The University of Texas at Austin
  • Immigration Policy Battle is a Larger Fight Over Votes and Government Control

    By Gary Freeman, Professor of Government
    Published: Aug. 11, 2014

    Amid the humanitarian crisis at the Texas border, elected officials are producing a spectacle of political posturing. All the familiar remedies for our immigration fiasco are on view, their proponents hoping to turn the plight of Central American migrants to their temporary political advantage.

    As we sort through this haze of tragedy and farce, we should not forget that what is at stake is not only the fate of the desperate migrants or which politicians score the most points with voters. The border crisis is an especially fraught episode in the long battle for control over the electoral uses of immigration policy. These include a more profound issue than simply advocating policies designed to win votes. Except for election law and redistricting, immigration is the only public policy that directly affects the partisan complexion of the electorate itself. Parties are not limited to campaigning for support among the existing voting public. They have the power to change the electorate to suit their purposes.

    Demography is destiny for nations. In democracies, the electoral success of political parties depends on how well they adapt to changes in the composition of the electorate. Mass immigration is the long-term driver of demographic change. Who controls immigration policy controls the demography of the electorate and, hence, the government.

    The connection between immigration and elections is hardly lost on the political class, but in public they behave as if demographic changes are Acts of God beyond their control. They are not. The manipulation of immigration policy to foster demographic change favorable to one’s party is the dirty little secret of immigration politics.

    Immigration policy has always shaped the fortunes of the political parties, but rarely as obviously as after 1965. Legislation that year increased annual admissions and revised the rules governing eligibility for visas. The share of immigrants from Europe plummeted while entries from Latin America, Asia and other regions surged. More than 18 million gained legal admission in the 30 years after 1965. Millions of illegal immigrants also entered.

    This altered American demography beyond recognition. A much more homogeneous society in the 1950s, the U.S. today is experiencing an immense, rapid and unprecedented transformation. The cultural dominance of persons of European backgrounds is fading as that group ages. By midcentury, no group will constitute a majority.

    We should embrace this new diversity cautiously, not because displacing Americans of European lineage is necessarily undesirable, but because whichever ethnic groups are ascendant in the years ahead, America will be a different country. All countries change, but most demographic changes take place over many generations. Our transformation has transpired nearly over night and is the direct result of public policy.

    No one predicted this in 1965. Whether the complacent assurances that nothing important was in the works were an honest mistake or a deliberate misrepresentation, the politicians of the day were complicit in an appalling failure of democratic governance. Long after all could see that an unexpected social transformation of epic proportions was underway, few officials expressed second thoughts, and subsequent laws accelerated the pace of change.

    We have embarked on a risky social experiment to see whether Americans can build a successful multicultural society where others have failed. Amazingly, Americans have never had a meaningful opportunity to give or withhold their consent, nor has there been a serious accounting of the certain and potential consequences of this venture.

    Hispanics are at the leading edge of the demographic transition. They will inevitably surpass European Americans as the nation’s largest ethnic group. The only question is which party they will support and what immigration policy the lucky recipient of their votes will devise.

    Whatever the mix of compromises that finally emerges out of this turmoil, the real issue for the parties is the impact of reform on future outcomes in the Electoral College. The protracted stalemate in Washington is the visible evidence of a deeper struggle between Democrats and Republicans over the coming ethnic and partisan makeup of the American electorate.

    Gary Freeman is a professor of government at The University of Texas at Austin who is an expert on the politics of immigration.

    Texas Perspectives disclaimer

    • Quote 2
      Dave Francis said on Aug. 11, 2014 at 10:40 a.m.
      OUR IMMIGRATION LAWS ARE NOT BROKEN, JUST IGNORED BY DEMOCRATS AND THE REPUBLICAN ESTABLISHMENT. True conservative are pro-sovereignty and honor their oath of allegiance to protect the American people from enemies Domestic and foreign. They respect the Rule of Law and the US constitution. Unlike the two major political parties who pander to illegal aliens for cheap labor for corporate cronies with the Democrats who are after future votes from foreigners—illegal or illegal for there special interests. Unfortunately—it’s the devil to pay before the 2006 secure fencing will ever be constructed because Senators and Congressman and ladies or any other Republican elitist always add loopholes to any immigration policy. They owe to many favors to their corporate friends, who always demand low paid slavery from other countries rather than hire one of the 25 million Americans seeking a job. They are coming through our borders in droves, carrying communicable diseases, committing crimes potential terrorists and foreigners proclaiming, "Obama will take care of us!" US Border Control are overwhelmed. Obama and his administration are doling out free health care, education and legal representation as if it were candy. Tell lawmakers in Washington we refuse to tolerate this reckless disregard for America's law. If a citizen or legal resident speaks out the “Politically Correct Police” reign down on you, like a ton of bricks? By calling you a bigot or racist or some four-letter word, this mostly keeps a tight restraint on the more timid around us, which includes a great many in Congress. I GUARANTEE A GOOD MAJORITY OF THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO WILL VOTE FOR THIS LEFTIST SOCIALIST PARTY COME MIDTERMS, ARE THOSE “FREELOADERS” WHO HAVE LEARNED TO GET SOMETHING FOR NOTHING. Illegal aliens are have always depressed wages and worsening working conditions for legal immigrants and native Americans in low-skilled and low-paying jobs, the General Accounting Office says. They cited experiential statistics and several case studies, the accounting office, an investigative arm of Congress, said previously that United States-born citizens and legally documented immigrants were being hurt, especially those working as janitors, construction and food processors. The report acknowledged restaurants and companies producing automobile parts, clothing as others that often employ illegal aliens. The aliens' willingness to work in low-skill jobs for less than the minimum wage in thousands of industries has depressed wages and benefits for comparable native and legal immigrants, the G.A.O. stated. Who created the wars we fight every day here with the left fighting the right in America? Obama did. He took away your right to keep your health care plan and your own doctor. He continuously tries to take away your right to bear arms. Don't even think that he plans to let us keep our jobs—no, they're already going to illegal aliens. He's gone too far, writing his own laws, bypassing Congress and effectively telling Americans who want him to obey the rule of law and the US Constitution to kiss off. THIS is WAR. As I see it, illegal immigration is a burdening nemesis and even a problem for people who arrive here as legal immigrants who wait years. However right now and under Obama’s preferential treatment the borders are not enforced, and although the US Southwestern border leaked thousands of illegal individuals, today once you gain entrance your free and clear. Daily thousands escape the clutches of the US Border Patrol, because these brave men and women are separated from the actual border in many regions by 35 miles. This has been implemented intentionally; the officers cannot enter federal reservations or environmental protected lands. Do you really believe that heinous criminal care about some protected species like a frog? Unknown numbers and adamantly worse Homeland Security has no idea who is coming in the back door? 1. Resurrect the 2006 Secure Fence Act and build the double layer fencing, complete with concertina razor wire. 2. Reinforce the border with National Guard permanently. 3. Amend the law so illegal entry into the US becomes a Felony. 4. Issue a National digital Social Security Card for voting, and to identify that person. 5. Revisit the 14th amendment, thus amending the automatic citizen law, so ONLY the babies of US citizens can claim this right. (A huge expenditure for taxpayers.) 6. Make it a more serious offense for employers to hire illegal aliens, with prison. 7. Amend the 2006 human trafficking act, so it’s aligning with Mexico and Canadians. 8. Introduce a uniform Guest worker program, with entry and exit permission and unless mitigating circumstances are available, overstays have committed a felony. 9. Only legal immigrants with Special high level skills can be admitted permanently. Only candidates of the National TEA PARTY, moderate Conservatism will enforce immigration laws and follow the dictates of the Rule of Law, the Federal Registry and the US Constitution. We need National TEA PARTY candidates who will abide by the oath of allegiance, our sovereignty to respect the Rule of Law and the vision of our founders, the US Constitution. Rough your politicians up—verbally and introduce them to a pink slip, if they don’t follow the will of the people. Check this site that has the phone Numbers and Mailing Addresses of Members of Congress at: www.contactingthecongress/ to demand an end to illegal immigration and the dismantling of our laws, sovereignty and military, which is protection against our enemies. This is the number for the central switchboard for Congress to address your grievances at 800-224-3121.
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