Immigrants helped to give Democrats a decisive win in Virginia. Like California, Virginia is now a solidly blue state.
New California: Mass Immigration Turning Virginia Blue
A remarkable transformation is underway in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The birthplace and final resting place of George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson—and once one of the most reliably-red of red states—is being rapidly turned into a progressive stronghold.
These changes are not the result of an inside agency, or a natural evolution in political thinking, but rather the result of one of the most impactful yet least-discussed policies of the federal government.
Each year the federal government prints millions of visas and distributes these admission tickets to the poorest and least-developed nations in the world.
A middle-aged person living in parts of Virginia today will have witnessed more demographic change in the span of her life than many societies have experienced in millennia.
A census study entitled “Immigrants in Virginia,” released by University of Virginia (UVA) researchers, documented the phenomenon: “Until 1970, only 1 in 100 Virginians was born outside of the United States; by 2012, 1 in every 9 Virginians is foreign-born.”
Fairfax Connection, a community newspaper, offered more detail:
In the span of one generation, Fairfax County has seen an explosion in its immigrant population. In 1970, more than 93 percent of Fairfax County’s population was white and middle-class. In the fall of 1970, a white 6-year-old child beginning elementary school in one of the county’s developing towns… could look to his left, or look to his right, and see a classroom full of children who, at least 90 percent of the time, looked like him and who spoke English. By 2010, a child entering elementary school in Fairfax County would almost certainly encounter a classmate who did not speak English as a primary language, and whose parents or grandparents immigrated from places such as Vietnam, India, Korea or a country in Africa.
UVA’s report explains that more than three out of four of Virginia immigrants (77 percent) are coming from either Latin America or Asia—immigration from Europe, the report writes, “lag[s] far behind” representing only 10 percent of Virginia’s immigrant population. This is consistent with trends nationwide. According to the 2013 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Immigration Yearbook, only 8.7 percent of green cards issued by the federal government went to immigrants born in Europe, a product of immigration changes pushed through by Ted Kennedy in 1965.
DHS’ yearbook, however, does not provide information on parental nativity– in other words, it doesn’t say whether an immigrant from the United Kingdom may be the child of Saudi parents.
Additionally, according to DHS, of those refugees issued admissions slips into the United States, 75 percent came from four countries– Iraq, Burma, Somalia and Bhutan– while another 15 percent came from Iran, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and the Dominican Republic.
Large numbers of these settlers handpicked by the federal government have come to Virginia. A 2011 article from The Washington Post explains: “Soaring number of Hispanics and Asians pushed Virginia’s population over 8 million in the past decade.”
“Statewide the number of Hispanics almost doubled to 632,000. Hispanics now make up 8 percent of Virginia residents.” The Post continues, “The state’s Asian population also took off, climbing by 68 percent in 10 years.”
The Post notes that, “as recently as 1990, non-Hispanic whites made up 76 percent of the state’s residents. A decade later, their numbers had fallen to 70 percent, and [in 2010], they accounted for less than two-thirds of the state’s residents.”
Because these newcomers to Virginia have largely been invited into the country with green cards or other visas, they can collect public benefits, fill any job, rely on federal retirement programs, and become naturalized voting citizens.
Year after year, the United States continues its annual dispensation of one million plus new green cards, the admission of one million foreign workers, refugees and dependents, and the importation of half a million foreign youths sought by college administrators.
One in four U.S. residents is either an immigrant himself or has immigrant parents. The Census Bureau projects that the U.S. will add another 14 million immigrants over the following ten years if green card programs aren’t slashed, pushing the U.S. past all documented historical immigration records in terms of immigrant to population ratio. When a high point was hit last century, then-President Calvin Coolidge hit the pause button for roughly fifty years– producing an era of explosive wage growth. That pause continued until Ted Kennedy ushered in legislation that granted millions of immigration visas to the entire world.
The steady gusher of visas happens silently and with little media recognition, yet its effects are more permanent and transformative than many of the most far-reaching foreign policy accords.
In 2012, the Richmond Times Dispatch highlighted the political effects of issuing visas to so many migrants from outside the Western World: “The population shift, most notably in Northern Virginia, is changing the state’s educational, political and social landscape.”
The Times Dispatch continues, “Virginia’s demographic changes have also transformed political leanings in the state that, before President Barack Obama’s win of electoral votes in 2008, had not backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.”
The blue-ing of Virginia brought about by continued immigration is not calculated only by measuring the voting habits of immigrants themselves, but is multiplied outward through the voting habits of immigrants’ children and grandchildren. As the Times Dispatch notes: “Not all minority voters are foreign-born, of course, but many have participated in the changing political landscape.” The increase in the minority vote share stems from immigration itself: “Many immigrants come to the U.S. between the ages of 25 and 44, during the prime of their careers, and are more likely to have families here.” The results, per the Times Dispatch, are striking: “During the 2012 presidential election, when 71 percent of the state’s voters went to the polls, two-thirds of Hispanic and Asian voters backed Obama. Obama carried 93 percent of the black vote, 64 percent of the Hispanic vote and 66 percent of the Asian vote, according to exit polls reported by The New York Times.”
Under current U.S. policy, any child born to an immigrant is guaranteed U.S. citizenship and voting rights. UVA researchers found that, “among children of immigrants, 96 percent are U.S. citizens, either by birth or through naturalization.” In today’s Virginia, “almost a fifth of native-born children under the age of 18 have at least one foreign-born parent.”
As Reuters reported in a recent article on U.S. visa policies: “Immigrants favor Democratic candidates and liberal policies by a wide margin, surveys show, and they have moved formerly competitive states like Illinois firmly into the Democratic column and could turn Republican strongholds like Georgia and Texas into battlegrounds in the years to come.”
A 2014 report authored by University of Maryland professor James Gimpel, similarly found that, “the enormous flow of legal immigrants in to the country — 29.5 million 1980 to 2012 — has remade and continues to remake the nation’s electorate in favor of the Democratic Party.”
The report cites a 2012 study conducted by YouGov that, “gauged the partisan preferences of over 2,900 naturalized immigrants, finding 62.5 percent to be Democratic identifiers, 24.6 percent Republican, and 12.9 percent independent.”
Examining the data in this study led Washington Examiner columnist Byron York to conclude: “The bottom line is that more immigration favors Democrats; there is no prediction of Democratic electoral ascendancy that doesn’t rely on demographic factors as the main engine of the party’s dominance.”
Yet the effects, national and local media have observed, are not limited to electoral patterns.
Crime patterns have changed markedly as well.
Today, according to the Migration Policy Institute, “about one-fifth of the total population of El Salvador” resides in the United States. The Associated Press reports that, “El Salvador is the top country of birth for immigrants to Virginia.” Indeed, the Migration Policy Institute found that from 2000 to 2008 Virginia saw its Salvadorian immigrant population grow by 13,000 persons. With it, this migration has brought the arrival of the feared Salvadorian gang, Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13.
As The Washington Post reported in 2011: “Controlled by ringleaders or ‘big homies’ imprisoned in El Salvador or at large in Central America or Mexico, MS-13 ‘cliques’ with such names as the Sailors, Normandy, Peajes, Uniones and Fultons collaborate across the District, Maryland and Virginia.”
The Post explains that presence of the Salvadorian gang has become so problematic in the Commonwealth that federal officials have been forced to engage in “a targeted, sustained effort to dismantle MS-13 and other violent gangs that threaten our neighborhoods.” Describing one of the gangland slayings, The Post documents how, “Victims included a 14-year-old boy, Giovanni Sanchez, who was stabbed to death and left in the street.”
Last year, The Washington Post reported: “[A]rmed with two machetes and a sawed-off shotgun, MS-13 gang members allegedly set off in a car… to carry out an assassination at a location as brazen as it was chilling: a Prince William County school.”
Virginia has become a study in contrasts. The attempted assassination at Prince William County school is only a two-and-a-half hour drive from Colonial Williamsburg, where themed actors create a living museum to throngs of tourists.
Each year, the U.S. issues more green cards than the collective population of the 13 colonies the year Virginia’s Patrick Henry was born. In a single year, the U.S. will issue five times more green cards than there are members of Daughters of the American Revolution.
America’s visa programs have also impacted the fiscal landscape as well.
As Manhattan Institute Scholar Heather Mac Donald observed in 2005: “The foreign-born Hispanic welfare rate was nearly three times that of native-born whites.” This trend continues for the children of immigrants as well: “Native-born Hispanics collected welfare at over twice the rate as native-born whites.” Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson reported that from 1990 to 2004: “The number of Hispanics with incomes below the government’s poverty line [rose] 52 percent; that [represents] almost all (92 percent) of the increase in poor people… Among children, disparities are greater. Over the same period, Hispanic children in poverty [rose] 43 percent; meanwhile, the numbers of black and non-Hispanic white children in poverty declined 16.9 percent and 18.5 percent, respectively.”
The federal government’s policy of resettling poor foreign populations in U.S. communities has presented substantial challenges for educators as well. As the Washington Post reported in 2012 about Fairfax County, “31,5000 students are projected to enroll in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), representing 17 percent of the total county student population and an increase of nearly one-third from last year . Those numbers have profound implications for the schools system… with 7,652 new students in ESOL this year, that represents an additional $25.3 million.”
A Washington Post article from last year examining Fairfax county kindergarteners noted, “The white student population is receding and is being replaced with fast-growing numbers of poor students and children of immigrants for whom English is a second language… The demographic changes in Fairfax are likely to have long-term implications for the school system… Schools officials believe that the challenges that come with a less-affluent and less-prepared population will exacerbate the system’s struggles with a widening achievement gap for minorities and ballooning class sizes.”
The Post notes that these changes extend into neighboring Maryland as well: “School systems across the region have experienced rapid increases in the number of Hispanic students as well as the number of pupils who qualify for subsidized meals. In Montgomery County, more than 35 percent of students receive free or reduced-priced meals, compared with 22 percent in 2000. Poor students now account for 68 percent of the kindergarten class in Prince George’s County, and 3 in 10 kindergartners this year received additional English instruction.”
The Post continues: “Elementary school teachers say they spend an increasing amount of their time on remedial education… Grace Choi, a kindergarten language teacher at London Towne [Elementary], said children from poor families often arrive for the first day of school not knowing the alphabet, a standard lesson in preschool. Many cannot differentiate animal words such as cat, lion and cheetah or food words such as potato, eggs and tomato. ‘The things you think are a given, they don’t know,’ Choi said.”
As one school board member told The Post, “We are required to educate their children, and we want to. But there is a cost… There is a cost to having these children in the system.”
Economist Christine Chmura told the Richmond Times Dispatch that, “some members of Virginia’s increasing immigrant population come from a culture in which college education is not encouraged. ‘In particular, I’m referring to the Hispanic population’ [Chmura] said. ‘From this perspective, an increase in immigrants in the state could decrease our educational attainment levels, which has been one of our competitive advantages over other states.’”
A 2011 study examining education attainment in the United States found that of Hispanic immigrants (aged 25 to 34), only nine percent obtain a Bachelor’s degree. For second generation Hispanic immigrants of that same age group, that number increases only slightly: 19 percent obtain a Bachelor’s degree. Amongst the third generation, however, the number recedes: only 16 percent obtain a Bachelor’s degree.
In this sense, the ongoing dispensations of green cards, refugee admittances, and foreign worker visas to developing nations exacerbates income inequality in two ways: it increases job competition for the current minority population while also straining educational resources in these communities. While this income inequality is helpful to large political donors whose financial enterprises gain profit from reduced wages, it adds substantially to the challenges facing dedicated educators and social workers.
In order to remedy the difference in educational outcomes produced by historic amounts of immigration, many university boards adopt affirmative action policies, which may award or subtract points based on a candidate’s ancestry. A 2012 Washington Post article on affirmative action explained that, “College leaders in the Washington region and across the country are hoping to preserve their power to use race and ethnicity as factors in admissions.”
Cash-strapped schools are also looking to increase spending in response to the educational hardships created by immigration. As the Fairfax Times reports, “In 2014, Hispanic and black students posted pass rates 25 percentage points fewer than white and Asian students on math assessments, and 24 percentage points fewer on reading assessments. The results mirror achievement gaps in school districts across the state… Many of the board members pointed to expanding preschool programs as an accepted tool for boosting minority achievement… [Yet] lack of funds thwarts school officials’ desire to add more preschool classes, just as it hampers other endeavours that could help close the achievement gap.”
While the influence of conservative voters in the Commonwealth continues to diminish, it is ironically Republican officials in Virginia who have led the push to resettle even larger numbers of immigrants inside the state. Former House Majority Leader ((((((Eric Cantor)))))), for instance, in the months before his titanic fall from power, engineered the effort to provide more labor to Virginia employers through foreign worker visas.
Former-executive director of the Virginia Republican Party, Shaun Kenney, described conservatives who wanted to trim the ongoing resettlement efforts as “nativists” who “have no home in the modern Republican Party,” thundering, “drive ‘em out.” Ironically, Kenney’s immigration policies are having that exact effect.
Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has proposed two bills that would add substantially to the millions of foreign visas already annually distributed by the United States. One of those bills, the SKILLS Visa Act, would increase foreign worker visas for technology corporations. The other bill, the Agricultural Guestworker “AG” Act, would increase foreign worker visas issued to food manufacturers who wield substantial influence within the modern Republican Party. Since Goodlatte’s foreign workers would arrive on visas, Republican donors who own businesses would be able to legally replace Americans workers with these newcomers.
The Washington Post reports the effects of the visas policies supported by Goodlatte in his own district: “Immigrants are a fast-growing part of the landscape and workforce—from the Mexicans who pick apples and process poultry to the Indians who work in high-tech and medical fields… Leader’s of the state’s $3.8 billion poultry industry say they favor immigration reform”. “Immigration reform,” as used by The Washington Post in this context, refers to adding greater and greater numbers of foreign workers to the labor pool in a manner employers hope will reduce wages.
As political scientist Steve Farnsworth told the Richmond Times Dispatch, “burgeoning employment opportunities in Virginia” are not necessarily going to the states current residents but “waves of foreign-born workers and foreign-born college graduates looking for jobs.”
UVA researchers found that more than one in seven people in Virginia’s workforce are foreign-born, and positions in the workforce are more likely to go to them than those born in the state:
Labor force participation for natives is at about 65 percent in comparison to more than 73 percent for the foreign-born… A large number of foreign-born workers are employed as computer software engineers, managers, cashiers, accountants and auditors, and retail salespersons, making these highly common occupations for immigrants.
The impact mass visa admissions has had on job opportunities for Virginia workers is representative of nationwide trends. For instance, according to a report from the Center for Immigration Studies, all net jobs created in the United States from 2000-2014 went to immigrants.
But the flood of new immigrants also threatens the job prospects of past immigrants. As Bill ((((((Kristol)))))) and Rich Lowry wrote in their joint op-ed opposing the ((((((Schumer))))))-Rubio plan to triple green card admissions as part of the Gang of Eight bill:
The last thing low-skilled native and immigrant workers already here should have to deal with is wage-depressing competition from newly arriving workers.
A poll from Kellyanne Conway found that minorities overwhelmingly support visa reductions. By a greater than 6:1 margin, Hispanic voters believe that jobs should go to those already living inside the United States instead of importing new workers from foreign countries. Black voters believe the same, by an extraordinary ratio of almost 30:1. Both groups suffer every day from the federal government’s policy of adding millions of new competitors to the labor pool.
In a state where recent races have been decided by razor-thin margins, and where Democrats have relied heavily on pulling huge numbers from the black vote, the addition of so many new voters from post-1970 immigration was keenly felt in the recent governor’s race. Following Democratic Gov. Terry McAullife’s rise to oldest occupied Executive Mansion in the country, The Atlantic wrote:
Terry McAuliffe’s narrow win Tuesday to become governor of Virginia was the result of the changing and growing population of Northern Virginia. It was also the product of an electorate just as diverse—though not as large—as the ones that twice elected Barack Obama… McAuliffe won even though 56 percent of white non-Hispanic voters voted for Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, according to exit polls, thanks to the strength of McAuliffe’s support among Latinos and Asians. Together, those two demographic groups contributed more than 50,000 more votes to McAuliffe than to Cuccinelli… That’s enormously significant, considering that McAuliffe only won by 55,220 votes.
The Atlantic continued, “With McAuliffe’s victory, Virginia can now be looked at as ‘sort of a purple state leaning blue,’ said [Ruy] Teixeira, co-author of 2002’s The Emerging Democratic Majority. That book predicted that changes in the demographics of the electorate would ultimately swing red states into the blue column; those shifts took some time to show up, but now that they are here they show little sign of abating.”
California provides a look at Virginia’s— as well as Georgia’s, Arizona’s, Florida’s, and many other state’s— electoral path if the visa gusher continues apace.
In 1988, at a campaign rally for George H.W. Bush in Los Angeles, Ronald Reagan addressed the crowd: “So, here’s my last request to you. Put California in the Republican column this November. Send Pete Wilson back to the Senate. Send George Bush to the White House. And yes, I know I’m copying something that was just said here once before, but I don’t mind saying it again: Go out and win one last one for the Gipper!”
California Republicans went out did just that– delivered “one last one for the Gipper.” It would be the last time California would ever send a Republican to the Senate or to the White House.
In 1988, few other than the most ardent observers of immigration would have believed that the state that launched Nixon into the Senate, Vice-Presidency and White House, that launched Reagan into the Governor’s Mansion and the Executive Mansion, and that launched Reagan’s Vice President into the Oval Office, would have turned a deep and permanent shade of blue— never to revert again. Conservatives will of course still be able to win in Virginia for the time being, but as the visa gusher continues, it will become a steeper and steeper climb.
Today, the only reason Republican presidential campaigns go to California is not to rally voters but to meet with Los Angeles donors and Silicon Valley tycoons.
Conservative columnist Ann Coulter illustrated: “In 1980, Reagan won the biggest electoral landslide in history against an incumbent president, Jimmy Carter. Without the last 40 years of immigration, in 2012, Mitt Romney would have won a bigger landslide than Reagan did. He got more of the ‘Reagan coalition’ than Reagan did.”
In a separate article, Byron York explained that Romney’s problem was not so much his inability to make inroads with Hispanic voters, but paradoxically his inability to appeal to white, blue-collar workers:
Romney would have had to win 73 percent of the Hispanic vote to prevail in 2012. Which suggests that Romney, and Republicans, had bigger problems than Hispanic voters. The most serious of those problems was that Romney was not able to connect with white voters who were so turned off by the campaign that they abandoned the GOP and in many cases stayed away from the polls altogether. Recent reports suggest as many as 5 million white voters simply stayed home on Election Day. If they had voted at the same rate they did in 2004, even with the demographic changes since then, Romney would have won…an improvement of 4 points [amongst the white vote] would have won the race for Romney.
Conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly published a report last year about the impact of green cards and concluded: “Limit immigration or watch conservative efforts become irrelevant.” In her work, Schlafly emphasized that these changes were less about whether the two-party system would survive, but more about whether the Republican Party could continue on as a party of limited government with an immigration policy that was bringing in millions of big-government voters. Echoing Schlafly, immigration activist Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) threatened to convert green cards into Democratic votes on the House floor only days ago.
Nonetheless, as the tidal flood of green cards remakes the electoral map, Republican officeholders continue to bow to donors’ demands for ever-more foreign visas. None of the top polling GOP candidates– except for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker– has even suggested a willingness to reduce the number of visas issued each year by the federal government. Polling shows that a call for such reductions would present a winning populist issues for Republican candidates.
In fact, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a favorite politician of both media and donors, partnered with Arizona’s John McCain and New York’s ((((((Chuck Schumer)))))) on their proposal to triple green cards. There are currently more than 30 million permanent immigrants inside the U.S who are here on green cards or have already converted their green cards into citizenship: the Gang of Eight’s program would have added another 30 million green card holders in the span of one decade. In interviews, Rubio described these immigration expansions euphemistically. He told Rush Limbaugh in 2013 that “our legal immigration system needs to be reformed.” He told ((((((Mark Levin)))))) in 2013 that “legal immigration is good for America.” He told Sean Hannity in 2014 that he wanted to “modernize our immigration system.” Rubio did not tell Limbaugh, ((((((Levin)))))), or Hannity that he wanted to permanently resettle more than 30 million foreign citizens inside the United States within one decade. Rubio was not asked why waves of unskilled immigration from poor countries like El Salvador would be “good for America” as long as these intending migrants were printed green cards on their way into the United States.
Federal government spending is also “legal,” but most conservatives would like to see much of it reduced or eliminated entirely.
Rubio has never wavered or altered his stand for exploding net immigration levels. In fact, Rubio recently introduced legislation known as the Immigration Innovation Act – or I-Squared – which would triple wage-depressing H-1B visas and remove university green card caps. The latter Rubio policy would take the current existing policy of importing 100,000 permanent immigrants from the Middle East, and grow it significantly.
The media has already coined a term to describe the different landscape emerging as a result of immigration. The National Journal news site, for instance, has created a vertical entitled, “The Next America,” which the site describes as an “initiative” intended to document “the political, economic and social impacts of profound racial and cultural change facing our nation.” The White House has named its naturalization initiative “The New Americans Project”.
Or, to borrow Senator Rubio’s campaign slogan, “A New American Century.”