Is it in the Democrats’ interest to finally put the immigration issue behind them? Here’s my thinking: Democrats always seemed to want to keep the immigration issue alive — it was supposed to be the key to mobilizing Latino voters. So Democratic leaders were comfortable resisting any kind of deal unless it was the total victory they wanted, namely a deal that (by placing amnesty before enforcement ) held out the prospect of large future flows of immigrants (i.e. Democrats). Anything less than that … well, don’t even think about a deal. They’d rather ‘have the issue.’
But now Democrats have learned a) the Latino vote is a whole lot less immigration-obsessed than the immigration-obsessed pollsters at Latino Decisions would have you believe; and b) Democrats desperately need a way to make populist common cause with the working class whites who responded to Trump’s border-control rhetoric. One obvious way to win those white voters back is by taking immigration ‘off the table,’ allowing Dems to make their traditional, effective pitches about Social Security, Medicare, wages, trade, Wall Street, etc.
I don’t expect a Dem pivot in this direction anytime soon — the party, and especially its activists, are too immured in identity politics. But you’d expect at least some self-interested Congressional Dems to be much more open to an Enforcement First compromise along Trumpish lines: Do what has to be done to secure the border, then, eventually, do something to legalize the undocumented who are still here.
The future votes Dems would give up — no never-ending waves of illegal migrants to eventually convert into voters, sorry! — would be more than compensated for by short and medium term access to the Trump Belt voters Dems fatally lost in ’16.**
** — Immigration amnesty was supposed to be a “threshold issue” for Latinos. But maybe border control is a threshold issue for the bulk of working class voters in the same way controlling welfare handouts (by requiring work) was a prerequisite for the success of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — if you don’t get that issue right, don’t bother talking to them about anything else.
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