Equally specious is the argument that Latino immigrants come here, often illegally, to “steal” jobs or to go on the dole. If illegal aliens are displacing natives in the labor force, why was there more immigration and less unemployment under President Bush? And if foreign nationals are primarily attracted to our welfare state, how to explain the fact that low-income immigrants are less likely to be receiving public benefits than low-income natives? …

Over the past decade, the states experiencing the fastest immigrant population growth have not been traditional gateways like New York and California. Latino newcomers have been flocking to Arkansas, Tennessee, Utah, Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and the Carolinas—states that are among the stingiest for public benefits. …

Polls regularly show that immigration is not a priority for Hispanic voters, but how border policy is discussed still matters as a threshold and symbolic issue. When Republican Presidential candidates are preoccupied with putting up an electrified fence along the Rio Grande and blaming Latinos (wrongly) for driving up crime, unemployment and health-care costs, we are a long way from Ronald Reagan’s welcoming GOP.