amnesty, attrition, Central America, chattering class, Cheap Labor Lobby, Democrats, deportation, Donald Trump, illegal immigration, Im-Politic, Immigration, legalization, magnet effect, Mainstream Media, Open Borders, path to citizenship, polls, The Washington Post
The Washington Post editorial board seems pretty confident that if U.S. immigration policy faithfully reflected the views of the majority of the American people, it would come down decisively for the first option in the “bottom line question – should illegal immigrants stay or go.” Too bad the Post writers either didn’t read the collection of polls they cited, or decided to cherry pick the results. For these same surveys show how crimped the debate permitted by them and their Mainstream Media and chattering class colleagues has been. Moreover, many of their findings point to immigration policy perceptions and priorities that are much more Trump-ian than the Post and other amnesty supporters would like.
The Post is correct in noting that most respondents in most polls asking the question support either (a) granting illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, provided that certain conditions are met (like paying fines and back taxes, and learning English); or (b) awarding them legal status short of citizenship (also usually with conditions). But it’s stunning to see how completely polling organizations have ignored two major anti-amnesty considerations in the choices they present.
In particular, of the 70 surveys in the set used as evidence by the Post, none indicates to Americans that amnesty, active deportation efforts, or simply continuing the illegal immigration status quo are far from the only options available to policymakers. In fact, not a single one of these polls mentions attrition as a strategy for dealing with the illegals problem.
It’s true that such an approach would leave many illegals resident in the United States. But measures like denying these immigrants most government benefits – including driver’s licenses and access to the financial system – and enforcing existing laws against hiring them (which is overwhelmingly backed by Americans) – would undoubtedly reduce their numbers significantly. The more sluggish the U.S. economy and its creation of all manner of jobs remains, moreover, the more effective attrition would be. And this policy would arguably be much cheaper than at least one condition typically attached to amnesty-like proposals – conducting “background checks” on all illegals who apply. Just to remind, their total numbers are pegged at about 11 million.
Equally important, only one of the 70 surveys in this compilation even mentioned to respondents a major anti-amnesty argument: the likelihood that such lenient American policies would create a powerful magnet effect and lure many more immigrants into the country. This survey was conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute in late-July, 2014, and focused on the surge of Central American child migrants that began trying to cross U.S. borders in spring and summer of that year.
One of the first questions the Institute asked was whether Washington “should offer shelter and support [to the children] while beginning a process to determine whether they should be deported or allowed to stay in the U.S. [or whether America] should deport them immediately back to their home countries.” “Shelter and support” while investigating their circumstances beat “deport them immediately” by a wide 70 percent to 26 percent margin. But then, quite a few questions later, respondents were asked whether they agree that “The U.S. should NOT allow children coming from Central America to stay because it will encourage others to ignore our laws and increase illegal immigration.” Fifty-nine percent “completely” or “mostly” agreed; only 39 percent “completely” or “mostly” disagreed – a big turnaround.
It’s also worth noting that children are understandably an immigrant group that’s bound to elicit considerable sympathy. Imagine how the public might respond when told by pollsters that citizenship or legalization offers could greatly boost inflows of all kinds of immigrants.
Also supporting the notion that mentioning the magnet effect would dramatically change poll answers on amnesty-like policies: This group of 70 polls consistently shows that large majorities of Americans favor reducing legal immigration or keeping the annual numbers where they are, rather than increasing it. So it seems logical that the U.S. public would reject citizenship or legalization policies if it learned they may well greatly increase the country’s overall foreign-born population. (At the same time, these polls make just as clear that most Americans believe that immigration’s benefits to the country – in terms of diversifying it and adding talent – outweigh costs such as lost jobs or greater welfare payments or diluted traditional values.)
No wonder, then, that Open Borders types in the Mainstream Media and in politics are so upset at Trump and others who favor more restrictive immigration policies. And no wonder they work so hard at sliming them as racists, nativists, and know-nothings. If Americans ever found out their real options on immigration policy, the demand for approaches that prioritize the interests of most of the native-born population first – rather than those of the Cheap Labor Lobby, Democratic Party wannabe ballot-stuffers, elitist liberal guilt-mongers, and self-righteous one-world-ers – could become irresistible.