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The GOP and their de facto victory on immigration: A New Southern Strategy

Immigration has become a popular focus of debate in both national and state discourse as of late – last week President Obama used his presidential powers to end deportation of undocumented immigrant brought to the U.S. as children, and the Republican Party of Texas recently shifted a portion of their stance on immigration to support a national guest-worker program. Evidently, this stance has not penetrated the exceedingly anti-immigrant posturing of GOP Senate candidates Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst.

Cruz and Dewhurst have become embroiled in a competition to decide who can take the most extreme and racist position on immigration – a contest that is disturbingly reminiscent of the GOP’s infamous “Southern strategy” adopted under Richard Nixon, used to exploit anti-African American racism in order to garner the support of Southern whites. It’s only necessary to substitute the word “African” with “Latino” in order to paint an apropos portrait of the GOP candidates’ efforts.  

Until recently, it appeared as if Cruz was leading the hilariously distasteful competition, but Dewhurst recently scored an equalizer by endorsing a federal mandate that would force employers to use the E-Verify service before making hiring decisions – a position that is perfectly consistent with his party’s stance on states’ rights, limited government, and opposition to government mandated procurement of private services.

What’s even more exasperating in this display of anti-immigrant-one-uppery is Pew's research findings: they conclude that net migration flows from Mexico have actually fallen to zero, and have perhaps even reversed flow in favor of Mexico. That’s right, Republicans have finally succeeded in their quest for de facto immigration reform – but not in the way they necessarily intended. By crashing the American economy through wanton deregulation and perpetuating the non-recovery by way of obstructionist economic policy, the GOP has finally created an environment hostile enough to deter immigrants from even seeking a better life in the “land of opportunity.”  

Despite this development, both candidates are resolute in their support of the construction of a border wall and the expansion of the U.S. Border Patrol. The presence of this issue as such a prominent focal point in their respective campaigns may lead the more inquisitive of us to wonder why both candidates are so hell-bent on making it clear to Latino immigrants that they aren’t welcome. The answer to this inquiry is as subtle as it is reprehensible.

Cruz and Dewhurst, in reality, are both pro-undocumented immigrant. As insane as it sounds, it is the only logical conclusion that can be drawn from their extremist positions. Theirs’ is a bifurcated strategy – garnering reactionary anti-immigrant votes while at the same time preserving the status quo of profiting from the horribly exploited undocumented workers already in the country. While subtle, this strategy becomes fairly evident upon examining their position on guest-worker programs.    

Both oppose measures that would allow for a path to citizenship for undocumented workers and support repealing birthright citizenship. In short, they are against any policy that would acknowledge that undocumented immigrants are, in fact, people. They deride any form of guest-worker programs as “amnesty” – even though these programs are historically anti-immigrant and anti-worker and do not provide a path to citizenship. You’d think that the anti-worker and anti-immigrant features of guest-worker programs would appeal to them, but apparently even allowing undocumented workers to be exploited legally is too generous.

No, Cruz and Dewhurst desire something more insidious: a politics built on fear – Texans’ fear of immigrants and immigrants’ fear of deportation. It is with this strategy that they, and the GOP at large, hope to maintain an entire underclass of Americans that can be exploited for both profit and politics.