Biden's Immigration Policy Should Infuriate Hispanics

Emma Lazarus lived only to age 38, but she composed one of the greatest poems on the topic of American immigration.  In "The New Colossus," she spoke of a "world-wide welcome" for the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free."  Those words are engraved in the base of the Statue of Liberty, and for the most part, that sentiment has guided American policy on immigration for centuries.  But that policy works only if immigration is conducted in a legal and orderly manner.

Believing they can gain votes needed for a permanent majority, Democrats engage in a cynical practice of open borders that is harmful to those who attempt the trip.  At least 650 individuals died while attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in 2021, with hundreds of others either unaccounted for on land or lost attempting to reach Florida by sea.  Many thousands suffered abuse, including rape, at the hands of gang members.  Even after arriving, illegals may be forced into indentured service of some kind.  A border policy constructed around vote-getting is bound to fail, and Biden's border policy is a catastrophe.

Under President Trump, the border was quickly secured and the flood of illegal migrants halted.  Even the liberal Pew Research Center notes that "migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border are at a 21-year high."  Encounters have risen from 16,182 in April 2020, not long after Trump left office, to almost 200,000 in the month of July 2021 alone, and those figures don't count "gotaways."  Trump's policies worked, and not just for American citizens; they prevented the victimization of millions of helpless individuals.  They were humane rather than politically cynical and calculated.

At the same time, President Trump increased opportunities for legal immigration and sought to shift policy in favor of merit.  A merit-based system would afford legal immigrants better opportunities once they arrive.  More than 35 million immigrants live in the U.S. legally, and these immigrants have more readily assimilated to the general population.  Unlike Biden's brutal tactics, Trump's well-reasoned immigration strategy served the interests of both the U.S. and potential immigrants.

In return, President Trump garnered 38% of Hispanic voters in his 2020 re-election bid, far more than previous GOP candidates, but his percentage among legal Hispanics was likely considerably higher. estimated the number of illegal alien votes that went for Biden in the 2020 election, and the results show that Trump would likely have won the election on this aspect of election fraud alone.  Legal immigrants voted for Trump because they understood the importance of a regulated and orderly system of immigration.  Those same immigrants, presumably, will be voting against Democrats in even greater numbers in 2022 and 2024.

Now is a good time to remind 2022 voters of just how successful and humane Trump's border policy was, and to offer a plan built on that policy.  Biden's "dumping" policy relies on midnight flights to disburse illegal immigrants. Trump's policy avoided this chaos by shutting down migrant caravans in the first place and, before the arrival of COVID and despite tightening the rules, increasing the number of slots for legal immigration above those in Obama's second term.  This emphasis on legal immigration is clearly the better approach for existing U.S. citizens and for potential immigrants as well.  It eliminates the extortion, abuse, and servitude imposed by gangs on immigrants, and it guarantees an orderly number and vetting of immigrants.  

Biden believes that his skewed policies will align Hispanics with progressives, a group whose values they do not share, but this ruthless political calculation may backfire.  Hispanics are overwhelmingly pro-life Christians who favor small government, low taxes, and less regulation, and their natural alignment is with conservatives.  Conservatives should welcome those who are entering legally, and they should expand opportunities for more legal immigration of deserving candidates, and not just for political reasons.

Increased immigration based on merit strengthens America.  Among the most important factors in the future economic and military power of a nation are the number, educational level, and age of its workforce.  Without immigrant labor, the U.S. would find itself in the same position as Europe, Japan, and China — nations burdened with an aging population dependent on a shrinking number of workers.  Immigration makes the difference between a strong nation and one unable to project military power and to prosper at home, but only if immigrants are young, healthy, educated, and legal.

The irony of Biden's open border policy is that Hispanics, by the time they earn the right to vote, may strengthen the hand of Republicans.  And the opportunity for conservatives is immense.  Hispanics constitute 40% of California's population, 32% in Arizona, 29% in Nevada, 26% in Florida, 22% in Colorado, 21% in New Jersey, 19% in New York, and significant numbers in a dozen other states.  With just 50% of these votes, Republicans could take most of these states.

Winning over a majority of Hispanic voters would not be so difficult.  It's hard to believe that Hispanics, most of whom have established or work in small businesses, support Biden's tax and regulation policies, and every American, but poorer residents to a greater extent, is harmed by inflation.  One of Trump's great lines, aimed at minorities, in the 2016 election was, "Why not give us a try?"  A similar line aimed at legal immigrants would increase the GOP candidate's numbers in 2024, but only if the line is forceful and repeated.

There is a great deal of evidence that reaching out to legal immigrants would be an effective strategy.  Approval ratings for Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis are higher among Hispanics (62% approve, 20% disapprove) than among the general population (60% approve), and there is no reason why that trend should not go national in the coming years.

Biden has made a mess of immigration, and that mess presents conservatives with an opportunity to embrace legal immigrants, especially Hispanic immigrants, and to gain their loyalty in return.  Many developed nations like Japan are committing demographic suicide by failing to reproduce while opposing immigration.  With the help of merit-based immigration, America can continue to be dominant militarily and economically for another century at least.

We must immediately secure our southern border, but the idea of America as a place of comfort and refuge for the huddled masses remains a central tenet of our national identity.  There is every pragmatic reason to support increased legal immigration — economic, political, and military — but there is a lofty and high-minded reason as well: America is a compassionate nation, and conservatives are compassionate people.  Let the huddled masses come, let them enjoy the blessings of freedom, and let them make America strong.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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