Donald Trump isn’t going away. With the Iowa caucuses just five months away, a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll released over the weekend shows him leading the Republican pack there with 23 percent of the vote compared to 18 for runner-up Ben Carson.
In a field of 17 candidates, that’s impressive. And it’s downright remarkable when you view it in context. In May, the same poll showed Trump with just 4 percent support and a hideous minus 36 when Republican voters were asked whether they saw him favorably or unfavorably. His favorability now: plus 26.
The most remarkable thing of all is that Trump has achieved it with a single issue, immigration. Every one of his belligerent outbursts about Mexican rapists or walling off the border or deporting 30 million people or kicking a Hispanic journalist out of a press conference sends Trump’s numbers surging to new highs.
Liberals, half-gloating and half-fearful, say Trump’s jet-propelled rise to the top proves the Republican Party is riddled with racists. I’d say it proves that liberals, who’ve been the principal advocates for immigrants over the past decade, have done a lousy job of making their case.
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Instead of meeting the main argument against immigrants — that they take American jobs — head-on, liberals try to deflect it by suggesting that the best way to keep immigrants out is to punish the companies that employ them. Instead of saying that immigrants are an economic boon that boosts American industry, they implicitly concede the opposite by saying basic human charity demands that we accept immigrants.
And worst of all, instead of trying to win the argument, they’ve suppressed it by shrieking “Racist!” at everybody who disagrees with them on even the tiniest detail. The latest and most egregious example is the public pillorying of Jeb Bush (who is actually married to a Mexican immigrant) for using the term “anchor babies” as he was attacking Trump’s immigration blather.
Here’s some news: Anchor babies — that is, babies born to women who come to the United States for no purpose other than to have a child who is entitled to a U.S. passport — absolutely do exist.
The Los Angeles Times over the past several years has published countless stories about China’s “maternity tourism” industry, companies that package travel and medical care for pregnant women who plan to overstay their tourist visas and return home with babies who are legally U.S. citizens. The practice is widespread enough that the Obama Justice Department is cracking down on it, searching three dozen California homes and charging 10 Chinese nationals in connection with maternity tourism earlier this year.
If those numbers seem small, that’s because they are: Though anchor babies exist, they are an insignificant part of U.S. immigration, legal or otherwise. Even the immigrant-bashing Center for Immigration Studies estimates no more than 40,000 maternity-tourism babies a year. And in a country of 319 million people with a $17-trillion economy, 40,000 people don’t have the impact of a fly’s eyelash.
That’s the argument that immigration proponents should be making. That real anchor babies, cynically conceived as insurance policies against political upheaval in the developing world, are rare and nothing to be worried about.
Much more common are babies born to immigrants who come here to work hard and better their lives. They have babies in the process, the same way young, hard-working people have babies in countries all over the world. And why would we be anything but happy to see more young, hard-working people in our country?
They work at jobs Americans won’t do for the price we’re willing to pay — they pick fruit and clean houses and change diapers and wash cars and haul bricks and rake lawns and sew garments. If we have to pay $15 an hour for this stuff — the amount that fast-food burger-flippers are currently demanding — a lot of those jobs will disappear, either to machines or other countries. Or they just won’t be done any more.
Some of the fear of immigration that Donald Trump taps into is unquestionably racist. But mostly, Americans — like people all over the world — fear immigration because they think think an economy is like a pie at dinner: The more guests at the table, the smaller the slices must be.
Economists know better, that economies expand as more people join them. As British writer John Toland noted during an immigration boom in 1714: “We deny not that there will be more tailors and shoemakers; but there will also be more suits and shoes made than before.” Until their liberal friends are willing to say that, immigrants won’t need any enemies.