I've thought long and hard, but I cannot think of an issue that conservatives handle more stupidly than immigration. Have any suggestions? I'm certainly no expert, but this is what I think about it.
If there's one thing conservatives hate hate hate (leaving peoples out of it), it's the minimum wage. They want wages to clear at the point the invisible hand deems appropriate to lower the cost of doing business. The last thing they want is the potential for upward social mobility as that would be a key to preventing neo-feudalism from taking hold. Heck, John Galt would despise the minimum wage as it is rather unbootstrappy.
Well, let us imagine for a moment that the millions of undocumented workers in this country magically became citizens (not that anyone is proposing this, but for illustrative purposes). Once they stopped beheading law abiding citizens, they would become eligible for the minimum wage which is greater than that which they had been paid previously. The result would be a dramatic hit to bottom lines. Assume, for instance, that the net increase in wages and benefits would be $1 per hour (which is unrealistically low) and the average undocumented laborer works for 40 hours per week and 50 weeks per year. Further, assume there are 5 million workers who would be effected. The result is $10 billion in increased costs to business. I believe this number is significantly low and the actual effect would be much greater. Regardless, this situation would make some powerful people awfully angry, as well as consumers who would see higher prices for produce and other products. And such a result would be some powerful ammunition against the minimum wage.
On the other hand, increasing the legal, recognized, tax paying labor force would change dramatically the demographics of the country, alleviating some of problems facing another favorite foe of conservatives, Social Security. Whipping teahadists into a racial frenzy is quite the paradox for conservatives, then. I think it comes down to what is easy. Courting the Latino vote is more difficult than riding the racial frenzy into office in the near term. Attacking the minimum wage can wait until after they insert more regressive taxes that will push the working class into poverty anyway. Am I the only one excited for the 112th Congress to start already?