Likewise, while the Senate bill passed in the last Congress set out a road to citizenship for those who have entered illegally, many anti-reform critics cannot abide by the notion that those who broke the law would get citizenship and the right to vote. They’d prefer something along these lines: “The first step in obtaining that status would be to plead guilty to having committed the crime of illegal entry, and to receive an appropriate punishment consisting of fines and/or community service. . . . Permanent residency in this context, however, should not lead to citizenship. It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences — in this case, that those who violated the laws can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship.”
If so, they should consider voting for Jeb Bush, who co-authored both of those statements with Clint Bolick in Chapter 1 of his book “Immigration Wars.”
The combination of laziness and anti-Bush sentiment has led to widespread misunderstanding about Jeb Bush’s views on immigration, which, at least in his book, are much more stringent than the Senate bill championed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and others.
Bush and Bolick advance the view that we do need immigrants to fuel a dynamic economy. But they do not favor “amnesty” or “open borders” and their preferred reforms are more modest than Bush’s critics would ever let on. Bush favors a greater role for states, including voter ID laws (“states should be allowed to protect the integrity of the franchise with voter identification laws, which are supported by a large majority of Americans, including Hispanics. So long as states make it simple for citizens to obtain such forms of identification, they should have the latitude to require such identification for voting or to secure welfare benefits”).
Bush wants to rejigger the immigration system to stress economic demand, rather than perpetuate “chain migration” that extends with each generation to more distantly related relatives: “Based on current numbers, we estimate that under the new policy, family preference admissions would comprise about 350,000 immigrants annually and refugees would continue to amount to 100,000 annually. Even without an increase in current immigration numbers, that would leave about 550,000 spots for regular and work-based immigrants.” He would divide those between high-skilled workers and guest workers. These people could eventually qualify for green cards and later for citizenship, not by sneaking over the border but by following the law.
Bush would increase slots for foreign students who graduate with STEM degrees and for entrepreneurs willing to invest and create start-up companies.
As for those here illegally, Bush would allow those brought here illegally as minors to seek citizenship but only if they graduate high school or obtain a GED (or volunteer for military service), have lived here five years and have not committed crimes. For adults he would offer only legalization and only after pleading guilty and completing whatever punishment is assigned. They also would need to pay back taxes, learn English and have a clean criminal record.
Any finally, he thinks the citizenship tests are too lenient (answered six of 10 questions correctly gets you a passing grade) so he wants them substantially upgraded.
Those opposed to any sort of legalization or who, contrary to reams of data, think immigrants are a drain on the economy, won’t like Bush’s plan. Although he proposes a slew of border security measures including enhanced efforts to combat drug cartels and weapons traffickers (using the National Guard if need be), biometric ID to track immigrants and root out those who overstay visas, and workplace verification systems, anti-immigration fanatics will no doubt find any plan insufficient. Nevertheless, the notion that he is uninterested in border security or indifferent to the number of immigrants entering the country is false, at least if he adheres to the views in his book released less than two years ago. (His co-autor Bolick reiterates the main components of Bush’s approach in an op-ed today, suggesting that Bush is indeed still on board with these tough-minded proposals.)
The right-wing and even the mainstream media are convinced that Bush is far more lenient on immigration than he appears to be. If he wants to provide assurance to those for whom immigration is a key issue (it actually rates low on the scale of priorities for many) he will need to explain his views over and over again. Some will find them too limited (I would favor a path to citizenship, albeit slow and arduous, for adults who came here illegally) and some will be convinced he’s secretly planning to flood the country with immigrants pining for welfare benefits. Both sides may be surprised to learn he is somewhere in the middle — not too different from other GOP candidates (with the exception of staunch anti-immigration-reformer Sen. Ted Cruz). Critics and supporters should, in any event, be honest about what proposals he favors.