President Obama’s decision to ignore the law by granting de facto amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants brought to America as children and those who are parents of children with legal status was a terribly foolish act. It will only serve to exacerbate racial tensions.
Polls indicate the overwhelming majority of whites view illegal immigration as threatening. Many see immigrants as taking jobs from native-born Americans, pushing down wages and contributing to cultural decline.
While many may silently harbor racial bigotry, the adverse economic consequences for whites are real and palpable.
Illegal immigration increases the supply of low-skilled workers, and that drives down wages for less educated whites and African-Americans.
Millions of illegals will qualify for work permits and be able to take more visible, better-paying jobs. Native born Americans will face more competition for positions paying significantly above the federal minimum. For example, those paying between the averages for the hospitality and construction industries—$17 and $25 per hour, respectively.
Exacerbating racial tensions among highly skilled professionals, elite universities, reflecting years of pressure from the Department of Education, divide admissions along informal racial quotas, and that disadvantages white applicants.
A group called Students for Fair Admissions has brought suit in federal court against Harvard and the University of North Carolina charging that practice discriminates against Asians, who tend to be the best academically qualified racial group.
If they prevail, and given the inclinations of the administration to pressure schools to admit African-Americans and Hispanics, even more white applicants would be squeezed out of top universities their antecedents founded and endowed.
Already many academically qualified children of successful white professionals are denied access to universities of the same status their parents attended, and consequently face much diminished career and lifetime earnings prospects.
The president’s recent actions will increase the pools of Hispanic and Asian college immigrants and applicants and further exacerbate intergenerational downward economic mobility among whites.
Last fall, when asked if he had the authority to end the deportation of illegal aliens, Obama responded, “Actually, I don’t” and that he could not appease immigrant advocates by violating the law.
Many Hispanics and Asians come from countries with recent histories of authoritarian governments or governments where a single party has maintained control, and national leaders simply do what populist sentiments requires—the law be damned.
Appeasing Hispanic and Asia voters, that is exactly what president Obama did with his executive order granting de facto amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.
It is not difficult to see why many white Americans would perceive illegal immigration as undermining their culture and the rule of law, and see Democrats as opportunists who would trash the constitution to maintain their grasp on power.
No one should be surprised that large majorities voted for Republican congressional candidates in November and Governor Romney in 2012.
Given the concentration of Hispanics, Asians and African-Americans in New York, California and several swing states like Virginia, the Democrats have a good shot at winning most presidential elections in coming years.
However, white voters still account for about 70 of the eligible voters, and given their particular dominance in more-sparsely populated states and the south, Republicans will likely continue to hold the House and Senate most of the time.
Still, the constitution does not provide white Americans with a remedy when a president by-passes congress and abuses executive power to satisfy a constituency that puts its agenda above the rule of law.
Impeachment is not a viable option, and Republicans lawmakers face uncertain prospects at best for successfully challenging executive orders in federal court.
Whites face a government that is explicitly working against their interests, the economic prospects of their children, and democratic processes they have spent more than 200 years defending.
If that is not a recipe for racial animus, I don’t know what is.
Peter Morici is an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist. He tweets @pmorici1