Former Florida governor Jeb Bush is urging Congress not to use the current crisis on the southwestern border as an "excuse" for not passing comprehensive immigration reform.
Bush and Clint Bolick, co-authors of a 2013 book on immigration, write in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Wednesday evening that surge of Central American children crossing the border illegally should not be a reason for House Republicans to refuse to pass immigration reform.
The two also recommend that most of the unaccompanied children who have entered the United States be returned home.
"President Obama has promised to once again act unilaterally if Congress fails to take up immigration reform. Now is the time for House Republicans to demonstrate leadership on this issue," they write. "Congress should not use the present crisis as an excuse to defer comprehensive immigration reform. Whether President Obama is making health-care policy by fiat or using the Environmental Protection Agency to circumvent the lawmaking process, we have too often seen what happens when the president oversteps his constitutional authority. Avoiding similar disastrous results will require legislative action by both parties."
The Democratic-controlled Senate passed a sweeping reform bill last year that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But the Republican-controlled House has not taken up the bill or brought its own version to a vote.
Authorities have apprehended tens of thousands of children at the border in recent months. Bush and Bolick say the vast majority of them must be returned to their home countries.
"We must close loopholes that allow for individuals to be released from federal custody between hearings," they write. "Except for those deserving few who may demonstrate true cause for asylum or protection from sex trafficking, these children must be returned to their homes in Central America."
Obama, Bush and Bolick write, "has failed to call for a change in the law, to engage across party lines or to take sufficient steps to keep more children from coming." They laud congressional congressional Republicans for introducing a measure to allow for their immediate return to their native countries.
Bush, a potential 2016 candidate for president, has irked some conservatives with his position on immigration. He said earlier this year that many people who illegally come to the United States do so out of an "act of love" for their families and that doing so should be treated as a "different kind of crime."