The numbers are in. Both Governor Christie’s falling approval in New Jersey as well as his slimming chance to win the Republican nod in the primaries since the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal are giving rise to a different candidate from the Sunshine State: Governor Jeb Bush.
Governor Jeb Bush has been around the block more than a few times, especially when it comes to education reform. Now, he’s grabbing the media’s attention again with his “provocative” views on immigration.
When Governor Jeb Bush attended his father George H.W. Bush’s 25th Anniversary of his inauguration at his presidential library, he was pretty blunt: he called illegal immigration “an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family… I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime. 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.”
I completely agree with Jeb. In fact, I would extend that statement to all kinds of immigration being an act of love–legal or illegal. My parents moved to America, taking my brother and I with them, because they saw better opportunities for us in Chicago than there were in Buenos Aires, Argentina. My grandparents did the same after World War II by fleeing communist Poland and war-torn Europe for a different continent. That embodies selfless love: risking your lives and futures for the betterment of others.
Even though my family’s process was legal, we should still be mindful of those who cross the border illegally. Those who cross the border risk their own lives by dealing with dangerous natural forces like wild animals and extreme weather. In addition, there are countless recurring crimes that many experience at the border. One of the most disturbing of these is rape: there are many so-called “rape trees” around the border where drug cartels and coyotes hang the underwear of the women they rape. These individuals–legal or not–truly sacrificed themselves for the ones they hope to support by working in America.
However, these sentiments did not sit well with many on the right. Republican Congressman Paul Labrador (R-ID), a key player in immigration reform, called Jeb’s comments “pandering.” The Tea Party branded him as “not a true conservative.” In fact, Mark Skoda, a Memphis talk show host, said that “We don’t need ‘compassionate conservatism.’ Conservatism is compassionate because it is about freedom and restoring individual liberty.”
If Jeb were to declare his candidacy, he would have to do a lot of hard work to persuade the conservative grassroots. But the question remains: should he? Are these so-called “true” conservatives right on immigration?
The facts speak for themselves: the issue here lies not with the immigrants, but rather with the government’s policies and actions–or, in some cases, the lack thereof.
Illegal immigrants are constantly punished and ostracized by both opportunistic politicians and xenophobes for just wanting to work hard in order to send their money back to their struggling families at home (mind you, there are many criminals that do move to the U.S. to flee their authorities at home). According to the World Bank, immigrants send about $120 billion abroad, an amount larger than the economies of Argentina and Iran.
Further, there is no federal institution today that enforces the laws of immigration from the moment that the person crosses the border and gets a job. Sure, the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) make an effort, but the government doesn’t crack down as much as it can or should. Both the food and prison industries profit greatly from illegal immigration as it currently exists. There are strong private interests that influence policy-makers to remain lax on enforcing immigration laws, and it’s clear that lobbyists are working hard on their behalf to maintain our current broken immigration policies.
The media and far right groups should be targeting this tight-knit relationship between the private and public sector. We would deter illegal immigration by stopping these illicit corporate interests from profiting off of others. What we shouldn’t do, however, is punish the countless individuals that live illegally in the U.S. We allowed them to remain here and work here, and it’s hypocritical to profit from them and then punish them for breaking the law.
This is both a systemic and a structural issue. The Obama Administration, despite claims that it has deported record high numbers of illegal immigrants, has made no improvements in that regard. The federal government needs to face the reality of the immigration problem by owning up to the truth: it has caused it, but it can solve it.
If our elected officials would stand together to be better stewards of our nation’s borders, it would itself be an act of love–just like the acts of those who seek to cross our borders every single day.