(POMPANO BEACH, FL – OCTOBER 25: (L-R) Frida Ulloa, Felipe Mato and Raul Gil and others hold a sign reading, ” Education Not Deportation”‘ as they stand in front of the Broward Transitional Center on October 25, 2011 in Pompano Beach, Florida. The group was protesting the possible deportation of Shamir Ali, a 25-year-old born in Bangladesh, who they say would be a candidate for the DREAM Act if it was made into a federal law. The DREAM Act bill would provide legal status to some undocumented young people. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images))

Opinion: The Republican Dreamless Act, the best deal in town

One of the more demoralizing observations about the immigration debate is the fact that we have an immigration system that has worked relatively well over the last three decades.

It’s a difficult fact to confront, and not a very easy claim to make as a professor who studies Latino politics. But it’s a simple statement to support if you only think about who benefits most from our current immigration system.

The primary beneficiary of our immigration system is corporate America. Workers that can perform backbreaking work and have little room to complain make them an ideal labor source. As Mitt Romney says, he likes being able to fire people. Well, who better to fire when business dies down than people society views as illegitimate?

Labor streams from South of the border can be easily replaced because of their economic desperation, their cultural integration with families in the U.S., and the bureaucratic streamlining to get them on the assembly line or the harvesting fields through the black market. With little desire on the part of our government in the past to enforce laws that make no economic sense anyways, migrant labor and self-interest have overwhelmed irrationality and fear-mongering.

The second beneficiaries of our immigration mess are the Democrats and Republicans. Democrats get to feign concern over Latinos as they continue to do just enough to fail at alleviating the suffering of their growing but poor voter base, and they also have the added benefit of using the ever-abundant bigotry in the Republican Party to mobilize Latinos to the voting booth on Election Day.

In turn, the Republicans can scare their baby-boomer base with visions of La Reconquista, or the reconquering of the Southwest by swarthy Mexicans fundamentally incapable of assimilating into American culture.

This is how America’s favorite crazy uncle, Pat Buchanan, continues to make a healthy living off writing books on the destruction of America by liberals, gays, third world invasions or whatever new un-American flavor there is. So long as he points his poignant exposition away from the very baby boomer generation he belongs to that has bankrupted our government with their irrationality and fear over the last generation, his books will continue to be a big hit among his followers.

Closely related to our political parties, our federal government benefits handsomely by our immigration system. Immigrants working without documentation contribute to federal entitlement programs in Social Security and Medicare, yet are forbidden from benefiting from them. The ledger advantages of undocumented immigrants have made these programs solvent into the next generation.

Meanwhile, the biggest losers in our immigration mess are the immigrants themselves and the American middle class. Whether they are small businesses that must wade through the incoherent bureaucracy of our immigration system, or communities that must scramble to come up with the resources for education, transportation, and health care to handle their newcomers, immigration is all upside for the federal government. And they have little incentive to fix it when local governments bear most of the costs.

So when Republican Senator Marco Rubio proposed his version of the Dream Act, which would “legalize” undocumented immigrants, but not give them a pathway to citizenship, it places hardcore Democrats and Republicans in an uncomfortable position. This proposal lays bare the real reasons we have an immigration problem. Hardline Democrats want voters, and the Republican core wants cultural purity.

The Dreamless Act, as I’ll call it, will alleviate the suffering of Latino families, but will not give the benefit of their votes to the Democrats.  On the other hand, undocumented immigrants will have to pay a hefty price in relinquishing basic citizenship rights, decidedly not amnesty, but they get to stay and continue their lives without the burden of their former illegitimate status.  So the math Democrats have to address is whether they care more about Latino suffering or Latino votes. The GOP has to ask if they care more about white angst over Hispanic cultures or immigrants integrating into society.

With President Obama instituting the 287g program, which deputizes local officers to enforce federal immigration laws, he has deported over a million Latinos and has broken up thousands of Latino-American families.  Ironically, the main defender of this program is a person who made a living fighting the damage our immigration mess has made of Latino communities, Cecilia Muñoz. Muñoz was the former Vice President of the National Council of La Raza, a non-profit organization charged with improving the lives of Latinos, but she is now the Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

Maybe the citizenship compromise is a direction Latinos may want to consider. Without more details it is difficult to tell, but alleviating the suffering of Latino families by putting a halt to the raids and the constant pressure of living out of status would be a welcome change. Given the current political realities, the Dreamless Act may be the best deal Latinos can expect from the perverse incentives built into our political system. Maybe our so-called Latino leaders, like Muñoz, should take the deal. The only question is will the Democratic Party let them?

Opinion: The Republican Dreamless Act, the best deal in town tumblr m05waxH2aE1r1767o politics NBC Latino News

Stephen A. Nuño, Ph.D,  NBCLatino contributor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. He is currently writing a book on Republican outreach into the Latino Community.

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