Op-Ed: Amnesty will not win Hispanic votes for Republicans

Opinion,Op-Eds,Immigration,Republican Party

Though many Republicans will not publicly admit it, their support for the so-called "immigration reform" under way in Congress is based on the notion that an amnesty for illegal aliens -- most of whom are Hispanic -- is about the only way to endear the Republican Party to Hispanics, especially in the wake of the stinging failure to capture the presidency last year.

Of course, the official sales pitch is that the "reform" will make our immigration laws respectable again. But neither the official pitch nor the ulterior motive makes sense.

As a naturalized American, I do not understand how granting amnesty to millions of people who broke the law will generate respect for the law. Never mind that it is an insult to immigrants like me who took the trouble to follow the law.

Giving legal status to illegal aliens and calling it "reform" merely because of a promise of tough enforcement in the future is much like trying to deter burglars by passing a law that allows current burglars to keep their stolen goods but promises tough penalties on future burglars.

As for winning votes, any Republican who believes that amnesty will make millions of Hispanics forsake their ties to Democrats and vote Republican is, well, naive -- and perhaps even delusional. For there is no evidence that a majority of Hispanics has voted Republican in any presidential election.

Perhaps the most illustrative example was in 2008. No presidential candidate in all of American history worked harder at an amnesty than John McCain did. Collaborating with the ultraliberal Ted Kennedy in 2005, 2006 and 2007, he relentlessly pursued amnesty for illegal aliens, calling it a reform that would be "comprehensive." Well, apparently most Hispanics did not comprehend him, for 67 percent of them voted for Barack Obama.

Some Republican commentators make a big deal of George W. Bush's receipt of 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004. But it also meant that a clear majority of Hispanics -- 56 percent -- rejected him. And to get that 44 percent, Bush had to pander to them, speaking Spanish and publicly supporting amnesty.

As any informed reader knows, the last time a massive amnesty was implemented was in 1986. Some 3 million illegal aliens were legalized under that scheme -- and most were Hispanic.

The first time they became eligible to vote in a presidential election was in 1996. The Republican candidate was Bob Dole, a senator who, as majority leader, had helped pass the amnesty of 1986. And that amnesty had been signed into law by another Republican -- none other than Ronald Reagan.

So, you would think a significant percent of Hispanics voted Republican in 1996. Nope. Only 21 percent voted for the Republican presidential candidate -- even though he had helped pass the legislation that legalized 3 million illegal aliens.

Indeed, the undeniable evidence of Hispanic allegiance to Democrats has existed for decades. Consider, for instance, the presidential election of 1984. That was when Reagan carried 49 states in his re-election.

Yes, the national vote for him was so overwhelming that he lost only one state (Minnesota, the home state of his opponent, Walter Mondale). Yet, as great a president as Reagan was, only 34 percent of Hispanics voted for him. In other words, the vast majority of Hispanics voted against even Ronald Reagan.

Simply put, there is no evidence that passing an amnesty would attract millions of Hispanics to the Republican Party. After all, when it comes to pandering to minorities, no one can outdo Democrats.

Ian de Silva is an engineer with deep interests in history and politics.

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