In a sign of how important immigration patriotism has become to the Republican Party, even the neoconservative Washington Free Beacon is calling out Democratic Senate candidate Gary Peters of Michigan for supporting border security in Muslim Kosovo—but not the United States. [Michigan Dem Was For Border Security Before He Was Against It, by Bill McMorris, August 5, 2014] But even as immigration patriotism gains acceptance within the GOP, it has gone virtually extinct within the Democratic Party.
The House recently voted 216-192 to bar the president from using “deferred action” to enact administrative Amnesty. [Republicans Vote to End DACA After Tense Floor Debate (Video), by Emma Dumain, Roll Call, August 1, 2014] This was an important symbol. The Senate will not pass the bill, and even if they did, President Obama would veto it. Nonetheless, it forced Congressmen to put themselves on record in an election year: did they support administrative Amnesty or not?
With the exception of four people, all the Democrats said they did.
The four dissenters —John Barrow (GA), Mike McIntyre (NC), Collin Peterson (MN), and Nick Rahall (WV)—are among the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents. [Exclusive: GOP Targets Seven House Democrats It Calls Vulnerable, by Alex Roarty, National Journal, January 16, 2013] Indeed, facing tough polls, McIntyre has already announced his resignation.
This situation is a dramatic departure from the progressive past. Liberal Democrats like Gaylord Nelson and Eugene McCarthy were consistent proponents of immigration control. And more Democrats than Republicans voted against the 1965 Immigration Act and the 1986 Amnesty.
Of course, there are caveats. The South, which was still overwhelmingly Democratic at the time, provided almost all of the opposition to the 1965 Immigration Act. Furthermore, some of the Democrats who voted against the 1986 Amnesty, such as Ted Kennedy, justified their vote because they opposed the enforcement provisions (which as we know were ignored anyway).
But that said, Democratic politicians were just as likely, if not more likely, to support immigration control until the 1990s—when the issue reemerged as part of the culture war. After California’s Proposition 187, Republicans became the relatively restrictionist party.
Despite this, Democrats such as Texas’ Rep. Barbara Jordan helped lead the fight for patriotic immigration reform in the 1990s.
- Jordan headed a commission that recommended reducing legal immigration, which even Bill Clinton endorsed. [Clinton Embraces a Proposal to cut Immigration by a Third, by Robert Pear, New York Times, June 8, 1995]
- Hard as it is to imagine, even California Senator Dianne Feinstein used to introduce sensible legislation. [The Feinstein Amendment to the Immigration Control and Financial Responsibility Act of 1996, Numbers USA] So did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
- Twenty eight percent of the cosponsors of the Immigration Moratorium Act of 1994 were Democrats.
- You can even see Dianne Feinstein chastising open borders “libertarians,” alongside VDARE.com Editor Peter Brimelow in Reason Magazine in 1996. [Letters, Reason, January 1, 1996]
Meanwhile, Republicans in the 1990s failed to pass any serious immigration reform legislation thanks largely to the “leadership” of Newt Gingrich. [Can the GOP accept Newt’s immigration strategy?, by Tom Tancredo, Politico, December 2, 2011]
9/11 was one of the factors that changed the immigration conversation. As immigration patriots focused more on the national security implications of immigration rather than income inequality and sustainable population growth, the issue became more closely identified with the Republicans.
By the time immigration became a major issue during Bush’s second term, Jordan had died, Clinton and Feinstein endorsed Amnesty, and Harry Reid called his past immigration patriotism the “biggest mistake I ever made.” [An immigration push Reid regrets, by Jon Ralston, Las Vegas Sun, July 21, 2010]
Still, even into the 21st century some Democrats still moderately opposed mass immigration.
- 36 Democrats voted for the pro-immigration control Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (along with over 200 Republicans.)
- Four Senate Democrats voted against Amnesty in the 2006 Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act.
- Nearly 50 Democrats co-sponsored the SAVE Act in 2007, which was condemned by immigration enthusiasts for its enforcement provisions. [The “Secure America Through Verification and Enforcement” (“SAVE Act”) of 2007,” Immigration Policy Center, December 15, 2007]
However, many conservative “blue dog” Democrats have been wiped out by the 2010 elections or by redistricting.
Still, before Nancy Pelosi had to relinquish the Speaker’s gavel, she gave the historic American nation a parting shot by trying to push through the DREAM Act Amnesty. Even in 2010, 38 House Democrats voted against it. [House sends DREAM Act to Senate, by Scott Wong, Politico, December 8, 2010] Five Senate Democrats joined in opposition. [DREAM Act dies in Senate, by Scott Wong and Shira Toeplitz, Politico, December 18, 2010]
Contrast that to the current environment.
- When Obama unilaterally imposed the DREAM Act through executive order, no Democrats criticized it.
- When Rep. Steve King introduced a bill to defund Obama’s Administrative Amnesty, only three Democrats—McIntyre, Barrow, and Rahall–voted for it. [House Republicans Vote to Defund Immigration Program, by Ted Hesson, Fusion, October 14 2013]
- When Rep. Lamar Smith introduced the Legal Workforce Act, which was a less stringent than the SAVE Act, only one Democrat, Heath Shuler, co-sponsored it.
(It’s true that some immigration patriots like Kris Kobach, Steve King, and Lou Barletta opposed the bill because it preempted state E-Verify legislation, but it’s a safe bet that this was not why the Democrats opposed it. Heath Shuler would eventually decline to run for re-election after facing re-districting: Rep. Shuler to retire, faced tough 2012 race, by Josh Lederman, The Hill, February 2, 2012)
Barring the election of some previously unknown Democrat who opposes mass immigration, there will be no anti-Amnesty Democrats in the Senate, and three or less in the House, in the next Congress. .
What does this mean?
- First, immigration patriots should not waste their time trying to attract the left wing of the Democratic Party. Yes, immigration is bad for union employees, the environment, and racial minorities. However, all the institutions that supposedly represent these interests support Amnesty. No Democratic politicians will reverse their position because someone tells them that Cesar Chavez and Barbara Jordan opposed immigration.
- The Democratic Party knows more immigration means more Democratic voters.
- Democrats as a rule care more about enforcing multiculturalism and “anti-racism” than the environment, unions—or even actually helping minorities.
Patriotic immigration reform is dependent on two factors:
- electing GOP majorities; and
- forcing elected GOPers to represent the interests of the base—to become GAP, the Generic American Party.
Of course, this is easier said than done. But it’s not impossible.
After all, one year ago practically the entire Republican Party was openly in favor of Amnesty. Today, at least rhetorically, they are opposed to it. This didn’t happen because rich donors changed their positions or because politicians suddenly developed integrity. It was because polls showed that Republican voters cared more about immigration than Obamacare—and proved it by replacing pro-Amnesty politicians like Eric Cantor with immigration patriots like David Brat.
We can mourn the loss of the immigration patriot blue dog Democrats. But we should rejoice if it leads to the rise of the patriotic, National Conservative, Republicans.
Washington Watcher [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway