Latin Americans immigrants: Conservative or Liberal?

The Republican party is oblivious on many accounts (as is the Democratic). However, one which seems obvious to me is the role and values of Latin American immigrants. Most latinos have what conservatives would term “strong family values.” Most value traditional families, small community-based action and involvement, fiscal responsibility (they can’t get credit so they buy everything the old-fashioned conservative way: they save their money and buy it). Most latinos have strong religious and moral values. So why are they so drawn to the Democratic Party??? It is because the Demos tell them that they represent their interests. They court them and attempt to bring them into their camp. Meanwhile, the party of Lincoln attacks illegal immigration as if, as I heard today, they are “robbing a bank,” breaking the law and attempting to get something for nothing.

What conservatives seem to struggle with is the notion that because something is illegal it is de facto wrong instead of thinking about the rightness of the laws. Conservative rhetoric gives the impression that all illegal immigrants are in the U.S. trying to milk the system; that they all take (of “free” health care, “free” education) and don’t give. However, many pay taxes and strive to pay their medical bills and provide for themselves as much as able. There is a significant percentage of legal, life-long residents of the U.S. (white and born here) who would fall into the same stereotyping to which conservatives subject Latino immigrants. There is a difference, however: most of the Latin American immigrants are working and participating actively as laborers and producers in the economy.

This group of people could be a strong portion of the conservative base if the rhetoric were to disappear and conservatives would actually think about realities and possibilities. The influx of immigrants is immense and will continue and many have the values that conservatives hold dear. 

6 Replies to “Latin Americans immigrants: Conservative or Liberal?”

  1. Mike, since this is my first comment here, let me first congratulate you on your blog here. Looks very interesting.

    First, isn’t the Latino vote usually pretty split, only slighlty leaning democrat in the last election or two?

    Second, I think the welfare/safety net issue presents a big obstacle. I’d be curious to see some numbers, but I’d guess that the proportion of Latinos on welfare is much higher than WASP’s, but lower than blacks (who I would also guess have a much higher proportion voting Democrat than other ethnicities). Mind you, I say this all as only a wild guess, I’m very uneasy drawing any conclusions without data (which is what constitutes stereotyping in my mind, drawing counter-factual generalizations–if it’s empirically based, the statements are just summary statistics, which everyone should know has plenty of variance to include many, many exceptions…).

  2. Robert,

    I think that for legal immigrants, your assumptions are somewhat correct. In 2001 the percentage of immigrants receiving any form of welfare was 22% while it was 15% for native-born American. That is higher, but not “much” higher. And taking into consideration the absolute numbers there is dramatically more expenditure on welfare for native born Americans who in the past have paid a lower amount of taxes on average. “A 1995 Cato Institute study found that illegal immigrants paid approximately 46 percent as much in taxes as American-born citizens, but they received only 38 percent as much from the government.” (http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba/ba400/)

    However, access to state funding for illegal immigrants is incredibly difficult (not including emergency health care and education). See the following link with extensive information.

    http://www.cis.org/articles/2003/back503.html

  3. Yeah, I would’ve expected the difference to be a bit more than that.

    Another factor that would be interesting to get data on would be a break down, say by race, of welfare recepients (instead of just delineating by “native born” vs. not; I haven’t looked at the data links you provided yet, but I will…). That is, I think there’s a perception, which I’d be curious how erroneous or well-founded it is, that immigrants become more dependant on welfare in the future. I have a hunch that this is not a well-founded view and that debunking it would go a long way toward making Republicans more optimistic about recruiting votes from groups with a large percentage of immigrants….

  4. The current debate over illegal immigration must not be confused with a debate over immigration in general. I understand that all illegal immigrants are not necessarily trying to milk the system, and that the current immigration system may be broken. Hoiwever, I can say one thing about all illegal immigrants: They are all here illegally. Rightness or wrongness of the law aside, our border is one of those things that define us as a nation. Let all those with good family values and strong work ethic (I am reminded of the guy who walked from Guatemala for thirty days only to be picked up, dehydrated, in Benson. Sad.) come in. But let them come in legally.
    I think there would be much more support for easing the burden of those who wish to come here, and those millions already here, if we could first stop the flood of new illegals and restore the confidence of the people that our borders mean something.
    Could someome (read: you) tell me what is good for average Americans by allowing a continual influx of illegal immigrants into our country? Are you saying that they really pay for themselves?
    Finally, one may argue that these immigrants have some moral responsibility to remain in their own country and work for change in order to bring developlment and opportunity to future generations there. Or are we willing to accept all the hard-working high-family-value people here thereby perpetuating the disparity that encourages illegal entry into our country in the first place?

  5. Rick,

    Thanks for your comment. A couple of points in response.

    You state: “I think there would be much more support for easing the burden of those who wish to come here, and those millions already here, if we could first stop the flood of new illegals and restore the confidence of the people that our borders mean something.”

    This is true. However, that flood is not going to stop unless the U.S. changes its immigration policy first. Only if we make more (many more) legal opporunities available and streamline the process so that entrance to the U.S. doesn’t take 7 years will the demographics change. Just making it a felony and instituting stronger enforcement will increase the prison population, but not do much else.

    I think we agree that the problem is complex. I think we differ in opinion of how to approach the problem.

    As for the moral obligation to remain in their own countries, I agree and have helped friends stay in their own countries; however, hunger is a powerful thing. It’s difficult to ponder changing the political and economic environment when your children or aged parents don’t have enough to eat.

    As for illegal immigrants paying for themselves and whether that influx is good for Americans…If we institute immigration reform (like that proposed by the U.S. House) we better be ready to pay three times more for our produce, concrete work, landscaping. This is probably the right thing to do to make sure no worker is being totally exploited for $3/hr, but we have to recognize that is going to be the result. I think that by keeping current costs down and stimulating the economy and paying sales taxes, etc. that the cost of taking care of these immigrants is not as huge as conservatives portray. I wish I could get hard numbers.

  6. Dear Mike,

    Thank you for your kind response. (How’s that for niceties?)

    The flood can stop with a little resolve and a very large fence. Make the border a border! The American people have been consistently and overwhelmingly opposed to illegal immigration. As I stated, I think there are two problems. First, that there is a flood of illegal immigrants coming into our country. Second, that there are already millions upon millions of them here. I’m just saying that we can stop the first problem easily. Once done, in a manner unlike Simpson-Mazzoli in 1986 of which the current House resolutions eerily echo, I think there will be more support for reforms that address the second issue. Until you close the border, however, I don’t believe support for any other type of reform will ever be mustered. It’s been promised before time and again and we have seen it fail time and again.
    As far as cheap lettuce, without the hard numbers neither of us will gain an edge. I contend that we’re already paying for the lettuce through other means. Your point presupposed my contention that the real problem with illegal immigration is wage depression which is bad for Americans and bad for America. Stop the supply of illegal workers and the market will dictate wages for which Americans are “willing” to work in the lettuce fields. Oh crud, there I go with a capitalist analogy again. Sorry.
    I understand your point about hunger. I agree that it’s difficult. I think programs like the Perpetual Education Fund address this very issue with the intent to better people in their own locale. Perhaps the UN should just be moved to Salt Lake. Hmmm.

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