Immigration debate over in CA

immigration-9March 4, 2013

By Steven Greenhut

SACRAMENTO — As the cliché goes, elections have consequences. And the Nov. 6 election results have had dramatic consequences in California.

The debate over immigration — legal and otherwise, but, especially, otherwise — is over. Even some Republicans are joining with Democrats to promote the “path to citizenship” for people here illegally.

The reason is obvious. Democrats — buoyed by overwhelming support from the state’s Latino voters — maintained their hold on every constitutional office in California and gained two-thirds supermajorities in the Assembly and state Senate. Even the small band of legislative Republicans is noticing the growing percentage of Latino voters in GOP-leaning districts.

The biggest evidence of the shift should be on display during this weekend’s California Republican Party convention in Sacramento, where immigration policy debates will have a different dynamic.

“California’s elected Republicans have long had a simple approach to illegal immigration: Those who broke the law coming here should leave,” the Los Angeles Times reported in a recent news story. “But the confluence of politics and personal threat have now put many Republican legislators in Washington and Sacramento in a very different place.”


It’s a reality that must be uncomfortable for many Republicans, after years of running hard to the right to appeal to base voters in conservative districts. Some Republicans now are embracing what party activists still characterize as “amnesty” for those illegal immigrants already here. Others are supporting the Obama administration’s plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws. Still others still are accepting the once-radical notion of granting drivers’ licenses for “undocumented” — and this is the proper use of that loaded word here — drivers.

There no doubt will be a fight over such matters at the convention and elsewhere, with grass-roots activists taking a “hell no” position, but the battle is over. The California GOP’s future is iffy right now, which is bad news, given how desperately the state needs serious pushback against the “tax, spend, and tax again” policies of the state’s Democratic Party. Without a change in its immigration approach, the party is done.

My views have changed over the years, but tend toward the “open” side, given my libertarian dislike of government policies that stop individuals from charting their own course in life. But critics raise some serious questions about Balkanization and the costly impact on the state’s infrastructure and public services. The Right has been unduly mean-spirited in its rhetoric on illegal immigration, and the Left, unconscionably, has used the issue to divide our state along ethnic lines. Never mind all that. The debate is done because the politics changed.

Fighting over immigration policy in California now is as fruitful as arguing over women’s suffrage. Those on the losing side need to get over it and move on — for their own good as well as the good of the party. As one state GOP official said in the past, it’s hard to lure people to a party that wants to deport their grandmother.

The issue of illegal immigration has roiled this state since the 1970s and has dominated almost every political discussion I’ve been a part of since moving here from Ohio in the late 1990s. From education to pensions to infrastructure issues to policing, the illegal immigration debate has been, at least, lurking in the background.

The debate continues at the national level. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll concludes that a majority of American citizens “believe that most or all of the country’s 11 million illegal immigrants should be deported,” according to a Reuters report. “Only 5 percent believe all illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States legally, and 31 percent want most illegal immigrants to stay.” The Obama administration has sparked controversy with its latest reform plans.

Regardless of national politics, the matter is settled in California.


Unfortunately for the state’s Republicans, the mere softening of their positions may be viewed as pandering. Latino voters who are dismayed by the GOP’s longtime hard-line policies on illegal immigration are unlikely to be wooed by the party’s newfound kinder, gentler approach. This may help in a generation or two, but probably not soon. Meanwhile, Republican base voters who are upset about illegal immigration will lose their enthusiasm for the party.

Instead of fixating on immigration policies, the GOP needs to focus on what policy geeks call the “politics of aspiration.” The party needs to advocate policies that help all Californians improve their lives.

These include issues that are right in the GOP wheelhouse — regulatory reform, pro-growth economics, improved education through competition, union reform and private-sector jobs creation. This is the old Jack Kemp model of selling the benefits of the free market to Democratic constituencies.

The latest dismal election results might help the GOP in the long run by convincing its leaders to embrace a more positive agenda on immigration and other matters. That may be grasping at straws but it’s better than still grasping onto an old, failed approach.

Steven Greenhut is vice president of journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Write to him at: [email protected]


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  1. The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm)
    The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm) 4 March, 2013, 06:42

    All I can say Greeny–is, thank God California voters are wise enough to keep this state blue!

    Discuss (rant)-

    Reply this comment
  2. stolson
    stolson 4 March, 2013, 07:28

    Illegals make CA to be the next Greece. For real. Sacramento knows this; they just kick the can down the road. It will be the wealthier along the coasts and the lower classes inland–few real middle class will exist in 5 yrs. To offset, will they raise property taxes to an extreme? Add more taxes? Increase the state income tax?

    Reply this comment
  3. CJ
    CJ 4 March, 2013, 09:06

    I don’t know, people continue voting on California’s future with their feet. From what I read the cost of illegal immigrants is a big concern for people.

    U-Haul Rate comparison – People are leaving N. California, period. Summary on this video link.

    Why they are leaving is open for debate but the evidence from my U-Haul research is very strong, the outflow is dramatic.

    Reply this comment
  4. Max2
    Max2 4 March, 2013, 09:11

    An “undocumented immigrant” is an oxy-moron. It’s no different than calling a car thief an “undocumented owner.” (credit: Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State)

    Reply this comment
  5. Wayne Lusvardi
    Wayne Lusvardi 4 March, 2013, 09:26

    No politician Left or Right is willing to admit how the U.S. immigration system works as an informal social contract.

    For the most part the U.S. casts a blind eye to illegal immigration because it needs cheap labor to compete globally and for the hospitality, food service, and agriculture industries.

    Economic migrants are allowed to stay unless they violate criminal laws.

    The social contract is that their children are given subsidized public education in return for citizenship if born in the U.S. Then they are given affirmative action sinecures.

    This social contract — cheap labor in return for citizenship for children born in the U.S. and affirmative action jobs — is how the system works. And the U.S. needs the population growth and more children to support social security and Medicare programs.

    Conservatives believe it is all illegal. But it is a quasi-legal system that is meant to prop up the economy and provide a population base that will pay into social support programs mainly for the elderly.

    Especially in California there is a lack of children at the base of the population pyramid to support the elderly. The problem with this unofficial immigration system is that it produces a disproportionate number of non-intact dependent families that are a drain on welfare programs and do not contribute to economic productivity.

    Economist Milton Friedman pointed out long ago that for the economy to work young adults needed to buy homes and take out mortgages and small business loans with funds borrowed from elderly retired persons. This creates an intergenerational economic cycle of support. The problem comes when there are not enough young adults from intact families who are buying homes and taking out loans.

    Government policies to force place dependent families into housing ownership and loans — called the Mortgage Bubble — failed miserably and mostly ruined second generation immigrant families.

    So conservatives are wrong to oppose immigration needed to prop up the base of the population pyramid; and liberals are wrong to believe they can social engineer second generation immigrant families into becoming economically productive through affirmative action policies and cheap money loans to buy housing. And the cheap money loans do not pay a sufficient rate of return to investments held by retirees.

    Conservatives need to accept that immigration is a needed unofficial policy for economic growth. Liberals need to realize that social engineering and jobs programs will result in collapse of the economic system — ergo the Mortgage Meltdown which has led to municipal insolvencies.

    Reply this comment
  6. jimmydeeoc
    jimmydeeoc 4 March, 2013, 12:35

    “Undocumented”? What a load of horse****.

    You bet they have documents———-

    “Any citizen of age 18 or greater must go to an electoral office in order be registered into the electoral census. Citizens receive a voting card (credencial de elector con fotografía), issued by the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) that must be shown to vote in any election. The voting card also serves as a national identity document.”

    Reply this comment
  7. old dude
    old dude 4 March, 2013, 12:53

    Kalifornia is fast becoming the like and kind of East Germany following WW2. The corrupt socialst democrats running the state are to blame for the state being hopelessly broken to the point the productive people who want to keep the fruits of their labor can’t wait to leave. Now the Republicans want in on the “take from those who work and give it to the illegal and lazy who don’t work” game just for a vote to stay in office? WARNING: Don’t pet a politician, they’re venomous and they do bite.

    Reply this comment
  8. C.J.
    C.J. 5 March, 2013, 13:24

    California cannot be a halfway house for the world’s downtrodden.
    Immigration laws exist for a reason. I would argue primarily to protect our wealth from being siphoned off.
    Being good “liberals,” though, our leaders feel the need throw other people’s (i.e. my) money at those who did not earn it and thereby tempt the fates of nations.
    Enjoy the ride, America.

    Reply this comment
  9. ELL
    ELL 15 May, 2013, 19:35

    Illegal is illegal. Leave my country, stand in line with the rest of the world and wait your turn. No path to citizenship if you are in this country illegally. Go home and we’ll talk.

    Reply this comment

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