Will immigration reform turn red states blue?

A gnarly paradox for Republican employers: Granting citizenship to low-wage illegal immigrant workers boosts Democratic political power.

Published May 22, 2007 4:47PM (EDT)

The relentlessly arch-conservative Cybercast News Service (CNS) strikes terror into the hearts of its readers today with a bulletin warning of the dire consequences if the immigration bill currently being debated in the Senate passes in anything like its current form. But this time around, the boogeyman isn't cultural secession or downward wage pressure. It's something much, much scarier.

Bush's immigration plan would turn red states blue, "shifting the political alignment firmly into Democrats' control."

Hasn't the president already done enough damage to the Republican Party? Where will this nightmare end?

CNS reporter Fred Lucas bases his grim tale on an analysis published in March by University of Maryland political science professor James Gimpel, a one-time staffer for former Sen. Dan Coats, a Republican from Indiana.

Gimpel recapitulates the widely reported swing toward Democrats by Latino voters in the 2006 election, and draws some uncomfortable, for Republicans, conclusions.

Latino voters did not bring down the Republican majority in the U.S. House given their small numbers in the contested districts. But their loyalty to the Democrats across the board certainly did Republicans no favors in contests where the outcome was in doubt.

The story these figures tell is a painful reality for Republicans expecting political realignment. Apparently, Latinos are not a swing voting bloc that can be swayed by ordinary campaign appeals. Fluctuations in the percentage of support for the two parties are a consequence of who shows up to vote...

What is the surest way for the Republican Party to make inroads with the growing Latino population? Accelerating the flow of mass immigration is not only the wrong course of action, but it may stand directly opposed to what is necessary to make gains ... The best course toward the long-term political realignment of the Latino vote may be a less open immigration policy.

But a less open immigration policy will also alienate normally Republican employers counting on a steady supply of cheap labor! If anything demonstrates how politically torturous the route to immigration reform is, it's this: Republicans desperate for low-wage workers are willing to import Democrats into American citizenship.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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