Jeb Bush shook the political landscape in April, 2014 when he drew a distinction between illegal immigration and serious crimes (misdemeanor versus felony).
The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally, they come to our country because their families — the dad who loved their children — was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table.
And they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love.
Anticipating the negative response to any effort to view illegal immigration with a heart of compassion, the former Florida governor preceded his comments with “I’m going to say this, and it’ll be on tape and so be it.”
This recent expression is reminiscent of his interview with Charlie Rose in in June 2012 concerning the need to bring millions of undocumented immigrants out of the shadows.:
“You have to deal with this issue. You can’t ignore it, and so either a path to citizenship, which I would support – and that does put me probably out of the mainstream of most conservatives – or a path to legalization, a path to residency of some kind.”
While Bush has been consistent in his support for giving legal residency to the nation’s undocumented millions, he is less so regarding an ultimate path to citizenship without having to first leave the country. Yet he views his proposal unworkable under current immigration laws and policies.
Those who want to become citizens, Bush says, could go back to their country of origin and apply. “And unlike the current conditions, if you change the … immigration laws, actually people that could come here legally would be able to do so,” he says. “Right now, in effect, we tell people to get in the back of the line, but the line is either so long or it doesn’t exist — I mean, we don’t really have that option. Our proposal … would allow for that option to exist.”
–from summary of March, 2013 interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep
Bush’s change of strategy was a concession to the political realities of his party. While he welcomed the apparent softening of this resistance following the re-election of President Obama, he had not anticipated it, nor the ability of the Senate to pass a bill including a path to citizenship. This put him uncharacteristically to the right of Senators Rubio, Graham, and other Republicans who approved the Senate bill.
Now that the House has refused to bring the bill to the floor, even Senator Rubio seems to have walked away from his own bill.
Referring to his new book Immigration Wars and co-author Clint Bolick , Jeb Bush explained:
And so Clint and I believe that what we’ve proposed is a good, conservative, economically driven, respect-for-the-rule-of-law set of policies that would work, and it’s something that the Republicans could embrace.
It seems clear, however, that the Republican House of Representatives has little interest in embracing anything, rendering moot Governor Bush’s proposals as well as the Senate approved immigration-reform bill.
Governor Bush’s wavering on the “path to citizenship” question may have cost him credibility with the immigrant community which he clearly loves, but it clearly has escaped notice by critics such as House Speaker John Boener.
“Listen, to most people around the world, the United States is utopia, and, frankly, most people in the world want to come here, so I understand what Jeb was saying. … But we’re also a nation of laws. And for those who are here without documents, they’re going to have to face the law at some point.”
— John Boehner on Fox News “The Kelly File” Monday, April 7, 2014
It is well known that Jeb Bush’s family is bi-cultural and bi-lingual. Married to Mexican-born Columba Garnica Gallo whom he met while a foreign-exchange student in her hometown, Jeb Bush speaks Spanish fluently.
The former governor credits his opportunities to live in both Mexico and also Venezuela, and his bi-cultural marriage for a unique insight into immigration issues.
Below is a March, 2013 interview (in Spanish) with Teresa Rodríguez of Univision.
See also Illegal Immigration Not a Capital Crime for further discussion between misdemeanor and felony.