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November 23, 2012

The amnesty fantasy

(Continued)

In California, Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute noted in the aftermath of the election, "Hispanics will prove to be even more decisive in the victory of Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30, which raised upper-income taxes and the sales tax, than in the Obama election."

These are facts that never intrude upon Wall Street Journal editorials scolding Republicans for supposedly turning their backs on budding new recruits. In the Journal's telling, if it weren't for Republican intransigence on immigration, Latino voters would be eagerly joining the fight for lower marginal tax rates and the block-granting of Medicaid.

A recent editorial invoked the welcoming attitude of Ronald Reagan. How much of the Latino vote did Reagan get? In his landslide of 1980, 35 percent. In his landslide of 1984, 37 percent. That's better than Romney, but still a wipeout. Reagan signed the amnesty of 1986. What did it do for the party's standing among Latinos? George H.W. Bush only got 30 percent of the Latino vote in his own landslide of 1988.

Republican donors with a disproportionate influence in the party would be perfectly happy to jettison the cause of immigration enforcement. They are fine with a flood of low-skilled immigrants competing with low-skilled American workers. And why shouldn't they be? These immigrants don't suppress their wages; they care for their children and clean their pools.

Whenever it is pointed out that illegal immigration tends to harm low-skill workers already here, the comeback is the scurrilous canard that there are "some jobs that no Americans will do." But most hotel maids, construction workers, coal miners, and workers in meatpacking - all tough, thankless jobs - are U.S.-born. If it is hard to entice legal workers into such positions, here is a radical concept: Pay them more.

None of this is to deny that the GOP has a tonal problem on immigration, or that Latino voters care deeply about the issue. Absent a greater economic appeal to all working-class voters, though, it's hard to see how a rapid, obviously opportunistic turnabout immigration will help the party much. Amnesty isn't a quick fix for the GOP's problems. Would that it were.

(c) 2012 by King Features Syndicate

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