A Big Win for the Open-Borders Crowd?

By Mark Krikorian on November 11, 2011

The pro-amnesty folks are crowing at the defeat of Arizona state senator Russell Pearce, a leading immigration hawk. Soros-funded America's Voice says "The tide is beginning to turn," while the immigration coalition set up by the Alinskyite Center for Community Change writes that "anti-immigrant legislators will now have to think twice before pursuing anti-immigrant policies in our states."

Accuse me of whistling past the graveyard, if you like, but I don't think so. Yes, he lost fair and square, but there was a perfect storm of factors leading to that result that just aren't relevant elsewhere. First, the recall vote was an open election, meaning there was no primary, so it featured two Republicans running against each other in a race that Democrats could vote in. Which is why the SEIU pulled out all the stops to get out the vote for Pearce's opponent, Jerry Lewis.

Also, it seems certain that the Mormon church basically put out a political contract on Pearce. The church has embraced amnesty and open borders in an aggressively political fashion and having a Mormon be such a high-profile hawk was something they weren't going to tolerate, especially in a heavily Mormon district where they could find another Mormon Republican who adhered to the official church position.

What's more, Pearce supporters engaged in amateurish moves, like putting a phony Hispanic candidate on the ballot to draw away Democratic votes, the controversy over which consumed the whole first month of the recall campaign.

And finally, and I think most important, Pearce is an angry guy, and that wore thin with lots of voters. I met him once and he's a genuine patriot and he's not a hater. But he really is angry, and here the open-borders crowd has a point — people only have so much tolerance for an angry politician. Good-natured geniality is, for instance, a big part of Herman Cain's appeal — not to mention Reagan's. And if that's important when discussing taxes and spending, imagine how much more important it is in the immigration issue, where people's real concerns over our nation's sovereignty run up against nostalgia about your grandma from Palermo, where concern about wage suppression and welfare use run up against the delightful Rodriguez family down the street.

This is why my Center for Immigration Studies has always tried to articulate a pro-immigrant policy of low immigration, and why Numbers USA has had at the top of its homepage, from the very beginning, "No to immigrant bashing". And it's not a pose. But even if you didn't believe it, it would be the politically smart thing to do.

Unfortunately, too many politicians don't get this, either giving vent to their anger over the very real disaster that is mass immigration or, conversely, parroting the agenda of La Raza in order to show that they don't hate foreigners. Pearce never found a way to thread that needle, and he's paid a price for it. But that doesn't mean much will change in Arizona in any case — Lewis, despite his support for amnesty (which is irrelevant at the state level), supports SB 1070, Arizona’s tough immigration law.