Advancing a Free Society

The GOP’s Immigration Fixation

Friday, October 14, 2011

The fight for the Republican presidential nomination has produced a spectacle that seems truly odd. Although illegal immigration has in recent years been drying up—according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center, it has fallen to 300,000 in 2009 from 850,000 in 2000, while Princeton's Douglas Massey says that "[f]or the first time in 60 years, the net traffic has gone to zero"—the issue remains bitterly contentious in the GOP race.

During a debate in Orlando last month, Texas Gov. Rick Perry defended his state's policy of charging undocumented aliens the same tuition at state-run colleges and universities as ordinary citizens—a policy that commanded bipartisan support in the Texas legislature when he signed it into law in 2001. Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and the other GOP presidential candidates practically hissed Mr. Perry off the stage, and after the debate much of the tea party joined plenty of regular Republicans in denouncing the man.

If illegal immigration is down, why do Republicans still care so much about it? Permit a Californian to attempt an answer.

Since 1986, when President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, the undocumented population of California has risen to around 2.6 million from around one million. This influx has done just what you would have expected: It has affected every aspect of life in the Golden State.

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