Lamar Smith Misses The Point On Immigration And The Hispanic Electorate

House Chairman of the Judiciary Lamar Smith has written an op-ed for Politico, which is an interesting take on the dynamic between Hispanic voters and the GOP's increasingly enforcement centric agenda on immigration.

Lets just start with the title of the op-ed, which to these eyes is a little condescending, "Hispanics like law and order too".

That "too" in the title is troublesome. The idea that Smith needed to clarify that Hispanics, contrary to popular belief (?) enjoy law and order is problematic. As if the Hispanic community actually prefers lawlessness and the general public needs to be reassured that, yes, they do in fact also value the rule of law. Was this ever a question?

From there things get better (READ Worse.) Smith starts from a place of statistical truth, the Hispanic population of the United States is exploding, this is undeniable:

According to the 2010 census, the Hispanic population rose to 50.5 million and grew to 43 percent of the population during the past decade. Hispanics are the largest minority in the United States and account for most of its population growth over the past 10 years.

We at NDN are glad that Smith understands the profound demographic change that the country is going through; we have been writing about this for some time. Yet given this information, Smith takes some very old polling data to make some dubious points.

Smith notes that 82% of likely Hispanic voters "support reducing the illegal immigrant population over time by enforcing existing immigration laws, such as requiring employers to verify the legal status of workers and increasing border enforcement."

Never mind that the data he is citing is nearly 2 years old, there is plenty of other data which shows that comprehensive immigration reform is not just popular with Hispanics but across the board. In fact a recent Latino Decision Poll shows that immigration reform remains the most important issues for Hispanic voters.

In fact polling on immigration reform is incredibly consistent across party lines. Democrats, Republicans and Independents all agree that something must be done to fix our immigration system.

Fox News put out a poll in August of 2010, which showed that 65% of Democrats and 67% of Independents supported passing new immigration legislation and securing the borders at the same time.

Finally a recent Pew poll out February of this year shows that the majority of Americans support moving forward on border security and a legislative overhaul of our immigration laws. Meanwhile the poll also reveals that some of the more controversial anti-immigrant proposals such as repealing birthright citizenship are incredibly unpopular with 57% percent of respondents.

Having dealt with the polling issues... There is one last thing that is particularly egregious in Smith's op-ed:

The pro-enforcement movement is not anti-Hispanic; it is pro-rule-of-law. Time and again, American voters -- including Hispanics -- have defeated amnesty attempts, including the 2007 comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

The construct presented above is reductive. The idea that reform of our immigration movement can be boiled down to two factions of the pro-enforcement, pro rule of law vs. pro-amnesty groups is preposterous. Immigration activists acknowledge that enforcement and the rule of law are key to fixing our system; however it is not the only means of reform.

It is unnecessary to point out that Hispanics support enforcement, this Hispanic supports enforcement, so do plenty of others. Furthermore this Hispanic also thinks there are more things to be done then just enforcement, including future flow and dealing with the 11.2 million people currently here.

Immigrant activists are also, to Smith's second point, a pretty diverse group not limited to just Hispanics. There are members of faith groups, business members, labor unions and grassroots activists. The idea that Hispanics can not be both pro-enforcement and pro-reform is a bit insulting to diverse coalition of people working on this issue.

It is mind-boggling that with so many diverse issues associated with immigration reform, the one consistent idea that the Republican party has had for some twenty years (probably more) is enforcement. Furthermore it's not as if over those same last two decades Congress has passed laws to make it easier for immigrants in this country. Perhaps the simple fact that there are now nearly 11.2 million people in the country without documentation would make the GOP rethink a strategy that has been an utter failure...

Given Smith's op-ed, that idea sounds like wishful thinking.