Los Angeles Times
July 27, 2004

Politicians Snub Latinos' Real Wishes

COMMENTARY

By Dan Stein
Dan Stein is executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Ranking right up there with the proverbial "Dog Bites Man" headline, a new opinion poll released last week by the Pew Hispanic Center finds that Latinos in the United States are most concerned about education, jobs, the state of the economy and access to affordable healthcare just like everyone else in the country. Eleventh on the list of things that Latinos are concerned with several notches below the vague notion of moral values is immigration.

So why are President Bush, Sen. John Kerry and congressional leaders of both parties making immigration the cornerstone of their campaigns to court Latino voters in the upcoming elections, when what Latinos really want are good schools for their kids, decent jobs for themselves and the peace of mind of knowing that they won't be bankrupted by an illness in the family? Simple: It's much easier for politicians to weaken existing federal immigration laws than it is to deliver a decent education, plentiful jobs, affordable healthcare or, for that matter, moral values.

With the stroke of Bush's or Kerry's pen, millions of illegal aliens can be instantly transformed into guest workers or green card holders, and the man holding the pen can take credit for having "delivered" something to Latinos, even if it is only the 11th item on their wish list. Ironically, in making item No. 11 come true, the politicians who are pandering to them will make their other wishes even more difficult, if not impossible, to attain. Because neither Congress nor the president possesses the authority to repeal the law of supply and demand, amnesty for millions of illegal aliens and their families, expanded guest worker programs and still higher levels of legal immigration would only exacerbate the very problems that most Latinos (and everybody else) worry about.

It is no secret that school systems in the places where most Latinos live are leaving many children behind. It is hard to imagine how amnesty for illegal workers, or still more immigration, is going to improve overcrowded, underfunded school systems that are already struggling with vast numbers of kids who speak little or no English.

How, exactly, would a massive new guest worker program help millions of hardworking Latinos who are struggling to stay above the poverty line improve their prospects and family incomes? With 44 million people in the United States lacking basic healthcare coverage, how would an influx of still more immigrants who are also likely to lack health coverage ameliorate the concerns of families that already live in fear of getting sick?

It may not be popular with the Latino leadership in this country that sees legal and illegal immigration as a means to building a constituency, but the best way to address the real concerns of rank-and-file Latino Americans a substantial number of whom oppose amnesty and still higher levels of immigration would be to vigorously enforce laws against illegal immigration, reduce overall levels of legal immigration and curtail the ever-expanding number of guest worker programs. The same laws of supply and demand that now work against the interests of most Latinos and others who work for a living could begin to work in their favor if we had less, rather than more, immigration.

Shocking as it may seem to politicians particularly those in the current administration who decided that immigration was the secret to winning their votes Latinos care about the same things as the rest of the electorate. The same poll that shows that immigration is 11th on the list of Latino concerns also shows Bush trailing Kerry 62% to 32%.

Whether it is Bush or Kerry occupying the White House for the next four years, if all the president delivers to Latinos is more immigrants, guest workers and green cards for illegal aliens, rather than jobs, education and healthcare, all he will have to show for his efforts come 2008 will be more dissatisfied voters.