Plum Line: How Jeb Bush Crystallized the GOP Immigration Dilemma
Greg Sargent has a good analysis of negative Republican reactions to Jeb Bush’s relatively moderate comments about immigration:
The Jeb Bush comments are important precisely because they illuminate the moral and political dilemma for Republicans that underlies this core question.
Speaking to conservative activists in New Hampshire over the weekend, Donald Trump elicited boos when he castigated Bush’s remarks. It’s worth rerunning Bush’s comments, because one of the most important aspects of them has not gotten enough attention — his suggestion that undocumented immigrants might have something valuable to contribute to American society if they are legalized:
“Yes, they broke the law. But it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family…it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families. And the idea that we’re not gonna fix this with comprehensive reform ends up trapping these people when they could make a great contribution for their own families, but also for us….they can make a contribution to our country if we actually organized ourselves in a better way.”
Republicans who have responded to Bush with more nuance than Trump have accepted the former point but not the latter one. Rand Paul said: “People who seek the American dream are not bad people, but that doesn’t mean you can invite the whole world to come.” Ted Cruz responded that we need to be a nation that “welcomes and celebrates legal immigrants,” but that “rule of law matters.”
Neither Paul nor Cruz can accept Bush’s latter point, which is that an acknowledgment of the moral ambiguity surrounding the plight of illegal immigrants should open the door to another realization: Solving this problem in a smart way and integrating the undocumented into society is the best outcome for the country - even if they are, in fact, lawbreakers. For many Republicans, that’s the hard part to accept.