WASHINGTON, June 21, 2013 — The solidly Republican Congressional districts the GOP created last year have returned to plague their inventor, as Macbeth laments in Act I , Scene VII of Macbeth. A recent Cook Political Report spells the trouble in stark relief: in a nation growing more diverse, “GOP districts have become whiter.”
In 2000, House Republicans represented 59 percent of all white Americans and 40 percent of all nonwhite Americans. Today, Republicans represent 63 percent of all white Americans and only 38 percent of all nonwhites. This is the continuation of an unholy alliance the GOP struck with Democrats in the early 1980s. Majority and minority districts are routinely gerrymandered to ensure a minority representative, which in turn, makes every other district in the state whiter.
In last year’s redistricting,Republicans further reduced the number of minorities in districts they represent, making this divide worse. As far too many white Republican districts enjoy the upside from the current broken immigration system and none of the downside, this is the biggest obstacle blocking the GOP from passing immigration reform.
First, let us consider the case for supposed downsides of undocumented immigration.
Depressed wages: Studies show illegal immigration has little to no effect on American wages.
Stealing jobs: Former Republican Governor Haley Barbour recently said when inmates in his Magnolia State were given the option of staying in prison or working for pay in the predominately immigrant-hiring chicken farms of his state, they chose prison over the farms.
Data from the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) show that states with more H-2B low-skilled nonagricultural workers actually had higher employment among U.S. workers. Specifically, for every 100 H-2B visa low-skilled workers a state had, it also had an additional 464 jobs for U.S. workers.
Crime: FBI statistics show crime in border towns in Texas, Arizona, California is down over the last decade. Violent crime, in particular, has fallen. Property crime in Arizona is down for 43 percent since 1995, besting the national average by double-digits.
Invasion from Mexico: Such an assertion is laughable on its face. Migration from Mexico, both legal and illegal, has now fallen to net-zero. “America is losing as many illegal immigrants as it’s gaining,” Reuters reported last year.
Rule of law: Every day in courtrooms across America, we the people, through the prosecutors acting in our names, give defendants punishment less than the law calls for in the form of plea bargains. Pleas are our primary method of delivering justice, since 90 percent of criminal cases receive negotiated pleas, not the punishment on the books. Further, if you are white, wealthy or both, the more leniency, or amnesty, you receive for your crimes.
In this country we have never simply applied the rule of law by rote. Rather, how law is applied has always been a calculation of trade-offs between three players: the judicial system, the attorneys and the defendant.
We are never concerned to simply apply law, but rather to maximize the time, money and skill of the agents of justice — attorneys and courts — and the human potential and productivity of the beneficiaries of justice, defendants and society writ large.
Those decrying amnesty for undocumented immigrants are not inclined to cry too much when their child gets off with community service for that DUI or public intoxication or when their college drug dalliances gets expunged. We must all check our tendency to ignore and feel entitled to our own amnesty whilst hypocritically criticizing other people’s amnesty. A certain scriptural exhortation about logs in eyes comes to mind here.
Gerrymandering has allowed the Americans most likely to have these misconceptions about jobs, wages, crime, “invasion,” and rule of law to be cloistered into the same monolithic Congressional districts. Lack of contact with those who, by their mere presence, would disprove these stereotypes causes these Congressional districts to be ensconced in an alternate reality.
This is what allows Kentucky Senator Rand Paul to say, “I think in my state ― for Kentucky elections ― there’s probably no benefit for voting for the bill.”
Paul, like most Republicans, represents a constituency getting the upside of our current system, with little to none of the downside. The fact they benefit from it is why they oppose reform. Paradoxically, their failure to see that they benefit from it is also why they oppose reform.
It is hard to see how the GOP gets out of this bind while stuck with districts which likely ensure a Republican House for the next decade, perhaps at the cost of the White House and Senate for just as long.
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