Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Those Pesky Immigrants Just Won't Vote Republican

In my last post I noted that Republican leaders are going to lot of trouble to attack immigrants, and telling a lot of lies while doing it.

There are three small reasons, and one really big reason, why the GOP's leaders are trying to frighten voters with the idea that immigrants are coming to America to either soak up public services at taxpayer expense or to overthrow the Constitution.

The three small reasons are genuine ignorance, prejudice, and short-term political gain. Let's take for example the recent attempts by Republicans to gin up fear of Muslims in the United States. Sharron Angle was the Republican nominee for the Nevada Senate race in 2010. Last October, Angle claimed that the town of Frankford, Texas had been overrun by Muslims who had then imposed Sharia (the code of conduct of Islamic religious law) on the town. I'm sure it was genuine ignorance that led Angle to make this statement, as the town of Frankford does not exist.

But consider Newt Gingrich's statement this week that he fears for the future of his grandchildren because, "I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American." Is Newt genuinely prejudiced against Muslim immigrants, or is he just trying to whip up support for a possible run for the Presidency? Probably a little of both.

But the real reason why Republicans feel to the need to stop immigration by any means necessary is not because they genuinely believe that immigrants will bankrupt the country or destroy American culture. The real reason is that they recognize that immigration will destroy the Republican party. The GOP is a white-Christians-only-club, and America's immigrant population is not made up of white Christians.

Consider the implications of the most recent census. In 2000, there were 35 million Hispanic Americans. By 2010, that number had jumped to 56 million. In the 2008 election, Obama carried Hispanic voters by a ratio of better than 2 to 1 over John McCain. And turnout by the rising population of Hispanic and other minority voters made all the difference in the outcome of that election.

In a 2009 article in The National Journal entitled Demography and Destiny, Ronald Brownstein gave a great analysis of the 2008 vote: "Start by considering the electorate's six broadest demographic groups -- white voters with at least a four-year college degree; white voters without a college degree; African-Americans; Hispanics; Asians; and other minorities.

Now posit that each of those groups voted for Barack Obama or John McCain in exactly the same proportions as it actually did. Then imagine that each group represented the share of the electorate that it did in 1992. If each of these groups voted as it did in 2008 but constituted the same share of the electorate as in 1992, McCain would have won. Comfortably.

Consider these facts. Then consider that in the next forty years, America's Hispanic population will nearly triple from 56 million to 150 million. Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post summarized the implications nicely in an article last month entitled, "Will the GOP embrace immigration reform or continue to ostracize key voters?"

"Read the census data that have been coming out over the past couple weeks and you're compelled to a stark conclusion: Either the Republican Party changes totally, or it has a rendezvous with extinction.

What the census shows is that America's racial minorities, aggregated together, are on track to become its majority. The Republican Party's response to this epochal demographic change has been to do everything in its power to keep America (particularly its electorate) as white as can be. Republicans have obstructed minorities from voting; required Latinos to present papers if the police ask for them; opposed the Dream Act, which would have conferred citizenship on young immigrants who served in our armed forces or went to college; and called for denying the constitutional right to citizenship to American-born children of undocumented immigrants."

Chris Cillizza, also of the Washington Post, this week made comments along the same lines as Meyerson, noting some of the hard numbers that make the Republican party's future prospects look grim: "And if looking back is worrisome for GOP strategists, looking forward is downright frightening.

Of the nine states where the Hispanic population grew by 100 percent or more between 2000 and 2010, McCain won seven of them: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee. That means that what had been reliably red states for decades are slowly — or not so slowly — seeing huge growth among what, for the moment, is a reliably Democratic constituency.

Add to that the fact that the four states with the country’s largest Hispanic population — California, Florida, New York and Texas — will account for 143 electoral votes for the next 10 years. That’s more than half of the electoral votes a candidate needs to be elected president. California and New York already are reliably Democratic, while Texas remains, for now, reliably Republican. Florida has been pivotal in the past three presidential elections and is likely to be again in 2012."

The Republican party can do a lot of things to rig the system in its favor. Disenfranchising minority voters. Gerrymandering legislative districts so that Democrats don't have a chance. Using the appalling Citizens United decision to pour enough corporate money into the system to buy every election. Busting public unions so that Democrats lose a traditional bastion of support.

But in the long run, a "whites only" club is not going to be able to control democracy in America.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Republicans to Immigrants: For Hate's Sake, I Spit My Last Breath at Thee

Republicans Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and David Vitter Lousiana want to change the Constitution. But they're not likely to tell you the real reason why. Rand and Vitter have proposed a constitutional amendment to get rid of birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants.

From their press release: "Citizenship is a privilege, and only those who respect our immigration laws should be allowed to enjoy its benefits," said Sen. Paul. "This legislation makes it necessary that everyone follow the rules, and goes through same process to become a U.S. citizen.

Vitter and Paul do not believe that the 14th Amendment confers birthright citizenship to the children of illegal aliens, either by its language or intent. This resolution makes clear that under the 14th Amendment a person born in the United States to illegal aliens does not automatically gain citizenship."

Before I dive into the ulterior motives for this proposal, I want to make a few comments on the logic of the proposal itself, and the history of the Republican party's hatred of immigrants.

Point one: The Fourteenth Amendment begins, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." To suggest that this language does not mean that everyone born in the United States is a citizen is the linguistic equivalent of suggesting that 2 + 2 = 5.

Point two: The press release suggests that a newborn with no say about where he or she is born might have failed in his or her duty to "respect our immigration laws."

Point three: The comments in the press release actually kill the argument that Paul and Vitter are making. If it's true, as they claim, that the language and intent of the Fourteenth Amendment do not confer citizenship on illegal immigrants born in the US, then all they need to do is to take their argument to the Supreme Court. By proposing an Amendment to overturn the Fourteenth Amendment, they're essentially admitting that their argument is wrong.

Republicans have been trying to redefine birthright citizenship for some years now. Paul and Vitter's proposal is, in fact, just a new spin on an old campaign. Consider this 2006 article written by Rand Paul's father Congressman Ron Paul, Rethinking Birthright Citizenship.

According to Ron Paul, if illegal immigrants couldn't count on having their children born in this country becoming citizens, they wouldn't sneak over the border and run up hospital bills at public expense, and then stay in this country and use other pubic services.

"Hospitals bear the costs when illegal immigrants enter the country for the express purpose of giving birth. But illegal immigrants also use emergency rooms, public roads, and public schools. In many cases they are able to obtain Medicaid, food stamps, public housing, and even unemployment benefits. Some have fraudulently collected Social Security benefits."

In reality, what illegal immigrants contribute to this country far exceeds what little they consume in public services. According to a recent study at the University of Southern California, the state's foreign-born residents are more likely than the native-born to have jobs, and they put more into the economy than they take out of it. The study also found, "that immigrants contribute 32 percent of California’s gross domestic product and 27 percent of total household income — the basis for the researchers’ conclusion that they give more to the economy than they get from it."

Another key conclusion from the study: illegal immigrants’ net contribution to California may be higher than that of legal immigrants, due to the fact that illegal immigrants usually accept lower wages and have less access to public services.

In other words, the reality of what illegal immigrants contribute to this country and what they receive in return are the exact opposite of what Ron Paul claims. Consider for example, the relationship between illegal immigrants and the social security system. In order to obtain work, illegal immigrants usually obtain fraudulent social security numbers. This means they pay social security taxes without any hope of later receiving benefits. Just how big is this contribution? In 2005, the Social Security Administration estimated that illegal immigrant workers in the United States were providing the system with a subsidy of as much as $7 billion a year.

So if illegal immigrants work hard, pay taxes and receive little in the way of public services, just why is it that Republicans hate them so much? Is it just pure prejudice against brown people? Well, not exactly. In my next post, I'll explain further.