The photo above notwithstanding, this was a poll about immigration generally, not illegal immigration.
Even so, I’m shocked to find attitudes towards foreigners liberalizing amid a global pandemic and grinding economic recession. There’s a reason why Trump banned travel from China and Europe this past spring and recently suspended H-1B visas for foreign workers. We don’t want the competition for jobs to be any stiffer than it already is with tens of millions of Americans unemployed. And we don’t want people introducing even more SARS-CoV-2 into America’s population than already exists.
Although, given the state of the pandemic here relative to pretty much everywhere else in the world except Brazil, we’re surely a net virus exporter at this point. It’s Europe that’s moving to bar visits from Americans nowadays, not vice versa. If you live in a first-world country, why the hell would you want to come here and dive headfirst into a giant disease pool?
This result has to be a Trump thing. I can’t think of another explanation.
It’s not entirely a Trump thing. As you can see, support for increasing immigration has been rising for the past 10 years — although it did seem to plateau during Obama’s second term. The fact that it began to take off in the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession is another quirk that’s hard to explain, as you’d expect Americans to turn sour on immigration when the economy turns sour. Not the case, it turns out. In any event, Trump’s election appears to have given the pro-immigration contingent another boost.
The partisan trends are predictable, as you’ll see in the second graph on Gallup’s page. Democratic support for increasing immigration rose from 22 percent in 2010 to 35 percent in 2015 but then leveled off and dipped back to 30 percent in 2016 before Trump’s election turbo-charged it. Dems are up 20 points since then, to an even 50 percent. That means support for more immigration has more than doubled within the party over the last decade. Support has also grown among independents, although less rapidly — and the “Trump effect” there appears even more pronounced. Indies were more or less flat at 20 percent or so between 2005 and 2015. Then, post-Trump, they bounced up to 27 percent in 2018. After a slight decline last year, they’ve bounced up further to 34 percent, twice the support they evinced in 2003.
Best guess: Antipathy to Trump among Democrats and left-leaning indies is coloring their views of one of his pet issues. Combine that with the general leftward drift of those two groups over the past decade and we arrive at today’s result, where increasing immigration is more popular than decreasing it despite the fact that life in America in 2020 would seem to argue against that.
Mickey Kaus voted for Trump four years ago, expecting that he’d be a bulwark against attempts by the two parties’ establishments to further liberalize immigration to America. Now Kaus is looking at the gory polling and wondering: What happens with amnesty if Republicans get wiped out this fall?
If Trump loses, and in the process Democrats retain the House and win back the Senate, they will have the chance to do big things. On many issues, they’re split — but one big thing they’ll be able to agree on is passing a giant Gang-of-8 style amnesty bill. They supported it before.; the bill’s already written. They see a mass influx of immigrants (not irrationally) as the guarantor of a more liberal electorate on into the future. And it will be irreversible, Once you amnesty you can’t go back. You can reverse tax increases. You can revise regulations. You can even end welfare entitlements (it happened in 1996). But we’re not going to kick large numbers of people out of the country who’ve been admitted legally, even if they are still on a “pathway” to citizenship and not yet citizens, even if the courts would allow it, which they won’t.
Would that be so terrible? Yes, it would. I voted for Trump in large part to prevent it. We could probably absorb the millions of illegals already living here — but a precedent will have been set. We will have had two huge amnesties — 1986 and 2021. People all over the world who might want to come here illegally will reasonably conclude there will one day be a third. And a fourth. The United States will be set on a path of serial amnesties. Stopping the cycle will be increasingly impossible as the electorate becomes increasingly Democratic.
The result will be a permanent change in what America is, and whether we can control our future. Basically, we’ll be a nation open to the planet’s free moving labor, in which market capitalism automatically wins out over concens of equality, community, and culture.
Kaus is so worried about it that he’s encouraging Trump to drop out as soon as possible in the belief that having him gone will sap Democrats of (some) motivation this fall and possibly/probably ensure that Republicans retain the Senate. That’s the only way to ensure amnesty is blocked — until 2023, at least.
I wonder if that’s true, though. Certainly, a DREAM amnesty is a fait accompli if Democrats regain total control of government. Their lefty base will demand it as an absolute minimum reward for their support in November. Schumer might even be able to find nine or 10 Republicans to support it and overcome a filibuster, although the GOP base will shift so quickly to a “block all Democratic initiatives” mentality that some Senate GOPers who might support the bill on the merits will think twice about voting for it. Even so, a DREAM amnesty would be a reasonably good pretext for Schumer to nuke the legislative filibuster. The issue is popular so he could sell the nuking to the public in terms of removing the final procedural roadblock to making sure Americans get the policies they want the most. (Nuking the filibuster to expand background checks on guns is an even riper target for that since it polls at upwards of 90 percent.) We’re going to get some sort of amnesty if Democrats win everything. The AOCs of the party will revolt if we don’t.
Will we get the big amnesty, though? Not just DREAMers but the entire illegal population? The AOCs will demand that too but Democratic leaders will be eyeing the 2022 midterms nervously already, remembering what happened the last time a midterm was held after a Democratic president rammed a gamechanging policy program through Congress. Do they want to lose the House for another eight years for the sake of total amnesty? Or do they think they can give the left a DREAM amnesty instead and have that half a loaf placate them? Dem leaders like Schumer and Pelosi would want a GOP buy-in on total amnesty if possible, and it won’t be possible in the near term. Which is not to say that they won’t pass it anyway and let the electoral chips fall where they may.
It’s a sign of how adrift Trump is right now in formulating an electoral message that you rarely hear him drill down on immigration. That’s not necessarily a mistake: As I say, the public likes the idea of doing something for DREAMers and anything Trump focuses on right now to the exclusion of the pandemic is likely to be held against him. But this is his pet issue and it’s just sort of floating around, not a centerpiece of his campaign.
In lieu of an exit question, go read Robert VerBruggen writing on a new study that showed walls *did* work to reduce immigration somewhat in a Mexican municipality. It didn’t eliminate it entirely, of course, but there was improvement.