Hispanics are about one sixth of the U.S. population and account for more than 50% of population growth. Good luck selling them on the idea that Spanish accents and not-quite-white skin are cause for further police inquiries.
In fact, illegal immigration ought to be something conservatives support. The primary reason people enter the country illegally is to work. Serious academic work dating at least to Julian Simon’s excellent book (available here for free!) have found that immigration, including illegal immigration, is on net beneficial for an economy. Immigrants work harder and take less in government benefits. Their work raises wages for non-immigrants. They have higher rates of entrepreneurial activity. In the recent financial crisis, illegal immigrants who were subprime borrowers had far lower rates of mortgage default than citizen subprime borrowers. One would suppose that these would be the sort of people one would want to welcome, not drive away. One would think these people would be prime constituents for a free-market message.
Certainly there are problems of crime, of crowding of public services, etc., associated with immigration, but many of these are at heart problems of the welfare state, rather than immigration. Fixing these makes sense; fixating on immigration doesn’t.
If the nativists got everything they wanted on immigration — iron control over impervious borders, strict limits on who can enter, and deportation of 100% of all illegals — no important economic or social problem would be solved and the economic situation would be worse, not better. But this wish list is impossible; economic forces cannot be legislated away, and neither can the human spirit.
The current Republican position on this issue is best described as stupidity, and one more reason they drove away potential voters.
Dr. Charles N. Steele is the Herman and Suzanne Dettwiler Chair in Economics and Associate Professor at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan. His research interests include economics of transition and institutional change, economics of uncertainty, and health economics. He received his Ph.D. from New York University in 1997, and has subsequently taught economics at the graduate and undergraduate levels in China, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the United States. He has also worked as a private consultant in insurance design and review.
Dr. Steele also maintains a blog, Unforeseen Contingencies.