The backlash myth on immigration

Debra Saunders:

Of course America needs immigrants. This is a country founded by immigrants and made richer by the imprint of newcomers in search of a land that rewards their hard work and determination to make a better life for their families.

The problem is that no country -- certainly, no country with a social safety net -- can afford to accommodate everyone who wants in. (Or as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., put it, "We cannot be the HMO to the world.") That's why there are immigration policies that limit the number of people who can immigrate here legally.

The lack of an open-door policy has spawned this week's victim class, illegal or "undocumented" immigrants, who have flouted American law and apparently believe they should not have to pay the consequences of that choice. Hence Sunday's huge demonstration in Los Angeles, where activists carried signs that called for "Amnistia, Full Rights for All Immigrants."

The Los Angeles Times duly reported, "Some Republicans fear that pushing too hard against illegal immigrants could backfire nationally, as with Proposition 187 (the 1994 ballot measure that sought to deny benefits for illegal immigrants that) helped spur record numbers of California Latinos to become U.S. citizens and register to vote. Those voters subsequently helped Democrats regain political control in the state."

Call that the Backlash Myth. In fact, Prop. 187 passed with 59 percent of the vote, and GOP Gov. Pete Wilson, who championed the measure, was re-elected in 1994. In 2003, when Democratic Gov. Gray Davis signed a bill that would allow illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses, he so enraged voters that he sealed his political demise. After Davis was recalled from office, the heavily Democratic California Legislature repealed the bill.

That's your backlash.

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