"The enthusiasm for amnesty (except as a business-class plot to attract more illegals and hold down wages, or a crass Rovian "compassion" bank shot aimed at prosperous suburban women) baffles me. It's dumb policy. It hurts low-wage American workers. Even from Bush's crude political point of view, it's semi-deluded: There aren't that many Hispanic voters (half as many as blacks) and an amnesty won't make many of these Hispanics Republicans. Even if the program is wildly successful at attracting the new citizens to the GOP — and say, 40 percent of them become Republicans — that still means Bush has created three new Democrats for every two new members of his party. ... Why can't it be stopped? Like Nixon's unexpectedly liberal "guaranteed income" plan, it intrigues the media elite but is likely to enrage a majority of voters (blacks maybe even more than whites). It creates a huge political opening for the candidate willing to say "no" — as Ronald Reagan said "no" to Nixon's welfare plan. ... (8/12)"
Neo-centrist pundit Mickey Kaus
Consider this analogy: in the spring of 1918, the Germans emerged from their trenches to launch an enormous offensive that nearly won them World War I. But it failed. By November, Germany was completely defeated.
The leaked report saying that the Fox-Bush negotiators were considering amnesty for Mexican illegal immigrants means that the immigration issue is finally back on the table. Sure, the risk of disaster is now much greater. Yet, if the new proposals are defeated, then the political psychology will radically change. And that will make rational reform finally possible.
Bush's illegal immigrant plan is already descending into absurdity as the White House tries to simultaneously reposition it as both narrower (saying it won't apply to all Mexican illegals - New York Times, July 24) and broader (implying three days later it will eventually apply to illegals from all countries – New York Times, July 27).
It's narrower! It's broader! As the old Saturday Night Live commercial used to say, "It's a dessert topping! It's a floor wax!"
Why is the Administration currently tying itself into logical knots? They are finally noticing that rank and file Republicans think Bush is trying to sign their party's death warrant. And they're realizing that non-Mexican immigrant groups (who outvote Mexicans) are offended that the Administration's initial idea was to discriminate against them. The Bush folks now realize the Democrats have outbid them by offering their upcoming program to everybody, not just Mexicans.
My prediction: rather than a political masterstroke, this will be a disaster. It will fall apart in Congress because the Democrats want to put more immigrants on the road to being voters, confident that the majority will vote Democratic. The more intelligent Republicans understand that and don't want it. The WSJ-wing of the GOP wants a guest worker program to provide cheap labor, which the Demos equally don't want. And the upper-middle class white masters of brown servants don't want amnesty if it means they'd have to start paying taxes.
Why won't an amnesty plan pass Congress?
First, the short-term political payoff from catering to Mexican-Americans is much, much smaller than everybody complacently assumes today. For example, in the 2004 Presidential election, Texas and California are almost certainly going to be out of play. If Bush is in danger of losing Texas, he'll get slaughtered across the country. And vice-versa for California. In the other 48 states - where Bush's fate will be decided - Mexican-Americans comprised only 1.1% of the total vote in 2000.
Second, the assumption that Americans don't take our immigration laws seriously is something that resounds a lot more loudly within the Washington-New York echo chamber than it does in the rest of the country. Here's Gallup's summary of their June poll on immigration in general (not just illegal immigration, on which Americans hold much more negative opinions):
A recent Gallup poll shows that most Americans believe immigration is good for the country in general, but can cite few specific areas in which immigration makes the country better. Additionally, Americans are more likely to say that immigration levels in this country should be decreased [41%] or kept at their present level [42%], rather than being increased [14%]. Hispanics living in the United States express more positive views on immigration than do blacks or whites, but even among Hispanics only 33% believe immigration levels should be increased [and 25% think it should be decreased!].
There are obvious economic reasons that America's verbal elites just don't get it about the unpopularity of immigration. The immigration of large numbers of non-English speakers does not threaten the jobs of people who make their living from their expertise in the English language. Winking at illegal immigration is especially popular among people who eat out a lot at restaurants where they don't bus their own tables, who employ housekeepers and full-time babysitters, and who send their kids to private schools.
Does this sound like any pundits or politicians you've ever heard of?
Well, guess what? Not every voter in America is that insulated from the problems caused by immigration, nor benefits as much from having a cheap brown servant caste.
Gramm's wife is on the board of directors of IBP, the big slaughterhouse sweatshop that has all those jobs "that Americans won't do." (Of course, Americans used to do all these jobs, until companies like IBP used Mexican immigrants to bust their unions and slash wages.) Wendy Gramm wants cheap butchers, but Phil Gramm doesn't want them or their children to vote.
So Phil hearkens back to the emergency WWII guest worker plan. But he misses the key point about that system - it was designed to extract from the almost all-male guest workers "their production but not their reproduction" by discriminating against female Mexicans.
Today, of course, you couldn't ban women guest workers. So any Mexican guest worker couple with any sense will have a baby as soon as they get to America. Under the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment, that makes the kid an American citizen. Which makes it a lot harder to send home the infant citizen's parents.
With the defeat of these proposals, the political climate will immediately become more favorable for immigration realists.
The deeply human tendency is to assume that today's winners can do no wrong and today's losers can do no right. As George C. Scott memorably proclaimed at the beginning of Patton: "Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser."
Recall how the collapse of Hillary Clinton's seemingly unstoppable government health care plan in 1994 made Newt Gingrich Speaker of the House that fall.
In turn, Gingrich managed to ensure Bill Clinton's re-election by allowing the wounded President to defeat him in a test of wills over who would allow the federal government to be shut down longer. Barely anybody can remember what issue they fought over. But everybody can recall that Newt blinked.
The problem for immigration realists has been that the contemporary system is a slow motion disaster. Sure, the effect of the post-1965 laws operate to degrade the American environment, pilfer from the American working class' paychecks, discourage African-Americans from taking honest jobs, increase crime, worsen traffic, spread racial quotas and multiculturalism, discourage free speech, confuse our foreign policy, undermine our public schools, and threaten to eventually Balkanize America. But it's all happening decade by decade, not on the day-by-day time scale that politicians and the press can get excited over.
Well, the Fox-Bush offensive has speeded things up.
This is no time for blinking. It is the spring of 1918. To triumph, immigration realists must first head off defeat. But if they can endure this test, then a vast reversal is within reach.
August 14, 2001