Republicans and Immigration

April 2, 2015 8:31 am
by David Jakeman

As any good Kennewick immigration attorney who pays attention to national politics could tell you, the national Republican and Democratic primaries are the time to shore up your base if you’re a presidential candidate. The time before the primaries is not too different either. So what will we see from presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, who has long been at the forefront of the Republican side for immigration reform?

Bush on Immigration

If the recent CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) meeting is any indicator, it looks like Bush will not be backing down from his advocacy of immigration reform. Instead of running to the right, Bush appears to be holding his ground, even if it seems that the Republicans around him are fleeing to harsher stances on immigration.

It hasn’t helped Bush that President Obama’s executive action has made the topic of immigration poisonous for those in the Republican Party. The party that has staunchly opposed much of Obama’s policies sees little value in Republicans who appear to be on his side. But that did not stop Bush from continuing his support for comprehensive immigration reform.

Bush’s Reasoning

At the CPAC conference, Bush characterized himself as a “reform-minded conservative.” Bush also has to run away from the legacy of his brother, President George W. Bush, who served as President of the United States before President Obama. Perhaps Bush’s stance on immigration is a way of distinguishing himself as a more moderate Republican.

That is not to say that his brother George W. Bush was hostile to the immigrant community. It is more recent political climate developments under the Obama administration that have made it difficult for Republicans who had previously favored a softer approach. But Bush is distinguishing himself from the Republican field, arguing that Republican approaches to the immigrant community are unwise and unkind.

Bush’s Plan

While Bush argued that Obama should not have issued an executive action to provide protections without going through Congress, he did argue that the deportation of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States was not a rational plan. Instead, Bush envisions a path towards citizenship that favors those who work and don’t break the law. He hopes to ensure that those immigrants who work hard to integrate and contribute to society have a way forward.

Bush faced boos for his positions as well as questions about his actions as governor in Florida, where he advocated letting undocumented immigrants have in-state tuition and driver’s licenses. But Bush stuck to his guns. It remains to be seen whether or not Bush’s position will hurt him as he seeks the Republican nomination.1

It will obviously be a plus for him if he is able to make it beyond the Republican primary, with a majority of U.S. voters supporting some type of immigration reform. Only time will tell if this will be a deciding factor in whether or not Bush gets the nomination. One thing is for certain: most immigration attorneys will be watching with interest to see how it plays out.