Jeb Bush’s remarks last April on immigration reform were the first remarks made in a long time, by a high ranked GOP politician and at the national level, that showed some measure of sensitivity and real understanding of what immigration really is —at least from a human (not political or legalistic) standpoint. Bush argued that many illegal immigrants come out of an act of love for their families: “It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family …. They are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.”
Emigration is indeed one of the strongest acts of commitment there is. To others, and definitively to oneself; for any emigrant who takes the final leap of faith is seriously trying to better her or his life. It is also an act of courage and, in many cases, a tale of strength and fortitude. The late Samuel Huntington perspicaciously pointed out the special personal character successful emigration entails: “People who more or less voluntarily choose to move from their home country to a different, often distant, country differ from those who do not choose to leave. There is, so to speak, an immigrant culture that many immigrants share and that distinguishes them from their people in their societies who do not emigrate.” In a similar note, speaking of the amount of energy and audacity emigration to the U.S. in general takes, French socialist politician Henri Wéber commented in 2000: “Europeans are Americans who refused to take the boat. We do not take the same risks; we have a need for greater security.”
Unfortunately, mainstream Republicans took Jeb Bush’s remarks as an ideological breach and a break up with the GOP’s stand on illegal immigration. So in a mid-July Wall Street Journal op-ed, Bush put “act of love” behind him and took the unapologetic, hardline Republican position on the recent border crisis. This is especially sad because Bush’s April statement not only acknowledged that any discussion on immigration reform cannot succeed without looking closely at the personal motives of people moving to the United States, but also finally showcased a Republican voice depicting immigration as an act of dedication, of deep moral value—and not just, as very often happens, as simply an illegal enterprise undertaken basically by “criminals,” people “lacking moral decency,” or (as someone said just recently in connection with the border crisis) “disease carrying international gang members.”
References, for those interested:
- Washington Post piece on Jeb Bush’s remarks: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/04/06/jeb-bush-many-illegal-immigrants-come-out-of-an-act-of-love/
- Samuel P. Huntington, Who Are We? The Challenge to America’s National Identity, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004. The quote is taken from p. 189
- French politician Henri Wéber quoted in The Economist, 12 February 2000, p. 12.
- MSNBC piece on Jeb Bush “standing with GOP on border crisis”: http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/jeb-bush-stands-party-border-crisis