Maxine Waters walked out. Other Democrats huffed and puffed. There's no denying that GOP immigration hearings are different. But Republicans still need to find the confidence to focus on the real issues.
When Steve King was passed over by Elton Gallegly for chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, I noted that Gallegly had a pretty solid immigration record. I have been very critical of the GOP, but there's definitely at least a dime's worth of difference on immigration issues.
The subcommittee's Democratic members (with career Numbers USA's grade): ranking Democrat and sole white member Zoe Lofgren (F-); Sheila Jackson Lee (F-); Maxine Waters (F); Pedro Pierluisi (non-voting member from Puerto Rico, so he does not have a grade, but trust me, it would be an F- if he could vote.) They are all under the ranking Democrat in the Judiciary John Conyers (F). Several years ago, when NumbersUSA testified, Sheila Jackson Lee said she would send her F- grade to her mother to put on the refrigerator.
In contrast, here are the Republicans' grades: Chairman Elton Gallegly (A); vice chairman Steve King (A+); Ted Poe( B+); Louie Gohmert( A-); Mike Ross ( C+). All of whom serve under Judiciary Chair Lamar Smith (A.)
But under Gallegly and Smith's leadership, there has been an emphasis on enforcement and jobs. In fact, Lamar Smith has been emphatic that all immigration legislation be focused on jobs. The first two hearings were on E-Verify and Workforce Enforcement.
Yet before tackling important issues such as legal immigration or birthright citizenship, which Steve King would likely have addressed, the Republicans still felt they must discuss the problems that immigration causes minorities.
For the March 1, 2011 hearings, they invited two African Americans with very impressive credentials: Frank Morris, president of Progressives for Immigration Reform, a former Dean at the "Historically Black" College Morgan State University and former president of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and Carol Swain, a law professor at Vanderbilt University who has written extensively on white nationalism and immigration. Additionally, the GOP invited one Hispanic: George Rodriguez, president of the San Antonio Tea Party. He had previously been in charge of an organization called Juan Seguin Society in honor a Texas Patriot who fought against Mexico in Texas' War of Independence. [George Rodriguez testimony PDF]
The Democrats' sole witness: Wade Henderson, the president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and an official with the NAACP. [Wade Henderson testimony PDF]
Swain noted that minorities have higher rates of unemployment: "The black unemployment rate stands at 15.7 percent and the Hispanic rate at 11.9 percent compared with the white rate of 8 percent."
She cited a George Borjas study that a "10% immigration-induced increase in the supply of a particular skill group reduced the black wage by 3%, lowered the employment rate of black men by about 5 percentage points, and increased the incarceration rate of blacks by percentage point." [Immigration and the Economic Status of African-American Men, Borjas et al, Economica, vol. 77(306) 2010 PDF]
Swain called for E-Verify, increased workplace raids, support for local law enforcement, and defunding sanctuary cities. While she did not call for lowering legal immigration levels explicitly, she noted that opinion polls consistently call for lowering legal immigration. [Carol Swain Testimony, PDF]
Morris made similar argument. He addressed the fact that, in addition to wage depression, there is a "substitution effect" with an increasing immigrant labor pool, where employers will often simply replace black and other low skilled workers with immigrants and not even bother to recruit in the black community.[Frank Morris Testimony, PDF]
Morris said that any attempt to try to analogize the black experience with those of immigrants is faulty. He did not have time to elaborate this at the hearing, but his written testimony noted that if America is so terribly oppressive, immigrants have a home country to return to, while African Americans do not; and that African Americans are often discriminated against in favor of immigrants.
Rodriguez gave anecdotal family history to give a different perspective on the Hispanic experience in America. He is a third generation Texan. His father was a printer. In 1938, he started a printers' union which fought against the hiring of illegal aliens and border crossers who were competing against native-born Hispanics in the daytime, and returning to Mexico at night. Because "a low wage in US was a great wage in Mexico" they could easily undercut the salaries of American Hispanics.
Additionally, Rodriguez said, Hispanic-Americans do not like it when the Left calls cracking down on illegal immigration an attack on Hispanics, because it unfairly puts Hispanic-Americans in the same category as law breakers.
The response from the Democrats' witness, Henderson, and from the Democrats on the Committee was predictable.
They gave a laundry list of black and union organizations that support "comprehensive immigration reform" a.k.a. amnesty. They accused the Republicans of trying to pit blacks against Hispanics. They made emotional appeals, with Conyers calling the mere idea of suggesting that immigration hurts blacks "repulsive" and "abhorrent" while Pierluisi said he was "disturbed" by the testimony and that it demonized "my feelings."
Conyers demanded that Morris, who holds liberal views on most racial issues, tell him how great a job he (Conyers) did at building up the Congressional Black Caucus and turning it into the "Conscience of Congress". (Interestingly enough, every single member investigated for and charged with ethics violations over the last term—under the Democratic leadership—was a member of the Black Caucus including Maxine Waters . Conyers' wife is currently in prison for accepting bribes while on the Detroit City Council. But I digress)
The one cliché we were spared: none of the Democrats bothered to try to tie Progressives to Immigration Reform to John Tanton. Instead, Maxine Waters ranted amusingly about how Mark Krikorian (who was in the audience) and the Center for Immigration Studies are politically motivated and said that no one from CIS should testify.(CIS's reaction is here.) She insisted on having a Krikorian National Review piece inserted in the record, to prove that CIS is a bunch of partisan hacks. [VDARE.com note: This is incorrect—it's National Review that is a bunch of partisan hacks. But that's not Mark Krikorian's fault. ]
Waters attacked Carol Swain and then walked out of the hearing, saying she did not care what her response was. (Had Waters done her homework, she would have noted that Morris is actually a board member of CIS and thus presumably even more deserving of a walk-out.)
Of course, none of the Democrats bothered to counter claims that immigration undercuts black wages and employment. Indeed, Henderson acknowledged that there is "some anecdotal evidence" of job displacement, although claiming that immigration is at most "one small factor."
(A piece of anecdotal evidence that Mr. Henderson may be unaware of: black workers in Laurel, Mississippi "clapped and cheered" as illegals were led away during a massive raid on Howard Industries. Immigrant raid splits Miss. town, By Miguel Bustillo and Richard Fausset, LA Times, August 31, 2008)
What were the other factors? Discrimination and "structural inequalities" resulting from insufficient government funding of education, healthcare, and minority businesses. Sheila Jackson Lee asked whether blacks cared more about Affirmative Action and government programs or immigration. Waters cited Republican cuts to Title VI funds, minority grants, and giving greater power to the EEOC.
The Democrats said because the Republicans do not support these programs, any concerns about how immigration affects minorities are crocodile tears.
Of course, even if we were to concede that we need big government to help blacks, the fact is that if immigration is even a "small factor" in the plight of African Americans, it would make sense for the black leadership to call for immigration restriction. It is not mutually exclusive with Black Caucus's other policies.
And this is why the African American leadership really wants mass immigration. The larger the non-white underclass, the larger the pool of supporters for anti-white policies, racial set-asides, and big government programs; which often personally enrich members of the "conscience of Congress."
The same is true for the leaders of black organizations like the NAACP.
No amount of studies or hearings about how immigration hurts ordinary black workers will change this.
I believe that, while immigration is demonstrably not in the interest of African Americans, curbing immigration will likely not work as a wedge issue helping Republicans to gain black voters. Opinion polls show that Blacks support immigration restriction at a far greater rate than they vote Republican, but in the end they vote on tribal lines. Thus when the Democrats on committee said that if blacks really opposed immigration, they wouldn't vote for pro-amnesty Democrats, Morris and Swain easily responded that this is because blacks vote loyally for Democrats—and especially black Democrats—no matter what.
The fact that the black elites have a material interest in mass immigration, and that the black masses vote loyally for them, mean that it will be very difficult to make any progress politically on this issue.
And the prospects with Hispanic voters aren't much better. While I felt that Rodriguez made a strong case for why Hispanic American citizens should oppose illegal immigration, he was wrong on the fact that they currently oppose it. (See this Pew Poll that says Hispanics oppose immigration enforcement "often by lopsided margins" like 75%.)I am also not sure of his claim that one third of the San Antonio Tea Party is Hispanic. A cursory look at pictures from its rallies certainly puts it in the low single digits.
Rodriguez's family story is compelling and once familiar, but it is becoming less and less common. He is 62, a Third Generation Texan. There's a good chance his family left Mexico after the 1919 socialist revolution. Unlike today's immigrants, these people left because they did not like what was going on in Mexico.
Additionally, during this time period all Americans, including Hispanic leaders and organizations like LULAC pushed for patriotic assimilation. (Amusing note on the subject of whether blacks and Hispanics are kindred minority spirits: LULAC initially did not oppose school segregation for blacks, but successfully fought for Hispanics to be counted as White.)
As America has given up on assimilation, the type of Hispanic immigrants—both legal and illegal—has changed and they are now substantially different than the early Hispanic Texans. Many Hispanic US Citizens received amnesty in 1986 or are the children of illegal aliens. With illegal aliens making up somewhere between one-quarter and one-third of the Hispanic population in this country, many have family and friends who are illegal.
A recent Pew Poll found that only 30% of Hispanics support SB 1070, while 70% of whites support it. A Rasmussen Poll found that 67% of whites oppose birthright citizenship. This is even higher than the 60% of whites who voted Republican in 2010 and significantly higher than the 55% who voted for John McCain.
Of course, a case can be made that appealing to minorities will help win those squishy white voters who generally are opposed to immigration, but are afraid of being called racist.
However, I am not sure just how big this demographic is. And this type of pandering certainly does not win the GOP any brownie points in the press. Virtually every MainStream Media report of Tuesday's hearing played up the idea that the GOP is cynically pitting blacks against Hispanics.
Thus the San Antonio Express' article was entitled Black lawmaker warns against racial wedge issue. By Gary Martin, March 2, 2011.
And the Associated Press piece on the hearing opened:
"Black lawmakers accused Republicans on Tuesday of trying to 'manufacture tension' between African-Americans and immigrants as GOP House members argued in a hearing that more minorities would be working were it not for illegal immigration."
[GOP: Illegal immigrants taking minorities' jobs, by Suzanne Gamboa, Associated Press, March 2, 2011]
You can imagine how Gamboa's AP story went from there. The few sentences given to Republicans were drowned among quotes from black congressman saying how the Republicans were racist. Three paragraphs were given to Wade Henderson, but the AP article did not even mention Swain or Morris' name.
Of course, African Americans and progressives are all part of the patriotic immigration reform coalition. I believe that people like Frank Morris and Carol Swain are doing a great service to their communities. However if there will ever be a turnaround in those communities, it is going to come from within, not from the Republican Party.
"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.