Former Florida Governor and potential Republican presidential nominee Jeb Bush stated his remarks on illegal immigration during a Sunday interview calling unlawful border crossings, “an act of love.” The remarks came during a discourse about the 25th anniversary of his father’s presidency. Notably, Bush stated that those who travel across the border for the survival of their families should be handled in a different fashion than those who overstay visas or illegally cross U.S. borders.
In a time when both Republicans and Democrats are embattled with their respective parties in the attempt to articulate an inclusive policy towards immigration, neither political party has surfaced with a solution. As millions of illegal immigrants have come to work and reside with the borders of the United States without legal status, only the two most polarizing sides of a resolution have come forth, amnesty and condemnation. Insofar as both ideas have been discussed at the political dinner table, neither open a dialogue on those who come to the Promised Land in a search of a better life when running from tyranny and repression.
Fox News anchor Shannon Bream asked Bush about his thoughts on the policy being forged to solve America’s immigration problems. He stated the Senate has made, “a good effort,” in regards to last year’s bipartisan bill that proposed new measures ensuring those who overstay visas to leave the country.
“A great country ought to know where those folks are and politely ask them to leave,” Bush added. A nation that properly targets those who violate immigration law by overstaying their legal welcome, “would restore people’s confidence,” he said referring to the faltering U.S. immigration policy.
He then spoke about the broad nature of targeting those who cross the border unlawfully. Not all who cross the border come to take advantage of the system, not all who traverse oceans, rivers, and mountains come be ill means. “It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family,” Bush stated. The way he sees it is that those who cross do it not because they couldn’t legally, “they come because of their families”, he said. The naturalization process take years to complete – a much longer time than what some have when pressed with harsh economic and political repression.
“They wanted to make sure their family was intact,” Bush explained. He believes that it is a different type of crime to cross in the search for better jobs and living conditions. “They broke the law, but it’s not a felony.” Bush explained that there should undoubtedly be a price to pay for crossing illegally. However, it is not something that should enrage the public that people are coming to the U.S. to provide for their families.
Although he is not the Republican Party’s only proponent of taking a laxer tone on immigration, Bush’s comments unmistakably set him apart from other Republicans who are vying for the 2016 presidential nomination. Even Bush acknowledges that his position on immigration reform could cause him political trouble as he decides whether or not to run in 2016 and create a Bush three-peat in the White House.
Nonetheless, have Bush’s comments on immigration changed the shape of the 2016 race? Currently, it is unclear if he will run. Though, his views shed new light on immigration reform. President Obama has little to alleviate the stressed placed on the U.S. by illegal immigrants – other than deporting them. Such a dramatic growth in the number of deportations have Latino rights groups, namely the National Council of La Raza, calling him the “Deporter-in-Chief”.
Bush has called for Republicans to be more inclusive in their messages towards the Latino community. What he said during the Sunday interview falls in line with that vision. Although his comments are fueled by emotion, Bush could be on to something. Much of the Latino community is also opposed to granting amnesty to those who overstay their visas and have committed felonies while on American soil illegally.
As Republicans set their sights on the Senate later this year and the White House in 2016, opening the debate on immigration to encompass those who support punishing those who overstay their welcome and opening a path to citizenship for those who come under good intentions, an act of love may give Republicans the boost they need for the elections.
By: Alex Lemieux