In My Opinion

Andres Oppenheimer: Republicans head for new defeat in 2016

 

aoppenheimer@MiamiHerald.com

Judging from Republican House leaders’ latest objections to an immigration bill that would legalize up to 11 million undocumented immigrants, it looks like the Republican Party has not learned the lesson from its 2012 electoral defeat — and that they won’t win a presidential election anytime soon.

Just as we forecast in this column early last year that Republicans would get clobbered in the November elections because of their anti-immigration, Hispanic-allergic rhetoric, it’s safe to predict that — once again — Republicans will kill their chances for the 2016 elections by continuing to sound like the “anti-Hispanic” party.

Consider what has been happening in recent weeks. After reluctantly saying they would consider immigration reform after last year’s elections where President Barack Obama won a whopping 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, Republican Senators said they would support a path to citizenship for undocumented residents in exchange for a huge increase in troops to “control” the U.S.-Mexico border.

So, on June 27, the Senate — with the help of a small minority of 14 Republicans — passed an immigration bill that includes a Republican-demanded amendment that calls for a $30 billion infusion of border “control” funds.

Critics say it is the biggest waste of government money they have seen in decades. The money will help double the number of border agents, complete 700 miles of fencing along the border, and buy drones and new radars.

Problem is, it will expand the U.S. Border Patrol from the current 18,500 agents to about 38,500 at a time when the flow of undocumented Mexicans has fallen to near zero since the 2008 U.S. economic crisis. Illegal crossings are at their lowest levels in 40 years, Obama has said.

In addition, it’s unclear whether putting more guards on the border would do any good, because about 40 percent of all undocumented immigrants enter the United States by plane, and overstay their tourism visas, according to government studies.

As for the 700-mile additional fence, it will only drive would-be undocumented immigrants to cross the border through more remote and unprotected areas, critics say.

Now, Republicans in the House are raising new objections to the Senate immigration bill.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia), leader of the House Judiciary Committee, said he will not support any bill that includes a special path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and that he would only support a bill that gives undocumented immigrants a permanent legal status without access to citizenship.

One big reason why House Republicans are siding with their right wing anti-immigration constituents is that they have virtually no Hispanics in their districts.

According to the Cook Political Report, an independent website, only 24 House Republican members are in districts where Latinos make up more than 25 percent of the vote, and 142 House Republican members are in districts that are less than 10 percent Hispanic.

But, in addition to that, many Republicans believe that the Republican Party can win in 2016 by focusing on white voters.

Earlier this week, Fox political analyst Brit Hume described claims that Republicans will hurt their chances in 2016 if they don’t make inroads among Latinos as “baloney.” The reason Republicans lost in 2012 was that many whites didn’t turn out to vote for Republican candidate Mitt Romney, he said.

My opinion: The Republican Party is once again committing political suicide by sticking to its anti-immigration stands.

Their $30 billion increase in border protection funds is monumental waste of money, and their demands to deprive undocumented immigrants of a path to citizenship would create a disaffected underclass that sooner or later would demand their full rights. They have tried that in Europe, and it resulted in greater social tensions, and violent riots by alienated ethnic minorities.

If the Republicans continue on this track, they are doomed. Don’t take it from me — a columnist who anti-immigration zealots love to brand as a lefty “pro-amnesty” advocate — but from Karl Rove, former President George W. Bush’s top political advisor, who wrote a column in The Wall Street Journal last week entitled, “More white votes alone won’t save the GOP.”

Hate to agree with you, Karl, but you are right this time. With Hispanics already being the largest single U.S. minority, and 50,000 U.S. Hispanic youths turning 18 years old every month, Republicans are putting another nail in their own coffin by refusing to back the Senate’s immigration bill.

Read more Andres Oppenheimer stories from the Miami Herald

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