The long-term politics of immigration reform

Bill Kristol argues that if Republicans focus too much on keeping illegal immigrants out of the country they will become a minority party in the long-term. He points to the example of California where “Republican governor Pete Wilson exploited the immigration issue to help get reelected in 1994 and. . .no Republican candidate except the idiosyncratic Arnold Schwarzenegger has won statewide since.”

There certainly are risks associated with a party being perceived as anti-immigration, and probably even anti-illegal immigration. But Republicans shouldn’t imagine that they can become the governing party of the future merely by supporting a guest worker program and providing illegal immigrants with a path to citizenship. The demands of those whose votes Republicans are aiming to capture through this posture will not end with such immigration reform. Indeed, it’s not easy to see how, in the face of mass immigration from Mexico, the Republican party could remain true to conservative values while competing for the votes of poor Mexican immigrants and their supporters.


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