Mitt Romney’s strategists have conceded that the unwelcoming attitudes he adopted toward illegal immigrants hurt him in the general election. Many members of the Republican base seem, finally, to understand that.
That’s not to say that they all do. Though Obama has pledged to move forward immediately with comprehensive immigration reform, he is still likely to encounter resistance. The GOP has spent a decade demonizing illegal immigrants; the hostility, the xenophobia and the fear linger among some of its partisans.
In that group, an argument with newfound popularity focuses on the perceived harm that comprehensive immigration reform would do to low-income American workers — especially black men. Those skeptics claim that high unemployment rates among blacks would only be exacerbated by the absorption of so many illegal workers.
In December, Mark Krikorian, a well-known immigration critic, wrote in National Review: “Mass immigration isn’t the only cause of the deep employment problems of less-skilled black workers. It’s not even the main cause. But it’s the easiest one to remedy.”
Actually, there isn’t much connection between immigration and high black unemployment rates, as research by economist David Card has pointed out. Further, Krikorian’s screed suggests that illegal immigrants could simply be rounded up and sent back to their native countries — a policy few would support. Instead, let’s bring them out of the shadows so their labor can contribute to the rebirth of the U.S. economy.
That’s a liberal notion that most Americans clearly support.
(Cynthia Tucker, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a visiting professor at the University of Georgia. She can be reached at email@example.com.)
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