2005 May 16 Monday
A Liberal Argues For Immigration Restriction

Froma Harrop of the Providence Journal-Bulletin makes a liberal argument for immigration restriction.

But this issue does not belong to the right. Or it shouldn't. Illegal immigration hurts most liberal causes. It depresses wages, crushes unions and kills all hope for universal health coverage. Progressives have to understand that there can be little social justice in an unregulated labor market.

“Liberals are so confused on this issue,” says Vernon Briggs, a labor economist at Cornell University and self-described liberal. “Immigration policy has got to be held accountable for its economic consequences.”

Many Democrats used to get it. In 1964, President Johnson abolished the Bracero program, which brought in “temporary” farm workers from Mexico. Its demise let Cesar Chavez organize U.S. farm workers. His union won some battles early on, but a new wave of illegal immigrants in the mid-1970s reversed that progress. The union barely exists today.

Harrop argues that if Hillary Clinton would take a consistent immigration restrictionist line that she could win the Presidency in 2008. Harrop sounds like she'd be very happy with that outcome.

Upper class liberals used to identify much more strongly with working class American interests. But a recent Pew poll showed that 58% of liberals favor a temporary worker permit program while only 36% oppose.. Two other major pillars of the Democratic Party's coaltion (at least as Pew categorize the people they polled) are "Disadvantaged Democrats" (in other words: blacks and Hispanics) and "Conservative Democrats" (in other words, the former heart of the party). The "Disadvantaged Democrats" heavily oppose temporary immigrant worker permits with 63% against to 30% in favor. This result makes sense. Poor lower class blacks are having their wages driven down and their jobs taken away by the huge illegal Hispanic influx. Their salaries and labor market participation rates are declining. The "Conservative Democrats" also understand that the illegal influx works in favor of upper class purchasers of labor and against the interests of the working class.

The Democratic Party's standpoint on immigration demonstrates that upper class liberals are in control of the party. If poor blacks and conservative Democrats had their say the party's immigration policy would be different. Some of those conservative Democrats are swing voters. They'd vote for a Republican who appealed to their interests. If immigration restrictionist Tom Tancredo wins the Republican nomination in 2008 I bet he's get more black and conservative Democrat votes than George W. Bush did.

Check out the full Pew Research Center survey results.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 May 16 09:04 AM  Immigration Politics


Comments
Mark said at May 16, 2005 10:10 AM:

Illegal Hispanic migrants are poor racial minorities whose many children will be malleable clay which liberals believe they can form into their own image. Liberals like to play with their playdough. The worst shape it’s in the better. Who wants ready made marble statues from Europe and Asia.

D Flinchum said at May 17, 2005 5:56 AM:

The Democratic Party has not represented working class citizens for some time. Then liberals wonder - as in "What's the Matter with Kansas?" - why they no longer vote Democratic. I am well left of center and I have pointed out to many of my like-minded friends - and to Senator Ted Kennedy - that if the Democrats can't be relied upon to protect working class citizens' economic interests, such as curbing illegal immigration and reducing immigration overall, then they shouldn't be surprised when these neglected workers vote Republican on national security and "values".

GUYK said at May 17, 2005 7:16 AM:

Will Tancredo try for the nomination? What does he stand for other than curbing illegal immigration? This alone will not get him to the White House but would help if he is also a fiscal conservative with small l libertraian leanings.

Randall Parker said at May 17, 2005 8:08 AM:

GUYK,

As Dubya has demonstrated, a Republican non-conservative, non-libertarian, big spending Christian fundamentalist can get elected to the White House and then reelected. Do you think Tancredo could do better if he is a fiscal conservative?

Ned said at May 17, 2005 8:52 AM:

I don't want to take anything away from GWB, who is, in fact, a much better politician than those in the Democratic party and their media echo chambers want to give him credit for being, but you have to admit that, in the last election, Bush had a lot of help from the Democrats themselves. Even in retrospect, it's hard to imagine a weaker candidate than John Kerry. As soon as this loser was nominated, I thought, "That's it - the election is decided." And I was right - the Democrats just can't win when they run Northern liberals for President. Just ask Humphrey, McGovern, Dukakis, Mondale or Kerry. I agree completely that the Democrats have ceased to represent the "common man'" and he knows it.

More to the point, immigration was a big issue in the recent British election, and Labour almost got caught with their pants down. Will it be the sleeper issue in the US in 2008? Neither party has done much with it so far, and the opposition has come mainly from people on the left and right fringes, e. g., Maxine Waters and Pat Buchanan.

GUYK said at May 17, 2005 10:36 AM:

Randal, Yep! The democrats are appearing as more fiscal conservative than the republicans at the moment. Bush hasn't seen an appropriations bill he couldn't sign and doesn't appear to know the meaning of veto. If the dems manage to nominate someone other than a bleeding heart lib or Hillary Clinton they can win the White house-- unless the republicans can come up with some conservative such as Tancredo with better ideas. Without the 10% libertarian vote the republicans can't win and many of this 10% are pretty well fed up with Bush politics.

John S Bolton said at May 17, 2005 4:51 PM:

The left, and the moderate left, used to be for the low income workers as against scabs and cheap labor in general. That was back when they still had hopes of setting off a class war, as their professoriate had told them was fated. then came the racebaiting new left, in the 1960's, with their new approach of pushing for race war, in the place where the push for class war had been. The left just wants civil war however they can get it; otherwise dreams of totalitarian power wither and die.

Logroller said at May 17, 2005 7:18 PM:

There just aren't many candidates proposing much in the way of real immigration reform, though IIRC the National Review was exhorting prospective Republicans to take it seriously. As for the Dems? With Hillary, forget about it. She was obviously spouting off some anti-immigrant rhetoric a few months ago with no intention whatsoever of following through, and recent events and statements have justified people's suspicion of her intentions. Bayh and Edwards? Hard to tell-- Bayh might actually be somewhat amenable. I've actually heard some encouraging things about Wes Clark oddly enough-- he's hard-headed and nuanced, and might make some positive steps.

Remember, although illegal immigration gets all the attention, it's the incredibly high numbers of legal immigration (especially chain migration) that are the root of the problem, since we get so many people into the country who don't necessarily contribute much to the tax base but succeed in driving down levels for unskilled and educated workers alike. It's another step along the road to plutocracy. If we could bring our legal quota levels down from 1,000,000 a year to, say, 100,000 a year (with perhaps more allowances for foreign students and people with particular backgrounds brought in for specific tasks), everything would be more manageable.

What really scares me is that the ceiling for immigration in the US, ultimately, might be set by unplanned factors. Read: A US economic collapse. There are ominous signs in the air that even our current population has already milked the North American economy for far more than can actually be extracted. We are consuming vastly more imports than we are producing. Our government is spending vastly more on defense and entitlements than we actually have available. Our education system is essentially crumbling. The one factor saving our ass in the past-- the tendency for the best and brightest foreign students to study and work here-- is reversing, as now they all seem to go back home after a few years. Even worse, many native-born well-educated Americans seem to be taking off these days, leaving for other shores. We've almost entirely lost our manufacturing base, and even educated professionals are losing jobs to competitors in other countries.

I'm starting to question whether the US really has the intrinsic human and material wealth to support 300,000,000 people, at least at the standards to which we're accustomed. So how could the "wealth deficiency" be made up? The same way that Rome, Spain, and Britain did it in centuries past: By conquering foreign countries, turning them into colonies, and siphoning off their wealth. Voila-- thus have we Iraq. But as current events are showing, Iraq has become far more expensive than we thought, and is doing tremendous economic damage to us. Even if we were to more nakedly embrace a colonizing scheme, a la the French and British in the 1800s, we'd provoke massive resentment and terrorism in the colonies, making them more expensive than they're worth. Which means we're basically stuck, and we've probably hit a ceiling as far as the population size that our economy in the US can realistically support. I wish it were otherwise, and it could be otherwise if he had more human capital and a better education system, but the elites don't seem willing to fund that, and in any case, the quality of the people we keep bringing in (poorly educated, often unable to complete high school) is hardly promising.

I just hope we don't wind up with a Chittum-style Civil War. I'm not sure how much I buy his thesis, but he does have a point in at least one respect: Germany and Japan after WWII, despite extremely adverse conditions, rapidly built themselves up into extraordinary world powers, economically and (in Germany's case) politically. It probably indeed helped that they had homogeneous populations where the people had an intrinsic sense of how to cooperate with each other for the common good. I fear that if another Depression-style economic collapse were to strike the USA, it could get nasty. Competing groups for the scraps would fracture along ethnic lines, and that would indeed mean civil war-- at least, outside the gated communities behind which the rich and exploitative have retreated. Ugh-- American dystopia anyone?

John S Bolton said at May 22, 2005 6:16 PM:

If that sort of warfare breaks out, it would not be spontaneous, but altogether stage managed by officials eager to establish an emergency powers regime. Officials would then give the signal in each case for minorities to riot, against the majority and each other. The majority should be vastly better prepared to adopt a defensive position, drawing back from the officially sanctioned vicinities of such conflict. Once started, and used for establishing dictatorship, the conflict is maintained and increased by officials, in order to hold on to their newfound, and much valued, power to rule by decree. The result is the lengthening of green lines between the combatants, out to tens of thousands of miles total length to be patrolled by the government, with quite deliberate ineffectiveness. The reduction of those lines down to hundreds of miles would be the partition of the country. There is plenty of evidence of deliberate increase of racial and ethnic conflicts by officials. The obvious one is the way the combination of racial quotas and the mass immigration of eligibles, causes racial and ethnic conflict to increase every year. Scarcely one official in a hundred will say they want to reverse these policies; therefore its obvious tendency, if never reversed, is intentional. Even so, it is not a case of conspiracy by officials; they merely happen to have similar impulses.


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