April 11, 2014 – In Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, we finally have a Republican who recognizes that illegal immigration can be a highly moral act.
He recently said that “Someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally, they come to our country because their families -- the dad who loved their children -- was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table. And they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. 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. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime that 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.”
He is right on the mark! Jeb’s views are a sharp and welcomed contrast to the morally misplaced anger aimed by so many Republicans at immigrants for “breaking the law” by coming here illegally. After all, the mere act of illegally entering the U.S. does not limit the liberty of American citizens nor does it initiate the use of force or fraud against anyone. So why such venom directed at these such immigrants?
In my book The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win? I make points like Jeb’s and expand upon them like so:
Most illegals come to America to live better lives and prosper through their own efforts.
American laws and government bureaucracy—usually loathed by Republicans—make it almost impossible for hardworking immigrants to come here legally.
Would-be immigrants who simply ignore red tape that would damn them and their families to poverty and who come to America illegally to work for a better life are doing the morally right thing! They are manifesting the best of the American spirit.
Republicans should welcome Jeb’s remarks because the GOP is facing demographic disaster. Mitt Romney received 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012, down from 31 percent for McCain; Jeb’s brother, George W. Bush, got 44 percent in 2004.
Hispanics are a fast-growing portion of the population. Today nearly 17 percent of the nation’s citizens are Hispanic, with 30 percent projected by 2050.
And Hispanic citizens see the anger directed by many Republicans at illegal Hispanic immigrants as a manifestation of bigotry. It is not enough for Republicans to trot out elected officials with Hispanic names to try to show that they are not anti-Hispanic.
It is necessary for Republicans to point out, as a growing number of them do, that immigrants as well as Hispanic citizens have everything to gain from free markets and limited government. They should call on Hispanics to take pride in running their own lives rather than relying on government.
But it is even more important for Republicans to do the right thing, to seize the moral high ground, and to make a moral appeal to Hispanic voters, one that recognizes their right to live where they choose. While honest individuals can debate the best way to deal with illegal immigrants already in this country, Jeb Bush’s views provide just the right foundation for this debate.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
For further information:
*Edward Hudgins, The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win? February 2014.
*Edward Hudgins, “ Immigration, Liberty, And The American Character. ” The New Individualist, Summer 2006.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.