washingtonexaminer.com, February 23, 2011
In 2008, President Obama described his goal as "fundamentally transforming the United States of America." This is as true for immigration as it is for health care and other issues.
President Obama's support for what advocates call "comprehensive immigration reform" -- amnesty, loose enforcement and increased legal immigration -- which he reiterated in his State of the Union address, is not just another item on a laundry list.
In the same way that critics of Obamacare warn that it will lead to irreversible changes in the nature of American politics, the president's immigration goals -- effectively, open borders -- would alter the political system itself, leading to inexorable growth in government and consequent constriction of personal liberties.
In short, immigration is the health of the state.
Leftists have been quite open about the politically transformative effects of immigration. Eliseo Medina, vice president of the Service Employees International Union and an honorary chairman of the Democratic Socialists of America, said immigration "will create a governing coalition for the long term, not just for an election cycle." Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., has publicly made the same point, as has Ruy Teixeira, author of "The Emerging Democratic Majority."
There are two parts to this.
First, mass immigration -- both legal and illegal -- serves to import voters who will back statist, big-government politicians and policies. But more deeply and permanently, mass immigration changes American society in ways that make statist solutions more attractive to voters in general, expanding the transformative effect beyond merely immigrant voters to the electorate at large.
Immigrant groups, almost by definition, will lean Democrat. David Frum has written that "Democrats, by contrast, have historically tended to attract those who felt themselves in some way marginal to the American experience ... people who identify with the pluribus in the nation's motto, e pluribus unum."
Over time, this can change, but it's a long, multigenerational process that can't be accelerated by a few tweaks to a party platform.
What's more, immigrants are disproportionately poor, reliant on government services, and "minorities," and thus it's simply in their interest to vote for the party of welfare and affirmative action. Calls to cut taxes and shrink government just aren't relevant to people who don't pay a lot of taxes and who are dependent on government largesse.
But the electoral preferences of immigrant voters are only part of the story. Perhaps even more important is the fact that immigration -- both legal and illegal -- creates a political, social and economic environment more favorable to the statist Left.
For example: Fully one-third of all uninsured people in the United States are immigrants or the young children of immigrants, and immigration is responsible for more than 80 percent of the growth in the number of uninsured over in the past decade.
Would the push for increased government involvement in health care have as much resonance with nonimmigrant voters if immigration had not increased the seeming urgency of the problem?
Immigration also increases income inequality significantly, both by significantly increasing the number of poor people and by lowering wages for less skilled Americans.
As a result, calls for income redistribution and more social programs are heard more sympathetically by native-born voters, even if they're not poor themselves -- and even if they're not thinking about immigration at all.
On immigration, the president and his allies are playing the long game. The Left's current difficulties will prove merely temporary if mass immigration keeps working its transformative effects.
The necessary response from the Right is clear: Reach out respectfully to legal immigrants already here, but work tirelessly for comprehensive enforcement of immigration laws and reductions in future levels of legal immigration.