At a time when Republicans have Democrats playing defense on Obamacare, jobs and the economy, the GOP is inexplicably ceding political ground to the Democrats on an issue that can only provide more votes for that party and possibly lead to a permanent Democratic majority.
Meeting in Cambridge, Md., last weekend for what they called -- with no little irony -- a "retreat," Republican leaders signaled they are open to considering some sort of legal status for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants who have overstayed their visas or violated American law to get here.
But exactly who are the illegals? According to a study conducted by the Urban Institute, "Mexicans make up over half of illegal immigrants -- 57 percent of the total, or about 5.3 million. Another 2.2 million (23 percent) are from other Latin American countries. About 10 percent are from Asia, 5 percent from Europe and Canada, and 5 percent from the rest of the world."
Republicans have convinced themselves that Hispanics are a "natural" constituency for their party because they are hard workers, religious and family-oriented. Statistics from the Pew Research Center suggest the opposite may be true.
According to Pew, 53 percent of babies born to Hispanic immigrants are to single mothers, about twice the rate of whites. As for Republican "family values," Pew found a majority of Hispanics, 53 percent, support same-sex marriage. As a great many illegals are poor, their strain on the welfare, health care and education systems is considerable.
In a recent column, Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative political analyst, cited an American National Election Study that asked Hispanics their views about the free market vs. big government solutions to problems. Schlafly noted, "Only 17.9 percent of Hispanics responded 'the less government the better,' and 85.3 percent said 'a strong government involvement is required to handle economic problems.'"
This is not the profile of a future Republican voter.
The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) says illegals now make up 3.5 percent of the U.S. population, or about 10.5 million people. According to CIS, "Nationally, illegal immigrants and their U.S.-born children account for 9.9 percent of all persons in poverty, compared to their 4.9 percent share of (the) nation's total population."
With lower incomes, illegals rely more on welfare programs. CIS says in Texas, "58 percent of illegal households collect some sort of welfare," with "49 percent using food assistance and 41 percent using Medicaid." In California and Illinois, reports CIS, "55 percent use welfare."
California, which has the largest number of illegal aliens, predictably has the greatest burden. In Los Angeles County alone, according to a CBS Los Angeles report, welfare and other benefits by the end of last year cost an estimated $650 million just for the native-born children of illegal immigrant parents. L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich told CBS Los Angeles: "When you add the $550 million for public safety and nearly $500 million for health care, the total cost for illegal immigrants to county taxpayers exceeds $1.6 billion a year."
Hospital closings in California remain a major concern. As The Washington Examiner reported recently in a story about the economic burden to taxpayers posed by illegal immigrants, "In 2003, the American Southwest saw 77 hospitals enter bankruptcy due to unpaid medical bills incurred by illegal aliens."
This country needs comprehensive immigration reform, whether that means maintaining a secure border or outlining a standard of economic sustainability for immigrants. Taxpayers cannot continue to bear the economic burden of illegal immigration. The Obama administration has promised immigration reform; the Republican Party has promised it, but partisanship and politics keep both sides miles apart. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) remains skeptical that any immigration measure will pass the GOP-led house this year, claiming that a distrust of the president runs deep with Republicans. And while both sides dither, the taxpayer continues to pay ... and our schools, hospitals and welfare system continue to sag under the weight of millions of illegal immigrants who chose not to take the legal route to citizenship.
If Republicans fail to come up with a workable immigration plan, they will simultaneously help Democrats who rely on the Hispanic vote and lose Republican votes. As Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz told Breitbart News, they could also fail to achieve their major goal for 2014: winning a Senate majority.
Readers may e-mail Cal Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.