"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Immigration and Political Divisions

Forgive me for asking, but is it really only the Republicans for whom the immigration issue is divisive, as one might conclude from the mainstream press discussions? After all, to the extent that the importation of low-skilled labor, whether legal or not, depresses the wages of all low-skilled workers---an assumption not quite as obvious as seemingly is the case, since immgrants increase both the supply of labor and the demand for goods and thus other kinds of labor---it ought to be the case that low-wage workers and Hispanics, both important groups within the Democratic Party coalition, would come down on opposite sides of the question. Or more specifically: It simply cannot be the case, it seems to me, that Hispanics on the one hand and blacks and poor whites on the other systematically would find themselves allies on this question. My guess is that the popular image of Republicans torn apart and Democrats united on this issue cannot be right.

13 comments:

Hunter Baker said...

I think you're right, Dr. Zycher. My recollection was that Bill Clinton really had to push the Dems to go with him on NAFTA because of union worries about lost jobs. It would seem that similar concerns would pertain here, particularly with regard to the idea of slowly legalizing the illegals. Those fellows would make excellent competitors for factory jobs and would certainly tend to pull wages down, at least in the short run as they became available for large company service.

James Elliott said...

I think immigration is one of the issues on which the Democrats, and the Left in general, have really dropped the ball. I think Democrats tend to treat the issue like a live hand grenade: they run the other way. In doing so, they avoid the public fights that are apparent in the Republican party. It's the black sheep issue no one talks about at dinner.

I know for myself that the issue is far too complex for me to just come down on any one side of the fence.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The Democrats see everything as political these days. They knew exactly what they were doing. There is no advantage in confronting the problem: blacks are highly anti-illegal immigrant, for instance, but they'll never shed their fealty to the Democrats in our lifetime. (Stiffed by the man agin.)

The moment some GOPers twitched first in the, um, Mexican standoff, the Democrats were on it in a flash. Bigots, persecutors of the Good Samaritan. And Jesus Himself!

Fortunately, cooler, more calculating heads like John McCain's may prevail. He's often accused of thinking like a Democrat, and he does, but in this case it'll come in handy.

Problem: Illegal immigrants.
Solution: Make 'em legal!

How elegant. Makes politics look easy.

connie deady said...

as compared to the pure as driven snow Republicans Tom?

Please. One of the downsides of being the party in power is you get the responsibility to solve the problems.

I believe that immigration is just not an issue that excites the base. I find it intellectually interesting, but I don't have strong feelings about it.

KeithM, Indy said...

Even in agreement though, we can still be divided.

Why does "making them legal" seem to equate to "making them legal citizens"??

It would seem to me a "guest worker" program would make them legal, but not expect that they will stay.

If they want to stay and become citizens, get your name on the list. They can still be guest workers as they apply for citizenship.

KeithM, Indy said...

As to what the Democrats leaders are going to do...

Wait for the blood in the water and attack without mercy.

James Elliott said...

Interesting tidbit on illegal immigration: If the House has its way and criminalizes giving aid to illegal immigrants, does that mean I'm going to become a felon? I authorize purchases of service that provide some of the people on my caseload (some of whom are illegal immigrant children) with their housing, food, and clothes. So, in following California state law, I could potentially be in violation of federal law. It's all very hypothetical, and I'm hoping Frist isn't as insane as I think he is, but it's kind of funny to contemplate.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Right on schedule, Keith.

Kathy Hutchins said...

The immigration debate is demonstrating how fractured the American union movement has become, although this wrinkle is also not getting much media attention. SEIU and UFW have been very aggressive in getting people out to these protest marches, while AFL-CIO head John Sweeney is slamming the guest worker proposal. I imagine there are a number of Congressional Democrats who aren't looking forward to steering between this Scylla and that Charybdis.

James Elliott said...

Andy Card and SEIU are off their rockers. Not necessarily on this issue, but in general. I say this as an SEIU member.

Evanston said...

Keith M.: "Nothing is more surprising than the attack without mercy." - Little Big Man
On a serious note, I suspect the SEIU is less threatened by illegal immigrants since its membership largely consists of educated/certified hospital employees, as well as government employees. There are significant barriers to entry in health care, and nigh impossible to government, for an illegal. Contrast with factory workers, who should be very concerned with competing directly here in the U.S. for their jobs/wages. In comparison with competing against Mexicans in Mexican factories, if illegals are broadly made legal then they'll compete against Mexicans in U.S. factories.
Dr. Zycher is right, Democrats can demagogue the issue for now, but it eats away at some of their core interest groups (black, union).

Scottage said...

I think the distinction is that that Republican ideology should be squarely against anti-mmigration policy, as it goes against their big-business philosophy. Tus, Republicans showing support over such a deal becomes more of an issue.

Tlaloc said...

"I think immigration is one of the issues on which the Democrats, and the Left in general, have really dropped the ball. I think Democrats tend to treat the issue like a live hand grenade"

JE, if that's all it takes to drop the ball then the Dems have dropped it on just about every major issue.

What was the last major issue that the dems didn't flee like total cowards? Social Security Reform is about the only one I can think of.