Thursday, November 15, 2012

Villa Aurora Might Even Inspire Republicans To Rethink Their Stance On Immigrants


How much richer is America because we welcomed despised immigrants? The story of Villa Aurora in L.A.'s Pacific Palisades helps put that question into sharp focus. Built in 1927, it was bought (for $9,000) by German writers Lion and Marta Feuchtwanger in 1943, after they escaped Nazi Germany, Nazi-occupied France and fascist Spain with the help of Eleanor Roosevelt. It became a center for German writers and artists who had escaped the Nazis and among the luminaries that congregated there were Bertolt Brecht, Charles Laughton, Thomas Mann, Charlie Chaplin. In 1955, with both Feuchtwangers dead, Villa Aurora was officially opened as an artists' residence in Los Angeles by the German consulate. To this day, it offers 10 month residencies to writers, artists and journalists from countries where freedom of expression is under pressure.

A new poll released yesterday affirms that most Americans support a path to citizenship-- what Republicans denounce as "amnesty"-- and that majority is growing. 57% of those surveyed support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, with 39% opposed. Presumably, this attitude contributed to President Obama's reelection and to the incredible Democratic victories in Senate races across the country-- as well as to the defeat of anti-immigrant zealots in Congress like Allen West (R-FL), Brian Bilbray (R-CA), Chip Cravaack (R-MN), Frank Guinta (R-NH), Dan Lungren (R-CA), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), and Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY). Yesterday's Wall Street Journal worked on debunking some of the Hate Talk Radio myths about immigrants that are serving the GOP so badly.
The GOP's Presidential election defeat is opening up a debate in the party, with more than a few voices saying they are willing to rethink their views on immigration. This is good news, which means it's also a good moment to address some of the frequent claims from the anti-immigration right that simply aren't true, especially about Hispanics.

One myth is that Latino voters simply aren't worth pursuing because they're automatic Democrats. Yet Ronald Reagan was so eager to welcome Latinos to the GOP that he described them as "Republicans who don't know it yet.

Recall that between 1996 and 2004 the GOP doubled its percentage of the Hispanic vote to more that 40%, culminating in the re-election of George W. Bush, who won Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico and Nevada-- states with fast-growing Hispanic populations that Mitt Romney lost. The notion that Hispanics are "natural" Democrats and not swing voters is belied by this history.

Equally specious is the argument that Latino immigrants come here, often illegally, to "steal" jobs or to go on the dole. If illegal aliens are displacing natives in the labor force, why was there more immigration and less unemployment under President Bush? And if foreign nationals are primarily attracted to our welfare state, how to explain the fact that low-income immigrants are less likely to be receiving public benefits than low-income natives?

Illegal aliens aren't eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other federal entitlements. But even those low-income immigrants who are eligible for public assistance sign up at lower rates than their native counterparts. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers food stamps, noncitizens who qualify are significantly less likely than citizens to participate.

Over the past decade, the states experiencing the fastest immigrant population growth have not been traditional gateways like New York and California. Latino newcomers have been flocking to Arkansas, Tennessee, Utah, Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and the Carolinas-- states that are among the stingiest for public benefits.

...Between 2000 and 2005, the Hispanic population in Arkansas grew by 48%, more than any other state. Social welfare spending in Arkansas is among the lowest in the country, making it an odd destination for someone in search of a hand-out. The early and mid-2000s were a period of strong economic growth in the state and much of the Southeast, and the immigrants were looking for jobs.

Polls regularly show that immigration is not a priority for Hispanic voters, but how border policy is discussed still matters as a threshold and symbolic issue. When Republican Presidential candidates are preoccupied with putting up an electrified fence along the Rio Grande and blaming Latinos (wrongly) for driving up crime, unemployment and health-care costs, we are a long way from Ronald Reagan's welcoming GOP.

Republican restrictionists might also keep in mind that more than Latinos are listening to the harsh rhetoric on immigration. Asian support for the GOP fell dramatically in the 1990s after Republican Governor Pete Wilson pushed Proposition 187, a ballot initiative that denied illegal immigrants and their children access to education and health care and was primarily aimed at Mexicans.

Asians, the fastest growing racial or ethnic group between 2000 and 2010, broke for Mr. Obama this year, 73% to 26%, though only 41% of Asian-Americans identify as Democrats. The nearby table shows the GOP exit-poll share across the last three Presidential elections.
Top GOP spokesperson on immigration policy

This is going to be a huge part of the Republican Party Civil War. The radical right wants to double down on the Hatred and Bigotry and more mainstream Republicans who would like to win national and statewide elections are ready, they say, to fight back against the Know Nothings and hate mongers. It should be interesting to see if they have it in them.



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