This is the conclusion to the my series of posts on the politics of illegal aliens. To recap: Part I dealt with how this became a political issue; Part II deals with how the issue turned in the last decade. This post will deal with what I expect to be the future of this issue – and it’s not what you think.
At present, the “debate” on illegal aliens is polarized by the open-borders and deportationist camps. How polarized? Let me put it this way: I support “attrition” (cracking down on those who hire illegals and letting them self-deport as the job opportunities dry up). So does this guy. Moreover, we both agree that states and localities should be able to sue the federal government for compensation of cost illegal aliens force upon them via various social service mandates.
Yet because we happen to disagree on Prince William County’s reaction to all of this (I’m sympathetic; he’s not), perception holds that there is a massive gulf between us.
Meanwhile, it goes without saying that the elected officials who examine this are in no small part driven by the effect this will have on voters, present and future – and this is where one missing factor could reshuffle the deck.
Let’s face it: Democrats (by and large) are supportive of amnesty and paths to citizenship because they consider today’s illegal aliens to be tomorrow’s registered Democrats. Republicans fear this to be true, but are generally divided between opposing amnesty (to keep the aliens out of any future body politic) and following the Democrats in the hope that “Hispanic voters” will be grateful to them.
Readers of this blog will know that I hate the term “Hispanic voters.” It assumes a racial conformity and ignores ethnic and ancestral diversity. Americans of Cuban descent look at issues very differently than Americans of Mexican descent, for example. Americans of Central American descent (Honduran, Salvadoran, and Nicaraguan) will react differently than either of the above. The idea that any discussion of illegal aliens will affect Puerto Ricans (who are Americans by birth, and tend to vote for the Democrats because they reside mostly in large urban centers) is laughable.
In fact, just about all ”Hispanic” ethnicities are politically competitive, save two: Puerto Ricans (see above) and Mexican-Americans (due to long-time-PRI-domination, which shifted the population heavily left-ward on economic and cultural issues). According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 58% of all illegal aliens are Mexicans. This is the origin of the expectation of illegals voting for the Democrats, if they get the chance.
I’m betting that they won’t though, and here’s why: only one political party can be reasonably certain to clean up with this group of Mexican nationals at the polls: the PRI.
Who’s the overwhelming favorite to win the Mexican Presidential election next year? You guessed it: the PRI.
This means the Mexican politics of the border suddenly becomes very, very different. For now, the center-right PAN would love to see Mexicans currently in America turned into American voters. By contrast, the PRI will want to keep them as Mexican voters. The massive amounts of remittances from illegal aliens into Mexico has become a lifeline for the Mexican economy outside of the government, which makes the free-market PAN very happy. The PRI will see it instead as a part of the economy presently outside of their control, something they’ll want to fix, pronto.
Assuming things go as expected, the PRI’s Enrique Pena Nieto (currently Governor of Mexico state, effectively the subrubs around Mexico City) will be elected President next summer and take office in December 2012. Because of the lopsided nature of the Senate Elections (the Democrats have to defend 2/3 of the seats up for election), even if Obama is re-elected, he will either be stuck with a fully Republican Congress or generate such a wave that he will lead the Democrats to win control of the House. In other words, there is almost certain to be some change in Washington, which is usually enough to reset the examination of all issues, including this one.
Into this uncertainty will step a Mexican regime looking to keep their fellow Mexicans away from American citizenship, while looking for some way to reduce the influence of remittances outside its control.
My guess? Very soon after his inauguration, Pena Nieto will try to bring back the bracero program of old. Among other things it would ensure that Mexican nationals in America remain just that, gives the Mexican government more control over remittances, and creates a system by which these Mexicans can be where the PRI wants them on future elections days – voting in Mexico.
Of course, it will also turn the politics of illegals in this country on its head. The pressure for citizenship disappears, and the security concerns so many Americans have become largely assuaged. The matter of “jobs Americans won’t do” will still be contentious, but that has always been a rumbling issue on this subject – and until 1994, it wasn’t enough to get the issue on the national scene.
The other domestic political effect will be on the attrition option, which may finally get some oxygen – especially with Mexico more than willing to help make sure illegal aliens from other countries don’t get in the way of bracero Mexicans working, sending money home through the program, and expressing gratitude by voting PRI. Given that attrition is the preferred option from Kenney to McGuire to Krikorian, it is well-primed to be the emerging consensus position. Add to it a self-interested Los Pinos, and it’s practically a lock.
This may sound a little Pollyannaish; it’s not. The Mexican economy would be waylayed by a return to center-left government. Moreover, the PRI is still the PRI, with all its historical problems. That said, it would have a strong interest in getting the illegal alien issue resolved – their way, and for most Americans, I suspect that way will be good enough.