David Frum

01.28.13

Who Wins from Immigration Deal? Not Republicans

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images ()

What's the matter with the GOP?

The same senior Republican leaders who believed that Mitt Romney was winning the 2012 election now insist that immigration reform will deliver Hispanic votes. They're just wrong about that. Republicans face increasing difficulty with the Hispanic vote for pocketbook reasons.

As the Hispanic electorate becomes less Cuban, more Mexican and Central American, it becomes less susceptible to GOP cultural themes. The claim that Hispanic voters are "natural Republicans" is based on nothing but wishful thinking, fortified by ignorance.

Economically struggling Hispanics need and want more government than the GOP will offer them, and the 11 million illegals soon to embark on their "path to citizenship" will need and want even more: Earned Income Tax Credits, Medicaid, Section 8 housing, food stamps, and so on. Even into the fourth generation after joining the American workforce, Mexican-Americans remain strikingly less likely to finish college than Anglo-Americans.

It's not true for everyone, of course, but it's true for enough to ensure that Democrats will win the larger share of the Hispanic vote for a long time to come.

There's more to the immigration debate than politics. We need to consider the effect of immigration reform on native-born workers, especially the most vulnerable; the effect on government finances; the effect on social cohesion.

For all those reasons, I lean toward a skeptical and restrictionist view. Maybe I'm wrong about that. But I'm sure not wrong about the politics.

There's an old joke that I think aptly describes the GOP negotiating method. "There's a fool at every poker table. And if you don' know who it is … it's you."