Diane Francis on American Politics

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Hispanic Card

Diane Francis column Financial Post Friday April 21:

NEW YORK CITY - It doesn't take long to realize that this city is bilingual, as are most other large cities in the U.S.

America's gigantic Hispanic population is an estimated 46 million, according to recent studies, which makes it considerably larger than Canada's population as a whole.

More than 13% of the U.S. population is officially Hispanic, or 34 million. But this week, the Pew Hispanic Centre, a think tank, said another 12 million are here illegally.

Spanish is heard on the streets here, as in Miami, Chicago or Los Angeles, as much as is English. Everything from computer manuals to cell phone contracts or water bills and voting ballots are bilingual. Everywhere are waiters, nannies, dog walkers, bus boys, chefs, cabbies and carpenters who are Hispanic, not to mention baseball players.

The result is that Hispanics have become an essential component of the country's economy and have become a critical voting bloc to politicians.

And recent protests demanding amnesty for illegals and more immigration access are creating both a backlash and underscoring the huge power of this group, both economically and politically.

In fact, the Republicans are in power due to this underclass, ironic considering that the Democrats have billed themselves as the party of the common man.

This is because the Republicans in general, and the Bush family in particular, have played the "Hispanic card" brilliantly.
President George Bush, his wife and daughters are bilingual, due to the influence in Texas of Mexican immigration. His brother, Florida governor Jeb Bush, is married to a Mexican national and is bilingual in a state with a huge Cuban population.

The result is the Bush regimes have supported porous borders and now propose a form of amnesty plus improved work visas in future.

These policies overwhelmingly benefit both business interests and Hispanics. Open immigration drives down wages and the huge productivity gains in the U.S. may be attributed in part to cheap labor from these immigrants as well as to technological advances.

Democratic efforts to attract Hispanics has failed due to the fact that their two biggest voting blocs are unionized workers who are most threatened by the flood of newcomers as well as African Americans, who feel the same.

Even so, Hillary Clinton stepped up to the immigration debate during her Senate re-election campaign in this state by declaring that rules are so onerous that even "Jesus Christ" would have been denied entry or citizenship.
This annoyed many unionists and Democrats.

But her shift is an attempt to match the "soft" immigration stance of her rival front-runner, Senator John McCain from the border state of Arizona with its own enormous Mexican population. He's also playing the "Hispanic card" astutely.

The minority's importance was also underscored last month in a Brookings Institute study. The Brookings, a conservative think-tank in Washington, added the fact that in addition to Hispanics' representing 13% of the population officially, the group represents half of the country's overall population growth.

This means that their numbers will continue to soar disproporitionately and their priorities will become the nation's priorities. This has already become evident in the heated immigration debate but also in debates concerning recognition of Cuba, foreign policy toward Haiti and hemispheric free trade.

Hispanics are also gaining socio-economically. Recent studies have pointed out more interesting facts:
-- One in 20 workers in the U.S. are Hispanic illegals.
-- Employers depend on illegals to fill 400,000 low wage jobs each year.
-- U.S. officials have been loathe to enforce immigration laws and there have been only three employers prosecuted in the past few years.
-- Hispanics, legal or otherwise, hold down mostly low-level service jobs in the hospitality, agricultural and construction sectors that Americans spurn.
-- Hispanics represent 29% of all agriculture workers.
-- Hispanics represent 29% of the nation's roofers.
-- They represent 27% of its butchers and meat processors.
-- 25% of its gardeners.
-- 22% of maids and cleaners.
-- 20% of cooks.
-- and 15% of all laundry workers.

Another study shows how Hispanics have begun to move upward through entrepreneurship.

In March, the latest U.S. Census Bureau report showed that Hispanics owned nearly 1.6 million businesses in 2002 - an increase equivalent to 31% compared with five years before.

(Their enterprises now represent 7% of all privately-owned American businesses. In 1997, they owned 6% of all businesses.)
These and other facts are propelling Hispanic issues to the top of federal, state and municipal issues.

And Hispanic issues will continue to dominate backroom politics, benefit American businesses and hoist the Republican party.


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At 6:23 AM, Blogger Texan said...

Some very good discussion! The Republican and Democrat parties are quite transparent. They are simply maneuvering to court Hispanic vote and shift power to themselves. And I perceive that they are doing so "at all costs", with little regard for other important long-term considerations.

Some of your points are contradicted by certain studies. I would suggest that you are overestimating the importance of this migrant workforce in the US economy.

According to the Center for Immigration Studies (
http://www.cis.org/articles/2001/mexico/wages.html ) the wave of unskilled immigrant labor does NOT have such a dramatic price lowering effect.

You wrote: "...Hispanics have become an essential component of the country's economy". According to the study cited above, Mexican immigrants accounted for 3.4 percent of the labor work force but only 1.9 percent of all labor income. (Mexicans are not all of the Hispanic population, but they are by far the largest group).

For more discussion, please take a look at a blog I wrote:

The importance of this to America can not be overestimated. I welcome further discussion and views for or against.

At 4:59 PM, Blogger Concerned Denizen said...

We absolutely need to control our borders and we absolutely need to accomodate the undocumented parents of the millions of native-born American citizens. As usual I find myself taking 6 from one and a half-dozen from the other, party, that is

Also, we need to do something about Dick Cheney. He needs to be impeached for his near-treasonous behavior in the Valerie Plame affair. Go to http://www.ifyouimpeach.org for more information and to take action.


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