Monday, November 26, 2012

Do Democrats Have an Incentive to Sabotage Immigration Reform?

In the wake of the November presidential election, there has been much discussion of whether it is time for the Republican party to embrace immigration reform.  The conventional wisdom has been that since President Obama won over 70% of the Latino vote, the GOP has to make some changes in its platform and image in order to attract Latino voters.

This conversation, however, is built on the assumption that both major political parties, Democrats and Republicans alike, approach comprehensive immigration reform in good faith.  In this article, Ruben Navarette, Jr. argues that the Democrats have every incentive to sabotage the move to adopt comprehensive immigration reform.

Navarette's argues that the Democrats really do not want to be known as the part of amnesty or open borders in later elections.  In particular, he notes that this would not enhance the party's stance with Caucasians and African Americans.

So long as immigration reform is not passed, the Democrats will continue to have an issue to use against the Republicans.  Thus, there is no incentive to actually settle the issue.  Rather, by sabotaging the issue, the Democrats can continue to make Republicans look like the bad guys to the Latino voters.

One main constituency of the Democrats is the labor movement.  Labor unions do not want the added competition of a guest worker program.  Therefore, passing immigration reform runs the risk of alienating a key constituency.

Having worked in the Federal Government myself, I must admit to a certain degree of cynicism when it comes to national politics.  There is merit, particularly in Navarette's argument that reaching a compromise would rob the Democrats of an issue to use against the Republicans.  Also, it is a mistake to think of the Democrats as a single party joined together by a unified ideology.  Quite the contrary, the modern Democratic Party is more of a collection of minority interests who find it mutually convenient to ally themselves in pursuit of their own agendas.  Thus, there is a precarious balancing act among the party leaders to try to keep such diverse constituencies as labor unions and liberal activists satisfied.  In this regard, if labor unions were to find their members' jobs threatened by a guest worker program, then it would make sense that the party leaders would develop a strategy to make it appear as though they are serious about immigration reform, but never agree to a compromise, instead blaming Republicans as obstructionists, in order to keep some of their constituents happy while having a bad guy to campaign against.

This, and the fact that the Republicans are not themselves unified on the issue of immigration reform, must be taken into consideration in analyzing whether immigration reform will indeed pass the next Congress.  Those expecting fast movement may find themselves disappointed.

By: William J. Kovatch, Jr.
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