Jeb Bush implored Republicans to find a new message to sell Americans on the idea of small government. Taking part in a June 12 discussion panel at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC, Bush said immigration reform is essential to recast its limited government mantra and expand the attraction of small government admirers to the GOP. It was broadcast on C-SPAN and also featured former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, also a Republican.
As the former governor of Florida (1999-2007), a state with many Latin American immigrants, Bush said he supports Florida's Republican Senator Marco Rubio's immigration reform bill currently on the floor of the Senate. He said many of the ideas that Rubio incorporated into his bill are also included in "Immigration Wars", a book he co-wrote and published last year.
Both Rubio and Bush believe illegal immigrants should pay a fine for breaking border laws and begin a years-long process to citizenship. Bush believes this allows both Republicans and Democrats to come to a consensus. Like Rubio, Bush also said the requirement for English proficiency is essential to assimilate immigrants into American culture. Although both Rubio and Bush hope to legalize immigrants who broke the law, neither consider the process as amnesty.
The immigration debate is hyper-politicized and risks doom to Republicans, Bush believes. If the GOP does not change the tone of the debate, then the Republicans will lose elections, he said.
President George W. Bush, Jeb Bush's brother, tried to pass immigration reform where members on both sides of the aisle pulled their support as the bill was pushed through Congress. "How do you create an economic strategy and create economic growth? How do we restore our growth and sustain it with an older population?"
“We have to change our policies, they're broken,” said Bush.
Syndicated columnist Ann Coulter wrote a commentary this week saying that Republicans do not need Hispanics to win elections. Said the firebrand Coulter, "Hispanic voters are a small portion of the electorate. They don't want amnesty, and they're hopeless Democrats. So, Republicans have decided the path to victory is to flood the country with lots more of them!" Despite their differences, Coulter and Bush agree that Hispanics do not want amnesty.
Bush believes if a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants were to be written into law, a majority of them will not apply for, if the 1986 amnesty program is an indicator. "I think it totally misreads what the aspirations are for a whole lot of people," Bush said. "They want to come out of the shadows and be treated with dignity and respect -- they don't necessarily want to become citizens ... they want to go back to their families."
Bush said America needs to open the door to economic immigrants, both on the high and low end of the income scale. "Republicans win when we are positive and hopeful and aspirational, and we draw people towards our cause when we do that," he said. "And if we just play the game that we're for less government, that is not aspirational, not very hopeful and not particularly optimistic, and that we could lose."
Bush criticized a report released by the Heritage Foundation concerning immigration, saying that it is flawed because of its “stasis” mentality that gives little credit to the economic benefits rendered the United States by immigration. The canary in the coal mine for Republicans is Asian Americans, said Bush. Many have intact families, high graduation and income rates, yet they supported President Obama’s re-election and his policies.
President George W. Bush, Jeb Bush's brother, tried to pass immigration reform where members on both sides of the aisle pulled their support as the bill was pushed through Congress. President Bush had lobbied hard for the bill, arguing that it did not amount to amnesty for illegal immigrants. Conservative Republicans, and pro-labor Democrats, were tagged with the bill’s fate. The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 was intended to provide a guest-worker program to some 12 million illegal immigrants. However, labor unions, human rights, and some Hispanic pressure groups opposed the guest worker program, claiming that it would create a group of underclass workers without benefits.
Bush is fluent in Spanish. His wife, the former Columbia Garnica Gallo, was born in Mexico. They met while Bush was teaching English in Guanajuato, a state in central Mexico. While governor of Florida, he was greatly popular with Hispanics, as well as other immigrant groups. Also, in his successful bid for the Florida governorship in 1998, he won a record 14 percent of the African-American vote despite his Republican affiliation.
Republican veteran and former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour backed up Bush. "GDP growth is simply productivity multiplied by the number of workers," the avuncular' Barbour said. "Now I wasn’t a math major, but I can figure out that if the number of workers stays the same as it has under this administration… it’s very hard to get the GDP to go up."