Ramesh Ponnuru has a column in Time pondering the Republicans’ immigration dilemma, especially as it concerns the Hispanic vote. Though a moderate immigration restrictionist himself, he concludes, “Republicans have to offer Hispanics more than a fence.” It seems to me that the GOP itself is fenced in on the issue. The Republicans who are the most welcoming of immigrants also support immigration policies that undermine the cultural and economic assimilation that would make them more likely to vote Republican on a regular basis. The Republicans who support policies that encourage assimilation too frequently sound like they are merely hostile toward immigrants.
It isn’t easy sound pro-immigrant while being pro-immigration control in any serious sense, so perhaps it is unsurprising that few Republicans have succeeded at doing so. Instead the GOP immigration stalemate produces the worst of both possible worlds: being perceived as hostile to immigrant groups without achieving effective enforcement or assimilation. The GOP’s McCain-Tancredo good cop/bad cop routine essentially says, “Please come in, but we really don’t want you here.”
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