In 2006 and 2007, Republicans promoting amnesty favored the cliche, “Immigrants do the jobs American’s won’t do.” It was a bad argument then, and with unemployment still hovering around or over 9%, for the last five years, no one even bothers with that anymore. Instead, Republicans are selling amnesty based solely on political expediency. The new cliche is that Republicans will never win the Hispanic vote unless they support amnesty. John McCain, who led the last great push for amnesty says. "The Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens. And we realize this is an issue in which we are in agreement with our Hispanic citizens."
Unfortunately, many conservatives who previously opposed McCain’s immigration plans seem to be convinced by the argument. Senator Rand Paul said that the GOP viewpoint on amnesty has changed based on politics, noting, “I’m not sure the politics of this are really simple, or I know exactly what the politics of this are, particularly in a primary — I’m not sure it makes that much a difference. In a general election, I think, obviously we do need to show the Latino public that we are concerned about their status.” When Sean Hannity argued that he “evolved” on immigration, he said it was because “We’ve got to get rid of the immigration issue altogether.”
Personally, I believe that conservatives should stand for principles over what they think will win the next election. However, even from a purely electoral perspective, supporting amnesty will not win the GOP any Hispanic voters.
In the latest issue of the academic journal Social Science Quarterly, political scientist George Hawley compared Republicans voting records on immigration (calculated by the limited immigration group Numbers USA) and their performance among Hispanics. He found absolutely no relation between support for liberal immigration policy and support among Hispanics.
If immigration is not the reason for the GOP losing the Hispanic vote, what could the reason be? Writing in the National Journal, Michael Catalini argues that Hispanic opposition to the Republican Party “is rooted in the GOP’s skeptical view of government” He notes that, “The Republican Party calls for smaller government, but many Latinos look to government assistance as a necessity. Forty-two percent of Hispanic voters say that a government job offers the best chance of gaining career success, compared to only one-third of white voters.”
A Pew Hispanic Center poll found that 75% of Hispanics “would rather have a bigger government providing more services than a smaller government with fewer services” compared to only 41% of the general population.
Far from being social conservatives, another Pew Poll reported that 52% of Hispanics support gay marriage, while only 34% oppose it.
As liberal Washington Post pundit Jamelle Bouie frankly put it, the reason why Hispanics vote Democratic “is straightforward: Latinos are more liberal than the median voter.”
While passing an amnesty will not make Hispanics vote Republican, it will create millions of new Hispanic voters who will then vote Democratic. As Ann Coulter quipped, “Strangely, some Republicans seem determined to create more Democratic voters.”
Does this mean the Republican Party should give up on attracting Hispanic voters? Of course not. We need to promote our ideas, including respect for our borders and a common national identity, to patriotic Hispanics, and for that matter Americans of all races. Making unprincipled appeals by granting amnesty will ensure that never happens.