Category: immigration history

Rubio decides he isn’t Latino after all

Apparently not

By Alan Bean

The sad story of Marco Rubio explains why we won’t be seeing comprehensive immigration reform anytime soon.

Like Ted Cruz, Rubio is the child of Cuban immigrants who became American citizens without having to stand in line for day, let alone a decade.  As refugees from the hated Castro regime, Cubans receive special treatment at the border and it shows in their politics.

The rising prominence of men like Cruz and Rubio is often taken as a sign that the Republican Party is sensitive to the needs and aspiration of the Latino population.  But Cubans, as recipients of special favors rooted in Cold War politics, can’t feel the pain of the larger Latino community.

Consider this.  In the last presidential election, only 44% of Cuban Americans supported Barack Obama, only 44% supported Obama, compared to 76% of Central Americans, 79% of South Americans, 78% of Mexican Americans, 83% of Puerto Ricans, and fully 96% of Dominican Americans.  In other words, the Cuban vote went for Mitt Romney while the rest of the diverse Latino community voted decisively for Barack Obama.

These ugly facts place men like Marco Rubio in a tight place.  The man has presidential aspirations and it is increasingly clear that you can’t ascend to the top job without at least the 44% Latino support George W. Bush worked so hard to get.  Had Bush received 30% Latino support, he would have been beaten by two relatively weak Democratic challengers.

On the other hand, to win the Republican nomination you have to survive the primary season, and that means appealing to the Tea Party base.

Which explains why Marco Rubio, after helping draft a Senate bill that balanced tough border enforcement with a pathway to citizenship, is now endorsing the go-slow, piecemeal approach to reform favored by House Republicans.  Even the deeply flawed Senate bill was too much for Tea Party loyalists because it would eventually mean more Latino voters.

In theory, the Republican Party could take its cue from George W. Bush, winning Latino support by backing sensible immigration reform.  It’s just a matter of signalling to Latinos that they are welcome in the country and in the Republican Party.

But the Tea Party can’t go there.  A movement built on white racial resentment (the cash value of small government conservatism) doesn’t want more non-white people entering the country.

What part of “illegal” do liberals like George W. Bush not understand?

Marco Rubio knows he can’t change this simple fact of American political life, and has adapted his politics accordingly.

Latinos, per se, are not welcome in a Republican Party controlled by the Tea Party.  Rubio had to decide between being Latino and being Cuban, and he made his choice.  The Tea Party loves Cubans, but despises Latinos.

This probably means that comprehensive immigration reform will have to wait until the Republicans suffer another defeat in the presidential election of 2016.  Latino support for the Democratic candidate, no matter who it is, will be even stronger than it was in 2012.  When a political party signals its’ contempt for a large portion of the electorate it must live with the consequences.

If your ambition is to hang on to a Senate seat in the American South, opposing immigration reform makes sense.  If the goal is the win the White House it’s quite another matter.  The Republicans have effectively opted to be a regional party dedicated to the care and feeding of the White electorate.  That’s a winning combination in places like Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, but for the party of Lincoln, it is a long-term disaster in the making.

The importance of criminalizing immigrant labor

Christian Parenti

By Alan Bean

If you think the immigration debate will be sane and smooth, consider these paragraphs from Christian Parenti, one of the most thoughtful and responsible authorities on crime and punishment in America.  Lots of big words, but if you want to understand the immigration debate read and re-read these words until you get his drift.

I have been told that the extreme anti-immigrant legislation proposed in the last session of the Texas Legislature was beaten back by a coalition comprised of immigrant rights activists and business owners.  The owners didn’t want their supply of cheap labor drying up.  But how will they react if their workers are no longer subject to deportation?

“What keeps agricultural labor so amazingly inexpensive, unorganized, and efficient, if not a pervasive culture of fear among immigrant laborers?  To the extent that raids ‘reproduce’ a supply of poorly remunerated agricultural labor, then the economic damages suffered by individual employers are simply the diseconomies and political externalities of maintaining the interests of employers in general.

It is axiomatic that owners of capital need labor to be inexpensive relative to the price of labor’s product if profits are to remain healthy, and that impoverished people, driven by desperation, will generally labor for lower wages than people with some degree of social power and wealth.  But sometimes poverty is not enough.  In many dangerous and dirty low-wage labor markets–such as food processing, agriculture, and apparel manufacturing–employers seem to prefer not just poor workers, but criminalized workers.  A labor supply of undocumented, ideologically demonized, and literally hunted immigrants is to American capitalists what drugs are to America’s consumers: an essential import.”

The usefulness, if not necessity, of criminalizing immigrant labor became apparent in the wake of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which gave green cards to 1.2 million undocumented farm workers.  As soon as these laborers received this slightest of legal protections, the vast majority of them evacuated the fields in search of better employment.  As soon as these migrant laborers were ‘legal’ they had a degree of upward mobility; poverty alone was not enough to ‘keep them down on the farm.’  Only police terror can assure that.  To remain passively trapped at the very bottom run of the labor market, immigrants must be legally and ideologically constructed as criminals.”  (Lockdown America, pp. 153-154)

Back to Dred Scott and Jim Crow?

Rachel Maddow was the first American journalist to draw attention to a story the mainstream media has studiously ignored: a Republican plan to score presidential elections using gerrymandered state district maps.  It is thanks to these electoral maps that Republicans were able to hold on to House in the last election while losing the popular vote.  If six Republican states (including Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio) had calculated their electoral college tallies using the same maps employed in state elections, Mitt Romney would now be president even though he lost the popular vote.

In Virginia, for instance, Barack Obama would have won only for of the state’s thirteen electoral votes under this plan even though he won the popular vote.   The trick is to make rural and suburban votes worth more than urban (that is minority) votes.  When you do the math, as several bloggers have done, this means that your average urban vote is worth precisely three-fifths as much as your average white vote. (more…)

Immigration debate forces Republicans to choose

By Alan Bean

The gun debate has revealed some troubling tensions within the American conservative movement.  It is a misnomer, of course, to speak of the American conservative movement, we are really dealing with dozens of overlapping movements locked in a troubled marriage of convenience.  The same sort of uneasy alliance exists on the left.  Major shifts in political fortune often reveal deep fissures within the constellation of groups and individuals Hillary Clinton once called the “great right-wing conspiracy”.

Conservatives have a deep distrust of centralized government, but they are often willing to support the unmitigated flowering of government authority if it promises to get drugs off the streets, reduce crime or enhance America’s reputation in the world or secure the nation’s borders.  When three-quarters of a steadily-growing Latino electorate pulls the lever for the opposition, the need for change is obvious.  Suddenly the conservative desire to maintain white hegemony (“taking back our country”) is in tension with the conservative fear of “jackbooted thugs”.

In an opinion piece for The Hill, Mike Lillis directs us to recent remarks from South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy, by all accounts the staunchest of staunch conservatives:

While Gowdy has not made immigration a focus of his two years on Capitol Hill — most often toeing the party line without fanfare — he recently rejected the notion that the government should round up and deport the millions of illegal immigrants living in the country.

“You want them knocking on your front door?” Gowdy told Gannett this month. “You want them going to elementary schools and rounding up the kids?” (more…)