May 3, 2010


Arizona's Short-Sighted Immigration Bill (Joel Kotkin, 05.04.10, Forbes)

As Bill Frey of the Brookings Institute points out, there is a growing gap between the electorate, which is still largely white and older, and the much younger, far more rapidly growing Latino population. In Arizona Frey says the "cultural generation gap" between the ethnicity of seniors and children is some 40%, meaning that while 83% of senior are white, only 43% of children are. Nationwide, Frey estimates the gap in the ethnic composition of seniors and youths stands at a still sizable 25 points.

Arizona's large disequilibrium in the ethnicity of its generations is a product, in part, of the state's historic pull to white retirees. Yet its formerly booming economy, based largely around construction and tourism, required a massive importation of largely Latino, low-wage labor, much of it illegal. As a result over the past two decades, Arizona's Latino population has grown by 180%, turning what had been a 72% Anglo state to one that is merely 58% white.

You don't have to go very far--in fact just across the California border--to see what awaits Arizona's nativist Republicans. The Grand Canyon state's future has already emerged there. In the 1970s and 1980s California's generally robust economy made it a primary destination for immigrants from both Asia and Latin America. Comfortable in their Anglo-ness, papers like the Arizona Republic were dismissing California as a "third world state," particularly in the wake of the 1992 LA riots.

Like their Arizona counterparts today, many white Californians then were sickened by pictures of mass Latino participation in looting during the riots. Many were also concerned with soaring costs of providing social services to a largely poor immigrant population. Sensing an opportunity, in 1994 Gov. Pete Wilson--locked in tough re-election battle amid a deep recession--endorsed Proposition 187, a measure designed to prevent illegal aliens from accessing public services. The measure passed easily, with support from both whites and African-Americans. The strong backing among Independents and even some Democrats helped Wilson win re-election with surprising ease.

But the long-term consequences of 187 reveal the longer-term consequences for the GOP. During the Reagan era and even the first Wilson term, Latino voters split their votes fairly evenly between the parties. But after 1994 there was a distinct turn toward the Democrats, with the GOP share at the gubernatorial level falling from nearly half in 1990 to less than a third in subsequent election. In some cases, right-wing Republicans garnered even smaller portions of Latino voters.

This is a classic case of the past waging war on the future. that the younger generation will just have a different immigrant group they want to keep out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 3, 2010 9:23 PM
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