Ford's impolitic comments obscure a hidden truth 

When Right Positions Get Said Wrongly

Robert Ford was right. You are more likely to find Hispanic immigrants working these days in a majority of the lower-wage jobs than you are likely to find African Americans. The sheer number of Hispanics working in the United States bear out his point.

In 2008, Hispanics totaled about 12.5 percent of the United States population, making them the country's largest minority group. The current growth rate of the Hispanic workforce is four times that of the non-Hispanic workforce in the U.S. According to the National Poverty Center, the low-skilled, low-wage workforce is increasingly Hispanic, driven mainly by the large influx of immigrants with low levels of educational attainment. In 1980, 14 percent of male workers who were high school dropouts were Hispanic, and by 2000, the number was 44 percent. One could surmise that the percentage is even higher 11 years later.

Given the factual accuracy behind Ford's comments, it is fair to wonder if the political incorrectness of Ford's statements was the only reason this story received as much attention as it did. Republican state Sen. Tom Davis of Beaufort deserves the credit — or blame — for publicizing Sen. Ford's comments, which Davis posted to Twitter following a senate committee meeting on immigration. Ford was speaking against the stricter proposed legislation, which is very similar to a controversial law recently passed in Arizona, while Davis was one of the bill's primary sponsors. Davis also published an article in July proclaiming that "South Carolina should follow Arizona's lead on immigration." It would not be difficult to conclude that politics played a part in Davis' choice to broadcast Ford's statements on both Facebook and Twitter, as much as any compassion for the ethnic groups to which Ford referred.

Consider the legislation that Davis supports. If passed, it would do more to repel Hispanics from the Palmetto State than Ford's comments ever could. States that have enacted stringent anti-immigration laws have tended to see a mass exodus of their Hispanic residents. According to one study, Arizona saw an 18 percent decline in its undocumented Hispanic population after its anti-immigration law was passed in 2009. In 2000, South Carolina already ranked 38th out of the 50 states in terms of its Hispanic population. A strict immigration law in the state would likely reduce the Hispanic population even further.

The import of this statistic is that in 2008, eight of the top 10 states in terms of its Hispanic population went Democratic in the presidential election. In states such as Nevada, Colorado, and California, the Hispanic vote is widely credited with providing Democrats with the margin of victory on Election Day. Republicans, who are the major proponents of stricter anti-immigration legislation, know all too well that their success in passing these laws could very likely change the voter demographics in their states and, as a result, the outcome of many close elections.

As the immigration topic heats up in state legislatures, look for others to follow Davis' lead — voting for harsh legislation while trying to make Democrats look bad on the same issue. It just so happens in this instance that Ford gave Davis an opportunity he couldn't pass up.

After tweeting about Ford's comment, Sen. Davis said, "Robert Ford is well known for his off-the-cuff humorous comments, but I think in this case, he's wrong. The assumption he is making is somehow white people or African Americans don't work as hard as 'Mexicans' are. I don't think that's true."

Davis may be right about the tenor of Ford's comments, but it does not mean the Republican is also right about the underlying policy.


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