April 22, 2006

THE FAR RIGHT'S NATURAL ALLIES (via Tom Morin):

The left splits over immigration: Most liberals have celebrated the recent pro-immigration marches. But some leading progressives say illegal immigration hurts American workers. (Michelle Goldberg, 4/20/06, Salon)

Britt Minshall is a United Church of Christ pastor and a proud member of the religious left. A former civil rights Freedom Rider, he heads an interracial Baltimore congregation of 200, which has ministries that care for recovering addicts and for prostitutes. He also works in Haiti, and has written a self-published novel "to expose the pernicious effects of American foreign policy" on the people of that country. He calls the current administration "evil, wrong, treasonous ... a pack of monsters." And yet as he watched hundreds of thousands of immigrants march through the streets of America's biggest cities in the past few weeks, he found himself agreeing with some of the most right-wing Republicans. Most liberals are "dead wrong" on immigration, he says, arguing that social justice demands a crackdown on the undocumented. "I'm afraid the Minutemen have a point here," he says.

Most liberals have celebrated the recent pro-immigration marches, seeing in them a new kind of civil rights movement. They've supported calls to legalize many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. Many have delighted in the fissures opening up on the right, where nativists are pitted against laissez-faire business interests hungry for cheap labor. Yet there are fault lines on the left as well, with a small but notable number of progressive commentators warning that by championing rights for illegal immigrants and expanded legal immigration, liberals are working against the interests of low-skilled American workers. "I'm instinctively, emotionally pro-immigration," New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote last month. "But a review of serious, nonpartisan research reveals some uncomfortable facts about the economics of modern immigration ... [W]hile immigration may have raised overall income slightly, many of the worst-off native-born Americans are hurt by immigration -- especially immigration from Mexico." [...]

[T]he liberal debate over immigration isn't simply one between the left and the center. It cuts across ideologies. There are conservative Democrats, civil rights activists and leftist multiculturalists calling for legalizing undocumented immigrant workers, while figures including antiwar Air America radio host Thom Hartmann, writer Michael Lind and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., are urging much tougher restrictions. The central question is whether the interests of working-class Americans and those of immigrants, legal and illegal, are necessarily in opposition, and if they are, how progressives -- and the lawmakers they support -- should deal with it. What does it mean if the inspiring words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty -- "Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me" -- can't be reconciled with the needs of this country's workers?


Opposition to immigration naturally unites nativists (especially blacks who stand to lose their urban power base), protectionists and isolationists across party lines.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 22, 2006 11:31 PM
Comments

There it is: cross-cleavage--just like 1860.

Part of the confusion arises from the way the left has no policy other than blind reaction against whatever they think the right wants.

Posted by: Lou Gots at April 23, 2006 3:32 PM

Be interesting to see what the Cinco de Mayo celebrations bring.

Posted by: erp at April 23, 2006 4:04 PM

OJ:

I'd been thinking for a while that your thesis that anti-immigrationism will become a Democratic issue is probably dubious, and then what do I come across but this passage in the paper about a week ago:

"I'm instinctively, emotionally pro-immigration," New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote last month. "But a review of serious, nonpartisan research reveals some uncomfortable facts about the economics of modern immigration ... [W]hile immigration may have raised overall income slightly, many of the worst-off native-born Americans are hurt by immigration -- especially immigration from Mexico." [...]

Holy smokes. Don't need a weatherman...

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 24, 2006 12:24 PM

Matt:

It may only be a marriage of convenience, but the desire of black leaders to protect their political power, of unions to drive up labor costs, of pacifists to be isolated, of secularists to keep out Christian immigrants, etc. creates a thorough web interknitting the Left and far Right.

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2006 12:31 PM

It is no more inconceivable that the Democrats become the party of anti-illegal immigration than it was inconceivable that the Party of Lincoln adopt Nixon's Southern Strategy in the 1970's.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at April 24, 2006 12:45 PM

Chris Durnell:

I've heard some liberal columnists, like Froma Harrop, try to tell the Democrats that they need to get tough on the immigration issue, but I have usually blown it off as simple political preening. And, after all, Ted Kennedy is out there speaking to the recent pro-immigration demonstrators.

But having Krugman come out like this seems like a watershed. And I agree with OJ that at least some liberals are going to become uncomfortable with the generally strong religiosity of Hispanic immigrants.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 24, 2006 8:02 PM
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