Now, it's probably obvious by this point that I'm not a fan of offering amnesty or letting the whole immigration issue slide. I never have been, and I don't see that changing. Some would say that's because I'm a misanthropic bitter-ender who hasn't been taking his meds since Election Day.* I do have actual reasons, though.
I'm no expert on this (not that that ever stops me), but I've frequently wondered whether part of the problem in how we approach Hispanics is our tendency to treat them as one homogenous group--which of course doesn't conform to reality. Some Latinos have been here longer than others; they are of varying income levels; maybe most importantly, they have different nationalities. Mexicans are not Cubans are not Puerto Ricans are not Hondurans. These differences may erode a great deal once all these groups arrive here, but certainly those who identify as, say, Cuban-Americans won't necessarily look at immigration issues the same way as those who identify as Mexican-Americans.
I bring this up because of my broader point: I also wonder sometimes if, when we talk about amnesty and related flashpoints, we're going on the assumption that Hispanics are a naturally conservative group, and would be significantly more loyal to the GOP if not for how we approach immigration. It's something to consider, but there's a lot of evidence suggesting that's not exactly the case. (Besides which, if the immigration debate was driving Hispanic voting patterns, why would they have gone so strongly for Obama this time? In 2008 I could have seen that, in the aftermath of the DC amnesty bill, or in 2010 when the Arizona legislation was all up in the air, but it's been eclipsed by other issues--i.e. the economy--for well over a year now, and we know what a short-term memory voters of all races have. But I digress.)
Actually, from the GOP's point of view, a lot of data coming from Hispanics is fairly alarming. Last year, a poll of California Latinos asked what parts of the Republican platform they objected to. The number who said immigration policies were the big thing? Seven percent. A whopping 29 percent said the deal-breaker for them was the economic platform, because "Republicans don't represent the average person," Republicans only care about the rich, blah blah blah--the same mindless drivel you hear from people of all backgrounds. Now granted, this is California; unfortunately, the Golden State tends to set new national trends. For proof of that, we have a recent survey from the pollsters at Pew Research, which found that among the general U.S. population, 48 percent prefer a smaller government with fewer services, with 41 percent wanting the opposite. Not a bad split. Among Hispanics, however, that figure is 75 percent in favor of bigger government with more services, and only 19 percent against. One Latino businessman explained it this way: "What Republicans mean by 'family values' and what Hispanics mean are two completely different things...We are a very compassionate people, we care about other people and understand that government has a role to play in helping other people." Well, that's promising.
And despite being overwhelmingly Catholic and probably more family-oriented, Hispanics don't appear to be that socially conservative, either. Another Pew survey found that this year, the number of Latinos supporting gay marriage rose to 52 percent, with only 34 percent now opposing it. Returning to the Left Coast, Hispanics as a group favored the infamous Gavin Newsom for lieutenant governor over the Republican candidate--who himself happened to be Hispanic. Make of all this what you will, but clearly, dropping opposition to illegal immigration and broadcasting our conventions on Telemundo isn't going to help bring over this group.
So is this a signal that we should all slit our wrists now and get it over with? Well, no. Of course, there are things the GOP can do to try and win over Hispanics, many of which have been discussed here before. We probably don't need to throw a fit over bilingualism, and should also make sure to scrap the racial stereotypes. For example, I decided not to put up a picture of Speedy Gonzalez with this post, because
Also, there's this glimmer of hope from the Pew survey cited earlier. Although that 75-19 split on the government question is gruesome, it should be noted that first-generation Hispanics are most supportive, with an 81-12 split. That falls to 72-22 in the second generation and only 58-36 for the third generation and afterwards. This suggests Latinos do come to support small government and free enterprise the more time passes since arrival, which is grounds for optimism. But it also means further illegal immigration has to be cracked down on before we can start to crawl our way out of this pit. We need a strategy and a concerted effort to work on all this, preferably before the country blows up in our faces.
*(Which of course is not true. I stopped taking my meds back around Halloween. It's not a good party without some groovy hallucinations.)