GOP Shifts Amnesty Debate To Jobs And Wages

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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GOP politicians are shifting the immigration debate to economics, and away from culture and race, boosting their outreach to the many Hispanics who are worried about legal and illegal immigration.

“It is not our job to get cheap [migrant] labor for big business, as much as labor might want that,” Rep. Tom Cotton told The Daily Caller Aug. 15.

“By standing up against illegal immigration, and by standing against the [Senate’s 2013 immigration bill], I am in fact showing, as so many [other GOP legislators] are, that I care about Americans,” including American Hispanics, said Cotton, who is running for the Arkansas Senate seat held by Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor.

The shift is backed by polling data, which shows widespread opposition among independents and Hispanics to illegal immigration, and significant support for rapid deportation of Central American illegals.

The polling data and the GOP shift is a problem for President Barack Obama, who is widely blamed for allowing the Central American inflow.

Obama is also expected to soon announce a high-risk policy of awarding work-permits to millions of illegals already in the country. That policy also risks a repudiation from swing-voters and Hispanics worried about wages and jobs, according to polling data.

“Surveys do show that [Hispanics] want to strengthen the border, [and support] border enforcement,” said Adrian Pantoja, an expert at Latino Decisions, a California-based firm which provides polling advice to progressive groups.

Republicans “can have very strong support for some Republican positions if they are framed in a way that is not anti-Latino or group [Latinos] into one category,” said Pantoja, who is also a professor of Political Studies and Chicano/Latino Transnational Studies at Pitzer College.

The Hispanic worry about Central American migrants is highlighted by Reuters polls, conducted from mid-July to mid-August. The large-scale polls only have a small sample of 167 registered Hispanic voters, but they corroborate other polls of Hispanics by showing that at least one-quarter of Hispanic respondents openly or quietly favor quick deportation of migrant “children.”

Only 14 percent agreed “the children should be allowed to stay in the United States.”

Forty-one percent of Hispanics equivocated, saying “the children should be sheltered and cared for until it has been deemed safe for them to return to their home countries.”

Twenty percent punted, saying “don’t know…[or] none of these.”

That poll is relatively news for GOP strategists worried about the Hispanic vote in 2016. Back in 2012, Gov. Mitt Romney got only 27 percent of the vote, despite ignoring the immigration issue after he won the GOP primaries.

A July poll by YouGov and The Economist forced Hispanic respondents to pick from two stark alternatives, and 26 percent said the “children” should be “deported immediately.”

The other choice, that children should be allowed to “stay in the United States until it’s certain they have a safe place to return” got 62 percent.

Fourteen percent declined to pick, and said “not sure.”

YouGov only offered respondents three choices, in comparison to Reuters’ four choices. So YouGov’s poll effectively blends Hispanics who really want the “children” to stay with those who want the migrants to be quietly repatriated after a while.

However, it is clear that Hispanics are more sympathetic to the Central American border crossers than other Americans. “64% of independents wanted the minors sent home, as did 40% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans,” according to the July TIPP poll(RELATED: Poll Shows Swing Voters Would Likely Hate Obama’s Amnesty)

To reach Hispanics who are ambiguous about the Central American inflow, and Hispanics who oppose greater migration, GOP politicians should focus on the economy and the economic impact of immigration, said Hispanic consultants.

“The minute [Hispanics] start hearing ‘We’ve got to get rid the illegals’ or ‘The Mexicans or Salvadorans or Hondurans are spoiling the economy,’ our ears pick up and we hear ‘Why are they picking on us?‘“ said GOP strategist Hector Barajas.

“That’s why you’re getting resentment” towards the GOP, said Barajas, who works with Revolvis.com.

The gettable Hispanics, he said, “want to assimilate, they want to be considered a part of the culture of this country.”

They want their kids to do ballet, to learn the piano and take the SAT tests, alongside some traditions of the old country, he said, “like making tamales at Christmas.”

“They don’t want to turn California or Texas or any other part of the country into little Mexico. They left those places for a reason,” he said.

Census data shows that at least 2 million people who once called themselves Hispanic in 2000 decided to call themselves white in the 2010 census. That shift suggests that many Hispanics see themselves as part of America’s integrated core, rather than its social periphery, which is populated by various hyphenated groups, such as “Latin-Americans” or “Asian-Americans.”

“The integration message is positive, one that Latinos all across the board will support,” said Pantoja, the Democratic advisor.

Americans who are Hispanics are Americans first, and they respond to politicians that can help the economy, said Pantoja and Barajas.

“Jobs and the economy, the quality of education, the quality of public schools, concern with issues related to crime” will move Hispanic voters, said Pantoja.

“A lot of folks worry about pocketbook issues… [many] jobs are being created are par-time, or are being paid at a lower rate than before the recession… a lot of individuals are one paycheck away from using social services, so they’re worrying how much of a bigger strain [amnesty and more migrants] is going to have,” Barajas said.

In California, Barajas said he’s working with GOP legislators in the state capital to oppose a gas-tax increase of up to 77 cents per gallons.

“Not everyone can afford a Prius or Tesla. Most people are driving a 20 or 10 year-old car,” often long distances each day, he said.

“An economic message could be effective in terms of providing opportunity for Americans citizens, especially those who have paid their dues,” said Pantoja.

Also, Hispanics, like other Americans, quietly balance their public ideals with their private self-interest, said the consultants.

“There are folks that publicly don’t want to come across as anti-immigrant… [so] when it comes to the nuts and bolts [such as more migrants in schools, and more competition for jobs], that’s when folks start to have problems,” he said.

Hispanics also worry that public hostility against illegals will also hurt them and their kids. A May 2014 poll by Latino Decisions reported that 72 percent of respondents agreed with a statement asking, “Do you think how undocumented immigrants are viewed by the general public also affects how U.S.-born Latinos are viewed?”

“There are Hispanics who are conflicted, because they worry about the quality of life, immigrants coming into their neighborhoods [and] about their jobs,” said Ruben Navarette, a native Californian and a nationally syndicated columnist, told TheDC in June.

“When the [political] water is calm and immigration is not a hot issue, you get Hispanics engaged in discussions saying ‘I worry about border security and jobs,’ but when the [political] water bubbles, it makes them come together and circle the wagons,” around the ethnic group, Navarette said. (RELATED: Hispanics Split Over Obama’s Border Meltdown)

The political water is usually bubbling because Democrats can raise claims about Americans’ supposed bigotry and racism, and then demand Latino solidarity, said Barajas. “It’s their go-to issue, year after year,” he said.

But this year, he added, “I don’t think that’s going to turn the Latinos to go out and vote.”

Many GOP politicians are trying to answer people’s worries about mass-immigration in ways that don’t even mention ethnic groups.

For example, Sen. Jeff Sessions and former GOP Sen. Rick Santorum — who nearly won the 2012 GOP nomination — criticize mass immigration for creating a wage-reducing labor surplus that hurts American wage-earners.

That’s economic jargon for describing how the annual arrival of 1 million immigrants and 800,000 guest workers drive down wages while competing for jobs against the 4 million Americans who turn 18 each year.

“It is basic supply and demand,” Cotton said.

Americans workers and families are suffering because President Barack Obama’s lax immigration enforcement policies, and mass legal immigration, are driving down salaries, Cotton said.

“African Americans have a higher rate of unemployment, unfortunately, than whites,” he said. “They’re hurt by mass scale legal immigration and illegal immigration,” he said.

“Many Hispanics, especially in Arkansas, are naturalized citizens, and they are hurt… [and] are now paying the consequences,” he said.

“Lots of Democrats and independents are now on my team, saying they’re going to vote for me, in part, because they know I’m serious about stopping the border crisis,” he said.

His opponent, Democratic Sen. Pryor, voted for the Senate’s 2013 immigration bill, Cotton said.

The Senate bill would have roughly doubled the annual supply for foreign-born workers to roughly 4 million per year. That’s one new foreign worker for every American 18 year-old.

Maryland GOP Rep. Andy Harris used the same economic approach when he slammed suggestion by Obama’s deputies to suspect enforcement of immigration law for perhaps five million illegal immigrants.

“That’s potentially 4 or 5 million more people competing with Americans for work… Our immigration law is supposed to supplement our workforce when we need it, not substitute for American workers, and that’s the problem,” he told constituents Aug. 6.

That’s a very different economic pitch from Obama, who says the Senate’s June 2013 bill to increase legal immigration would widen the economy and boost tax revenues. To buttress his case, Obama has frequently cited a June 2013 report by the Congressional Budget Office, but that report says said the June bill would also nudge down wages, nudge up unemployment and widen the wealth gap between wage-earners and investors.

Liberals are loath to admit the impact of immigration on wages, despite their past success in spiking wages of low-skilled Americans when the economy hit full employment under President Bill Clinton in 1999.

Numerous polls show most Hispanics are hostile to illegal immigration and to increased immigration.

Fifty-nine percent of Hispanics in a 2012 poll by the Pew Research Center agreed that “We should restrict and control people coming to live in our country more than we do now.”

A June 2013 Gallup poll showed that only 25 percent of Hispanics want immigration increased, while 30 percent wanted immigration reduced, and 43 percent want it to stay level.

A June 2013 poll by John McLaughlin that included 470 registered Hispanic voters showed that 64 percent wanted employees to verify that job applicants are legal, and 59 percent wanted enough border security to block 90 percent of border crossers. Sixty percent of the respondents in the poll said they would delay legalization of illegals until the 90 percent border-security level is reached, and 56 percent would deny welfare benefits to illegals until the border is fixed.

A June 2014 poll of 800 registered Latinos by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed that “77 percent [support] for an e-verify system for employers [and] 78 percent for stronger border security.”

That Zuckerberg poll, like many others, also showed that most Hispanics favor amnesty for their co-ethnics when they were pushed to answer and when the proposed amnesty is pitched as conditional. “90 percent [of Hispanics support] allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status if they pass a background check, pay a fine and taxes owed, have a job, and learn English,” said the Zuckerberg poll.

Those results also conflate wide differences between newly naturalized citizens and natural-born Americans from Latino families. For example, 81 percent of immigrant Latino favor a large government, while only 58 of third-generation Latinos favor a big government, according to a Pew report.

Skewed polls may also mislead the public.

For example, the 26 percent level of HIspanic support for quick deportation may also have been skewed downwards by Reuters’ question, which pushed respondents to sympathize with the illegals.

In fact, the vast majority of “children” are actually teenagers and working-age male youths.

Most of the relatively few “unaccompanied children” are actually accompanied by coyotes, who are guiding them to their parents living illegally in U.S. cities. The parents are paying the coyotes roughly several thousand dollars per person.

The inflow of illegals is far larger than the much-discussed inflow of 50,000 “unaccompanied… children” — because it has already reached 200,000 adults, youths and children since last October, according to federal data.

The word choices in questions can skew public’s responses, because the public is being tugged by their natural sympathies for children, and their natural sympathy for effective border protection.

For example, a recent poll about the “children” by the Public Religion Research Institute showed some respondents were on both sides of the issue. “69 percent [of respondents] say they should be treated as refugees and allowed to remain in the United States if authorities determine that it is not safe for them to be sent home… [and] 59 percent don’t want them here long-term because it ‘will encourage others to ignore our laws and increase illegal immigration,’” said an Aug. 1 report by the Religion News Service.

But Obama doesn’t have a lot of room to maneuver because the public overwhelmingly blames him for causing the inflow.

That’s true of Hispanics, too. For example, 37 percent of Hispanic adults agreed strongly that Obama is to blame for the Central American inflow,  according to a July poll by TIPP. Only 33 percent disagreed strongly.

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