The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) this week released the findings of a political analysis Immigration, Political Realignment, and the Demise of Republican Political Prospects”. Unless the GOP gets lucky with recruitment efforts aimed at upwardly mobile Latinos, the Hispanic vote will continue to vote Democratic. The prospects are very grim. The report says that it’s not the local GOP positions on illegal immigration that are hurting the party but rather the low possibility that waves of low income workers can be turned into GOP foot soldiers. An increase in 1 percent immigration in an average county used by CIS to measure political alignment shows a decrease of a half a percentage point in support for the GOP. Even in areas where new immigrants do not mobilize politically, the GOP loses when older, low and middle income voters move out of particular counties.
Ironically, past Republican votes in Congress in favor of a more generous immigration policy have unquestionably bolstered local Democratic majorities, and succeeded in stamping out Republican prospects in once politically competitive locales. This is because Republicans have not converted the legions of Democratic-leaning Latinos who constitute the lion’s share of the immigrant population. Nor can they be expected to win over many Latinos given their weak institutional presence in the locations where new arrivals typically settle. The hope for Republican success with immigrant voters lies mainly with the upward mobility and prosperity of Latinos, Asians, and others, something that will occur only with great difficulty given current levels of low-skill, wage-corrosive immigration.
Republicans are right to want to attract Latino voters. They are indisputably a growing share of the population and the electorate. But expanding the future flow of low-skilled immigrants into an economy ill-suited to promote their upward mobility will clearly be counterproductive given the evidence presented here. At the same time, Republican opposition to higher immigration levels can be too easily typecast as racist and xenophobic. This is because the party’s elites have failed to deliver a clear message that they want a pro-immigrant policy of reduced immigration and that these two goals are complementary. Such a policy would also prove to be the best means for moving immigrants toward the middle and upper income status that will promote their geographic and political mobility.
Conventional Trancedo-pitched restrictionist arguments never benefited the GOP. Nor does the Cato Institute-Wall Street Journal-Chamber of Commerce gospel of open borders. It’s time for a major rethink of GOP, conservative and libertarian outreach to the nation’s fastest growing voting bloc.