The Democrats' Immigration Problem(s)
FEB 10, 2017 9:30 AM EST
By Megan McArdle
We can argue about whether or not America has an immigration problem. But it seems pretty clear that Democrats have an immigration problem, one that they’re going to have to fix if they want to effectively oppose Trump, much less regain control of the government.
Josh Barro has laid out at length exactly what that problem is. Briefly: Democratic arguments about immigration mostly aren’t arguments. The party has relied on opposing Trump’s more outrageously exaggerated claims about the criminality and all-around character flaws of immigrants. That’s fine, as far as it goes — but as November showed, it doesn’t go far enough.
The core problem is that Democrats didn’t really make an affirmative argument for an overhaul to U.S. immigration policy that might appeal to voters. Instead, they talked a lot about what great people immigrants are, and how much they benefit from migration. Unfortunately, the clearest group of beneficiaries from this policy — people who want to migrate, but haven’t yet gotten a green card — can’t vote.
Of course there are spillover benefits to immigration, but they are somewhat nebulous compared to the direct benefit to the would-be migrants. It’s easy to explain how immigrants benefit from an open door. Explanations of how the rest of us benefit tend to rely on the trivial or on abstract economic arguments that most people don’t find particularly intuitive or convincing. Those arguments look even more suspicious because they are generally made by the one group that visibly does benefit from a lot of low-skilled immigration, which provides the nannies, lawn-care, and food services that high-skilled professionals rely on to allow them to work longer hours.
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