Some Republicans may oppose former Florida governor Jeb Bush as the party's 2016 presidential nominee primarily because he recently referred to illegal immigration as an "act of love." But Bush was right.
Here is what he said, in context: "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. It's an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn't rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families."
Maybe he could have been more artful, but Bush merely acknowledged the undeniable reality that people in poverty or other desperate situations elsewhere will try to come to America for the sake of their families. Most of us would do the same thing, just as our ancestors did, making America great in the process.
Wall Street Journal commentator and former Ronald Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan gave Bush political points, too. "I thought of how I would experience his comments if I were here illegally or had a family member who was," said Noonan. "I'd appreciate it, a lot. I'd hear what he said as a signal of empathy and understanding. I'd think he was saying 'have a heart,' which is what Rick Perry said in 2012. And that's not the worst thing a Republican could say right now, is it?"
So instead of getting riled up at immigrants seeking better lives for their families, we should be riled up at our federal government and political leaders for failing to deal with the problem that illegal immigration has created for the country. Instead of merely criticizing the status quo, or demanding more deportations, or relying on self-deportation as a result of stricter enforcement, as some Republicans do, Bush has offered specific proposals.
Bush boldly wrote a book, Immigration Wars, with Clint Bolick. Their sensible ideas reflect a belief that there need not be conflict between enforcing our laws and being sensitive to the immigrant experience.
Like most other Republicans, Bush calls for more border security, including use of the military. He would also tighten enforcement to deter employers from hiring illegals, thereby reducing the incentive for illegal immigration, and use microchips and biometric data to cut down on visa overstays.
Illegals already here would get legal status, but not citizenship, except for children brought to America by their parents who could get citizenship upon meeting certain requirements. States and localities would have more power over services to immigrants and enforcement of immigration law.
Bush calls for fewer visas for extended family of legal immigrants, expanding work-based visas, replacing diversity-based visas with a fairer system, and granting more visas for science and technology experts, students, and entrepreneurs. He advocates a guest worker program with a citizenship pathway.
The fact that Bush's wife of 40 years, Columba, is Mexican-American no doubt influences his opinion that America should view immigration reform "not as a problem, but as a huge opportunity." It is, especially in a nation that needs new dynamism and population growth.
Another issue on which Bush bucks some in his party is the Common Core academic standards. In the "act of love" interview he also reaffirmed his commitment to the voluntary, state-developed Common Core standards that are controversial with some conservatives. "I just don't feel compelled to run for cover, when I feel like this is the right thing to do for our country," Bush said.
Bush backs entitlement reform, repeal of Obamacare, and other orthodox conservative Republican positions, but he obviously has the guts to go against the GOP grain, too. That might make getting the nomination more difficult, but is a pretty good quality for a general election candidate (and a president) to have.
Democratic strategist James Carville says Republicans, who have lost the popular vote in five of the last six elections, risk extinction with another such loss in 2016. Carville could be right.
There may be good reasons why Jeb Bush should not be the 2016 Republican presidential standard-bearer, but his immigration and Common Core positions are not among them. If Bush decides to run and presents the best chance of beating Democrat Hillary Clinton, the Republican Party should unreservedly rally around him.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com.
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