Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. The Perverse Logic of Immigration Politics

 

254375359_f6b69dab13_zPresident Obama supports amnesty for foreigners who are in the United States illegally, as well as their prompt re-categorization as legal permanent residents with access to the full gamut of valuable benefits: Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Obamacare subsidies, in-state college tuition, earned income tax credit payouts, Daylight Saving Time (to bring them out of the shadows), etc. The President selectively refuses to enforce existing immigration laws, and sues the border states to stop them enforcing laws that he will not. He establishes a program of expedited resettlement for minors from the poorest and most dysfunctional states of Central America into U.S. communities. The President does all this administratively, thwarting Congressional oversight, and frustrating state and congressional attempts to ascertain where migrants are being held and resettled. He loudly advertises these policies to our southern neighbors, directly precipitating a massive humanitarian border crisis and ensuring its chronic repetition. Meanwhile, his nominee for Attorney General states in her confirmation hearing that she supports the right of illegal immigrants to freely compete with Americans in the labor market. This is not Alice in Wonderland – it’s the United States in 2015. Or, in the words of one David Mamet character, “the United States of Kiss My [Expletive].”

These executive actions amount to a de facto open borders immigration policy, specifically favoring the lowest of low-skill populations in the hemisphere. Yet this policy enjoys nearly unanimous support from the president’s party. It’s almost as though the Democrats see political advantage in deliberately ginning up an immigration catastrophe.

Why are Democrats unanimously bending over backwards in support of a policy that is unpopular, unlawful, and manifestly harmful to one of its core constituencies? Given that the party pretends to champion those most at risk from this policy, the degree of unanimity is surprising. But in fact the strategy makes sense for a number of reasons.

The most obvious appeal of an open borders strategy is crass, long-term vote-farming. The Democrats have been the party of urban immigrants since the days of Tammany Hall, so this motive is, in a sense, perfectly logical, time-honored, and understandable. Illegal immigrants and their U.S.-born children will some day become voters (assuming they aren’t already), and they will know whom to thank. The game-changing nature of the Hispanic vote has been repeatedly overstated for the last several election cycles – Texas is still solidly Republican despite being 40% Hispanic — but overall it is hard to fault the logic of importing a new electorate to guarantee a future permanent Democratic majority. Tammany on a national scale? What’s not to love?

Second, for many Democrats, changing the country’s ethnic profile is an end in itself: a form of radical counter-racism that, to any sane Martian, would be indistinguishable from ordinary racism. As I suggested in an earlier post, many Americans – and all Democrats – have, to a greater or lesser degree, internalized Susan Sontag’s disgusting slogan that “the white race is the cancer of human history.” (Sontag later backed off this metaphor, explaining that it was unflattering… to cancer.) Since the late 1960s, therefore, Democratic immigration policy has had the frankly oncological purpose of making the United States less white. This kind of score-settling appeals most to the party’s race-racket gutter (Jeremiah Wright, Al Sharpton, Luis Gutierrez, Eric Holder, La Raza), but also to many mainstream white liberals for whom the race-guilt angle is a perverse form of moral exhibitionism.

Third, the more intelligent Dems understand that changing the country’s demographics, in addition to having many useful electoral and sundry side benefits, also serves a more traditional left-wing ideological purpose: in the absence of assimilation, large-scale immigration — both legal and illegal — inevitably leads to tribalism, and tribalism is the devil’s playground of Big Government. It is this third, slightly less obvious reason that deserves more attention.

The smart Dems have read Harvard’s Robert Putnam, who reluctantly but systematically documents in Bowling Alone (and in this academic paper ), how large-scale immigration breaks down community solidarity and reduces social capital, creating a vacuum where civil society used to be. Let’s all try to guess who steps in to fill this vacuum. Voluntary associations, bowling leagues, the Scouts, 4-H, the Elks, church fellowships – all of Tocqueville’s little platoons – give way to a phalanx of social workers, therapists, education bureaucrats, program administrators, community activists, and other publicly funded unionized busybodies.

Racial bean-counting has been at the heart of the welfare state since the Great Society, as Tom Wolfe memorably documented in Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers. Government sees large immigrant communities composed predominantly of poor, low-skill, low-education youths as a natural client class to be made permanently dependent on state services. More insidiously, the social and economic disparities that these communities represent relative to the rest of society invite intervention by the grievance-industrial complex, with its disparate impact lawsuit payouts, direct affirmative action-based wealth transfers, and scrutiny by the federal civil rights bureaucracy.

In the welfare state context, tribalism makes big government bigger. But the relationship is mutually reinforcing. The government uses census data to distribute more than $400 billion in federal aid and to draw political districts based in part on racial classifications. Given these stakes, there are enormous incentives for community organiz… sorry – political entrepreneurs – to game the system in favor of their particular tribe. You might think that a term like “Hispanic” is absurd and incoherent, encompassing both the Bourbon King Felipe VI of Spain and a Quechua-speaking peasant from the Peruvian highlands. But to a political entrepreneur, they are the same because he wants to make sure that his tribe is as large and inclusive as possible. This way the tribe gets a bigger piece of the pie and the political entrepreneur gets more political clout. By insisting on officially designated racial and ethnic categories, the government subsidizes social fragmentation and encourages the formation of powerful ethnic lobbies.

So the welfare state creates strong incentives for clustering around tribe. Since political organization around tribal identity is relatively low-cost compared to organizing around other criteria, such as common economic interests, the feedback loop between big government and ethnic pressure groups is self-perpetuating and permanently transforms the political system into an arena for competition among large rival racial blocs. This is something not fully anticipated in Federalist 10.

All of this explains why the Democrats (admittedly, with the assistance of Richard Nixon) destroyed the melting pot model of immigrant assimilation — the ideal of which was a single homogenized American national identity — and replaced it with a morally and intellectually obtuse Diversity Cult that they elevated to the level of an official state religion, with its own saints, martyrs, festivals, and catechisms.

The larger lesson here is one we already knew: from poverty to disability abuse to illegal immigration to illegitimacy to racial strife, if it is bad for society in general, it’s probably good politics for the Democrats. What possible incentive do they have to fix any of these problems if they aren’t in any sense “problems,” but rather pillars of political power? The party is the living, slouching, suppurating embodiment of moral hazard.

What can be done about any of this? A good first step might be to get rid of the census race and ethnicity racket and to constitutionally prohibit government from using racial and ethnic categories altogether for any purpose whatsoever.

Please stop laughing.

 

Rhetorical point-scoring side note. I find it odd that, at the same time that the president is orchestrating large-scale settlement of the United States by foreigners, he is very indignant about Israeli Jews settling in the West Bank and certain neighborhoods of Jerusalem, which the Administration considers to be illegal and immoral. Without taking sides on the West Bank settlement question, this is logically puzzling. Some fun questions for the Administration might be:

What moral and legal distinctions does the president draw between these two groups of settlers?

Would the President support amnesty and legalization for Jewish West Bank settlers? If not, why not?

Would it be appropriate to refer to “undocumented immigrants” in the United States as “illegal settlers” or “illegal colonists”? If not, why not?

Image Credit: Flickr user Ben Amstutz.

There are 24 comments.

  1. Mike H Coolidge

    Oblomov: The most obvious appeal of an open borders strategy is crass, long-term vote-farming. The Democrats have been the party of urban immigrants since the days of Tammany Hall, so this motive is in a sense perfectly logical, time-honored, and understandable. Illegal immigrants and their U.S.-born children will some day become voters (assuming they aren’t already), and they will know whom to thank. The game-changing nature of the Hispanic vote has been repeatedly overstated for the last several election cycles – Texas is still solidly Republican despite being 40% Hispanic — but overall it is hard to fault the logic of importing a new electorate to guarantee a future permanent Democratic majority. Tammany on a national scale? What’s not to love?

    Except they are being short sighted and not reading the data correctly. Sure immigrants are more fiscally liberal, but they don’t vote in high rates and their presence makes natives more likely to vote against the welfare state.

    So they’re putting a lot of effort into something with ambiguous results. Not the best way to win politically.

    • #1
    • March 11, 2015, at 5:43 AM PDT
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  2. Mike H Coolidge

    Oblomov: A good first step might be to get rid of the census race and ethnicity racket and to constitutionally prohibit government from using racial and ethnic categories altogether for any purpose whatsoever.

    I like this, a lot. Race is a terrible indicator and people usually become dumber when they use it.

    You made a lot of great points in this post. Well done.

    • #2
    • March 11, 2015, at 5:52 AM PDT
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  3. Mike H Coolidge

    Oblomov: Would the President support amnesty and legalization for Jewish West Bank settlers? If not, why not? Would it be appropriate to refer to “undocumented immigrants” in the United States as “illegal settlers” or “illegal colonists”? If not, why not?

    I’m pro immigration in general, but this is just too good for me not to applaud.

    • #3
    • March 11, 2015, at 6:02 AM PDT
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  4. Ward Robles Member

    [Insert smiling picture of Ronald Reagan here] Blue-collar Democrats (many of whom are Hispanic), welcome back to the Republican Party! Excellent analysis! Immigration will be a top issue in 2016, and the conservative-libertarian alliance needs to figure this out NOW. Fortunately freedom provides many paths to success, but the other side only provides one path- through the government. Recent immigrants are probably even more suspicious of government than the rest of us.

    • #4
    • March 11, 2015, at 7:14 AM PDT
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  5. The Dowager Jojo Member

    Masterful.

    I can never understand why our open borders crowd can’t make the connection that open borders plus welfare equals national suicide. Can’t you even get angry that Obama is going to authorize refundable tax credits for illegal immigrants? And that’s only a small part of the picture.

    The idea that importing lots of illegal immigrant will increase political pressure to reduce welfare sounds insane.

    Speaking of people trying to sell you crazy, elsewhere on Ricochet it was explained to me that Republicans could have stopped administrative amnesty if their base wasn’t so opposed to it.

    One thing immigration, same sex marriage, and Obamacare have all had in common to me was that even more than the actual policy change, with which I disagree, I was distraught over the fact that my voice was not even heard. My opinion was not even acknowledged and weighed. It’s been like screaming in a dream where no sound comes out. Republicans have either been clueless or complicit.

    • #5
    • March 11, 2015, at 7:21 AM PDT
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  6. Mike H Coolidge

    Jojo:Masterful.

    I can never understand why our open borders crowd can’t make the connection that open borders plus welfare equals national suicide. Can’t you even get angry that Obama is going to authorize refundable tax credits for illegal immigrants? And that’s only a small part of the picture.

    I’ll try to explain it, at least from a libertarian perspective. It’s that open borders plus welfare is more likely to lead to the reduction of the welfare state than national suicide. More correctly stated it will be a much less that proportional rise compared to population. Most people aren’t willing to pay for the welfare state now, they are going to be less likely when there’s a higher chance it’s going to “others.”

    Similarly, the most likely scenario for the aging of the baby boomers is not that our finances implode, it’s that we find a very inefficient way of muddling through. Some combination of reducing costs, increasing taxes, and taking on debt. It won’t be fun or pretty, but it’s not the end of the world either.

    Now you can disagree with this prediction, but I hope you don’t see it as an inability to see a connection.

    The idea that importing lots of illegal immigrant will increase political pressure to reduce welfare sounds insane.

    It’s backed up by data. Poor immigrants tend not to vote; they’re too busy trying to greatly improve their lives to worry about politics. Everyone else votes against people outside their tribe getting their money.

    • #6
    • March 11, 2015, at 7:36 AM PDT
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  7. Snirtler Member

    Mike H:

    Sure immigrants are more fiscally liberal, but they don’t vote in high rates and their presence makes natives more likely to vote against the welfare state.

    Is this an impression or hypothesis or have you seen data that supports this claim? Quick googling yielded this. It’s related, but not the same claim you make.

    • #7
    • March 11, 2015, at 7:44 AM PDT
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  8. Mike H Coolidge

    Snirtler:

    Mike H:

    Sure immigrants are more fiscally liberal, but they don’t vote in high rates and their presence makes natives more likely to vote against the welfare state.

    Is this an impression or hypothesis or have you seen data that supports this claim? Quick googling yielded this. It’s related, but not the same claim you make.

    I’ll look for it.

    • #8
    • March 11, 2015, at 7:57 AM PDT
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  9. Snirtler Member

    Mike H:

    I’ll look for it.

    Cool, thanks.

    • #9
    • March 11, 2015, at 8:03 AM PDT
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  10. Mike H Coolidge

    Snirtler:

    Mike H:

    I’ll look for it.

    Cool, thanks.

    OK, here’s a paper.

    And here are some highlights.

    I realize this isn’t directly about voting patterns, but it makes points about how immigrants don’t seek out high welfare states, and the states with the lowest welfare are also the ones with the most immigrants, so it’s at least consistent with what I said. I’m pretty sure there’s a paper that deals directly with voting patterns somewhere.

    • #10
    • March 11, 2015, at 8:09 AM PDT
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  11. Snirtler Member

    Mike H: OK, here’s a paper. And here are some highlights.

    Thanks!

    • #11
    • March 11, 2015, at 8:12 AM PDT
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  12. Ekosj Inactive

    One hears over and over “We are a nation of immigrants.”

    Not quite. We are a nation of LEGAL immigrants. The history of immigration makes clear that there were strict requirements for immigrants in the past. And they were enforced.

    • #12
    • March 11, 2015, at 8:13 AM PDT
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  13. Mikescapes Member

    Oblomov: “Third, the more intelligent Dems understand that changing the country’s demographics, in addition to having many useful electoral and sundry side benefits, also serves a more traditional left-wing ideological purpose ………”

    “The smart Dems have read Harvard’s Robert Putnam, who reluctantly but systematically documents in Bowling Alone (and in this academic paper ), how large-scale immigration breaks down community solidarity and reduces social capital, creating a vacuum where civil society used to be:”

    Oblomov uses these words to illustrate how politically savvy Dems view immigration. Beyond clever politics, he suggests all Dems are really either guilt ridden, American haters or generally quite stupid not to see the obvious. If he’s correct, even Texas is doomed.

    I’ve often wondered how so many people can be blind to facts that threaten their well being. The answer is that they can or wish to be. There must be rational Dem public officer holders and their supporters who see the dangers and disagree with party policies. But they too are members of the welfare class. Dependent on government for their paychecks. They look the other way rather than risk their patronage.

    Brilliant post Oblomov!

    • #13
    • March 11, 2015, at 8:32 AM PDT
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  14. Bob Wainwright Member

    The amazing thing is that the Democrats don’t even try to make the argument that these policies are good for America. They don’t say, “We need to do this because America will benefit in the following ways…” Apparently they do not feel that such justifications are demanded by American voters. All the arguments they make boil down to how their proposals are good for the immigrants in question, not for Americans. Everyone always suspects that politicians have ulterior, selfish motives for their proposals, but the politician has to at least try to justify it by appealing to a concern for the common good. Not so here. What does it mean that politicians are able to get away with this?

    • #14
    • March 11, 2015, at 8:43 AM PDT
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  15. Dave Carter Contributor

    Superb post!

    • #15
    • March 11, 2015, at 11:13 AM PDT
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  16. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    As a Californian I can tell you the problem started under Reagan and has plenty of Republican fingerprints on it, too. His campaign backers owned hotels, restaurant chains, and some of the country’s largest agribusinesses. They would have imported workers from the planet Mars if it had helped them cut wages. They–not the Democrats–were the first ones to put out a fuzzy, gauzy cover story about how the natural conservatives of la familia and la iglesia, were humble peasants of the soil who would never make demands later, etc. etc.

    • #16
    • March 11, 2015, at 11:29 AM PDT
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  17. The Dowager Jojo Member

    Bob Wainwright:The amazing thing is that the Democrats don’t even try to make the argument that these policies are good for America. They don’t say, “We need to do this because America will benefit in the following ways…”

    I need to like this again. Like like like like like.

    • #17
    • March 11, 2015, at 11:55 AM PDT
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  18. The Dowager Jojo Member

    Mike, if you have data that proves mass low skilled immigration won’t cost taxpayers money and won’t increase Democrat voters, I have a diet for you where you eat ice cream and lose 20 pounds in 10 days.

    • #18
    • March 11, 2015, at 12:04 PM PDT
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  19. Mike H Coolidge

    Jojo:Mike, if you have data that proves mass low skilled immigration won’t cost taxpayers money and won’t increase Democrat voters, I have a diet for you where you eat ice cream and lose 20 pounds in 10 days.

    I have data that shows the cost to taxpayers is more than offset by improvements to the economy and that increase in Democratic voters is too small to make much difference.

    • #19
    • March 11, 2015, at 12:12 PM PDT
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  20. The Dowager Jojo Member

    Mike H:

    Jojo:Mike, if you have data that proves mass low skilled immigration won’t cost taxpayers money and won’t increase Democrat voters, I have a diet for you where you eat ice cream and lose 20 pounds in 10 days.

    I have data that shows the cost to taxpayers is more than offset by improvements to the economy and that increase in Democratic voters is too small to make much difference.

    Surely you’ve heard the Mark Twain line about lies, damn lies, and statistics. I have no doubt I could develop numbers myself showing just what you say, but they would leave out some costs and overestimate some benefit and assume certain conditions that favored that outcome. It’s just not plausible.

    • #20
    • March 11, 2015, at 12:42 PM PDT
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  21. The Dowager Jojo Member

    Most people aren’t willing to pay for the welfare state now, they are going to be less likely when there’s a higher chance it’s going to “others.”

    What “others”? Brown people? Bring in brown people so the whites rise up and end the welfare state????????? Ay yi yi. People on welfare- white, black, and brown- are “others” already. As you say, most people aren’t happy about it. Yet we still have the welfare state. Lots more people will give the existing ones more power? How? The same people who don’t want welfare now but can’t stop it will have more power? The people who don’t want illegal immigration now are a huge majority- but can’t stop it.

    • #21
    • March 11, 2015, at 12:55 PM PDT
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  22. Petty Boozswha Member

    Gary McVey:As a Californian I can tell you the problem started under Reagan and has plenty of Republican fingerprints on it, too. His campaign backers owned hotels, restaurant chains, and some of the country’s largest agribusinesses. They would have imported workers from the planet Mars if it had helped them cut wages. They–not the Democrats–were the first ones to put out a fuzzy, gauzy cover story about how the natural conservatives of la familia and la iglesia, were humble peasants of the soil who would never make demands later, etc. etc.

    Ironically this is about the same time Caesar Chavez – the MLK of Hispanic farm workers – was adamantly against illegal immigration asking all of his supporters to report them and get them deported.

    • #22
    • March 11, 2015, at 4:30 PM PDT
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  23. MarciN Member

    A great post on an important subject.

    Watching the Feds go after population growth so aggressively without considering community issues such as schools, police, fire protection, waste disposal, water supply, parks and recreation facilities, hospitals, and affordable housing is just plain irresponsible.

    It is infuriating.

    Check out Joel Kotkin’s “America’s Emerging Housing Crisis,” Forbes, July 26, 2013.

    • #23
    • March 11, 2015, at 5:30 PM PDT
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  24. San Joaquin Sam Inactive

    Gary McVey:As a Californian I can tell you the problem started under Reagan and has plenty of Republican fingerprints on it, too. His campaign backers owned hotels, restaurant chains, and some of the country’s largest agribusinesses. They would have imported workers from the planet Mars if it had helped them cut wages. They–not the Democrats–were the first ones to put out a fuzzy, gauzy cover story about how the natural conservatives of la familia and la iglesia, were humble peasants of the soil who would never make demands later, etc. etc.

    This is exactly right. The motivations of Lefties and Caplanites are transparent. It’s Republicans that obfuscate on this issue.

    This may be the only hang up I have with Scott Walker. A decade ago he was fully on board with W’s amnesty to sell Americans down the river. And now a week or two ago he claims to endorse secure borders and enforcement of immigration laws. So was he lying then–lip-service to the Establishment to show he loves screwing over Americans as much as they do? Or is he lying now–lip-service to me? My intuition is the latter.

    • #24
    • March 11, 2015, at 8:44 PM PDT
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