  “Most immigrants come from countries where the government plays a larger role in the economy and society.”  Americans likewise “bring their New York values with them” and eventually vote for higher taxes after moving from Gotham to low tax havens like Florida and New Hampshire, Coulter concurred.

“Self-interest matters a great deal in politics,” the report adds, noting how largely poor immigrants often “benefit from affirmative action and welfare.”  This conclusion receives support from a 2012 report distributed by fellow panelist Steven Camarota from the Center for Immigration Studies.  Even 20 years in America, the detailed CIS study notes, immigrant adults have twice the poverty and medically uninsured rates of natives. 

New immigrants and their children account for two-thirds of the increase in uninsured since 2000.  In addition to creating an electorally significant “enormous new clientele for government programs,” poor immigrants “provide powerful justification for new government programs.”  By contrast, about 30% of all past immigrants returned to their countries of origin after failing to establish themselves in a pre-welfare state America, Coulter noted.

Numerous polls cited by the Eagle Forum testify to immigrant liberalism.  “Bigger government, more services” is the preference of 81% of first-generation Hispanic-Americans over “Smaller government, fewer services” in a 2012 Pew poll, a preference that only drops to 58% by the third generation.  Hispanics of all generations favor big government by 75% compared to the general public’s 41%, while Asian-Americans favor the state by 55% in another 2012 Pew poll.  In particular, 66% of Hispanics approved of Obamacare according to Pew in 2012 versus 47% of the general public.

Immigrants remain liberal on issues beyond economics such as the environment.  In particular, 70% of Asians consider themselves environmentalists in comparison to 41% of the general public according to a 2012 study.  Asian and Hispanic immigrants, Eagle Forum notes, also come “from countries where firearms ownership is highly restricted” and settle “in cities and the suburbs where hunting and gun ownership are much less widespread.”  Thus the proposition that “it is more important to protect rights of Americans to own guns” only found favor with 29% of Hispanics in a 2012 Pew survey as opposed to 57% of whites.

Contrary to some conservative hopes, Eagle Forum’s “survey data show U.S.-born Hispanics and Asians tend to be supportive of abortion and gay rights” and foreign-born divided.  “More importantly, polls show that immigrants and their children do not vote…based on social issues.”  On social issues even “American Muslims are not particularly conservative.”

Predictions that current immigrants will assimilate like their numerous predecessors in the 1900s ignore several factors.  A “national pause and slowdown of immigration from the 1920s to the 1960s” enabled these “Great Wave” immigrants and their descendants “to assimilate, learn our language, and adapt to our unique system of government.” 

Nonetheless, “seven decades and Ronald Reagan” were necessary before many of these communities voted Republican.  They meanwhile “provided a good deal of the political support necessary to pass and sustain both the New Deal and the Great Society,” government expansions “never…undone.”  Even today white Catholic immigrant descendants still only slightly favor Republican presidential candidates while Jewish majorities have voted Democratic in every presidential election for which there is data.

Additionally, most “earlier immigrants arrived eager to become Americans,” evening becoming “almost 200 percent Americans, typified by Irving Berlin’s ‘God Bless America.’”  Yet the Eagle Forum cited a 2013 Hudson Institute study entitled America’s Patriotic Assimilation System Is Broken.  Therein to “Teach students to be proud of being part of U.S.” found favor with just fewer than 50% of foreign-born American citizens compared to over 81% of native-born. 

Only 37% of foreign-born citizens similarly considered the United States Constitution a higher authority over international law in comparison to 67% of the native-born.  Such is the effect according to Eagle Forum “of multiculturalism and ethnic grievance-based politics…in an America with a racial spoils system and a huge welfare state” upon which many immigrants depend.

Such continued immigration will make it “virtually impossible for Republicans to remain nationally competitive as a conservative party,” a development Democrats are “quite open about.”  For them immigration “is just a way of importing voters,” CIS executive director Mark Krikorian stated by phone during an earlier March 6 panel at the National Security Action Summit (NSAS) adjacent to CPAC. 

“Immigration has moved the political center to the left” and made California the “Greece of the United States.”   Winning 4 percentage points more of the white vote in 2012 than Reagan in 1980, Coulter noted, Romney would have won an even larger presidential landslide if not for immigration having changed electoral demographics.

Democratic zeal for immigration persists even though “immigration tends to harm those the Democratic Party traditionally has claimed to want to help the most, such as less-educated workers,” the Eagle Forum notes.  Immigrants are “never going to live the American Dream” if successive immigration waves keep wages low, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly argued.  “Democrats only care about immigrants until they can vote,” Coulter concurred.

No amount of otherwise necessary “bolder and more intensive outreach” to minorities, argued the report, can change the fact that “ethnic voting patterns…tend to endure for decades.”  As George H. W. Bush’s 1988 seven-point Hispanic vote drop from Ronald Reagan’s 37% in 1984 following the 1986 illegal immigration amnesty shows, for example, current amnesty proposals are unlikely to sway Hispanic voters in particular. 

Even though the Department of Homeland Security estimates that illegal immigrants are at least three-fourths Hispanic, immigration has a low political priority among Hispanic voters in polls.  Coulter noted that past Barack Obama advertisements hardly mentioned amnesty.  Alternatively, a hardline immigration position also has little effect among Hispanics, as Mitt Romney won the same percentage in 2012 of their vote in California as he did nationwide (27), irrespective of the legacy of the state’s oft-maligned Proposition 187.

Amnesty, meanwhile, would be “disastrous” for a key Republican base, “working-class white voters with less than a college education,” a voting bloc much larger than immigrant communities.  Between four and six million of these voters stayed home in 2012 compared to 2004.  The Eagle Forum notes “general agreement” that low-skilled immigration “reduces wages for the least-educated American workers.”  Given a recent “massive decline in work” and “very little wage growth” for the past 13 years, Camarota judged that “only in Congress is there a labor shortage.”  The Senate with S.744 has “voted to declare war on the American worker,” Rosemary Jenks of the immigration restriction advocacy group Numbers USA stated at NSAS.

Thus supporting amnesty “will only reinforce the perception that Republicans care only about business interests and the rich,” the report noted.  Immigration reduction advocacy, though, “can turn the tables on the Left” as “serving the interests of businesses” with cheap immigrant labor.  The report advocating limiting family immigration to spouses and minor children as opposed to what Eagle Forum’s Glyn Wright called at the CPAC panel a current “immigration system…of essentially no limits.”

Acceptance of immigration changing America “isn’t a natural process,” Coulter argued, any more than a rapist saying to a woman “sorry, my penis is inside of you, there is nothing you can do about it.”  Slowing immigration now would allow immigrants to slowly assimilate and become amenable to conservative messages while conservative, religious Americans increased their numbers through birthrates. Otherwise “Republicans are fools” to support measures such as amnesty entailing “suicide” for their party, Schlafly warned. 

The Republican Party “can either change its position on legal immigration or it can change its position on almost every other issue,” according to the Eagle Forum report.

Source: Front Page Magazine

Andrew E. Harrod is a freelance researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies. You may follow Harrod on twitter at @AEHarrod.

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