While President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty is unpopular nationwide, and only enjoys 47% nationally among Latino voters, Californians surveyed in August were broadly supportive of the measure. That marks a remarkable turnaround since Proposition 187, which sought to exclude illegal immigrants from most public services, passed twenty years ago–and may be a sign of political shifts to come across the rest of the country.
“History doesn’t repeat itself,” said Dan Schnur, director of the University of Southern California’s Unruh Institute of Politics, quoted by Josh Richman and David Early in the San Jose Mercury News. “It just moves east.” The argument is that while white (and black) Californians initially resisted the state’s demographic change, most came to accept it, as well as the leading role Latino votes now play in California politics.
The power of the Hispanic electorate was revealed most recently in the gubernatorial election, when Republican Neel Kashkari kept the race competitive among white voters and independents but was blown away by Gov. Jerry Brown among Latino voters. Just as a previous round of legalization in 1986 created a new cohort of Latino voters, it is thought that a new round, affecting more people, could change the nation’s political balance.
The key difference, of course, between the Simpson-Mazzoli Act signed by President Ronald Reagan and the executive amnesty declared by President Obama is that Reagan acted in accordance with his constitutional powers. In addition, those five million or so illegal aliens granted a reprieve from deportation by Obama are not on a path to citizenship–though Democrats want to pass legislation that would make them citizens (and voters).
Should that happen, Democrats could reap the rewards, and could look forward to decades of dominance in presidential elections, as well as revived fortunes at the congressional level. That is certainly the calculation behind Obama’s amnesty, which (cynically, some say) preserved the immigration issue as a political cudgel. Hillary Clinton’s decision to support Obama’s amnesty was no doubt motivated by similar considerations.
Lost in the political mud-fight is the question of whether Obama’s action was actually constitutional. Former California governor Pete Wilson told the Mercury News that Obama has become a “scofflaw,” and that people in California would not support his action if they understood it.
Unfortunately for Republicans, constitutional literacy seems to have gone out of fashion–not just for new arrivals, but for many Americans as well.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak