Bush, the younger brother of President Bush, reserved some of his sharpest criticism for conservatives in his own Republican Party, calling it "just plain wrong" to charge illegal immigrants with a felony, as a provision passed by the Republican-led House would do. He also opposed "penalizing the children of illegal immigrants" by denying them U.S. citizenship, an idea backed by some conservatives but not included in the legislation. My wife came here legally, but it hurts her just as it hurts me when people give the perception that all immigrants are bad," the Florida governor wrote in an e-mail exchange with The Times.
President Bush has proposed a guest worker program which would place undocumented aliens in a temporary legal status, which would allow them to live and work in the U.S. A variation of Bush's proposal has been amended into the anti-immigrant bill passed by the GOP-led House by Sen. John McCain and Sen. Edward Kennedy, which includes Bush's guest worker program and which also puts the participants on a legal path to citizenship.
Gov. Bush didn't hide his displeasure towards members of Congress, including those of his own party who are urging punitive measures to be taken against undocumented aliens, the employers who employ them and anyone else who provides aid and assistance to them. The LA Times, quoting Bush, writes:
"The cumulative effect of some politicians pounding their chests about immigration is hurtful to both of us," he wrote, referring to himself and his brother. "I fear they do so for current political gain at the expense of thoughtful policy over the long term."
Gov. Bush reminded us of the disastrous results in California when former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson pursued Proposition 187, which deprived government benefits to undocumented aliens and their families. Although Proposition 187 was approved by California's voters, it was later thrown out by a federal court as unconstitutional. The LA Times writes:
Gov. Bush wrote that Wilson "fell prey" to the short-term political temptations. "I know he felt he was doing the right thing, but matters are worse now and the Republican Party is now the minority party in California," Bush wrote . . . "The focus should be on protecting our borders rather than these piling on provisions that are punitive to many who have made a great contribution to our country," he wrote. "Along with that, the focus should be on a guest worker program and a means to deal with the millions of long term undocumented workers…."Frankly," he added, "I also believe we should open up legal immigration to the qualified scientists, innovators, entrepreneurs and others who can additionally add value to our great country."
Both Bushes have it right on immigration. Coming from two large states, both with large immigrant populations, the Bush brothers appreciate the contributions immigrants, both legal and illegal, provide to our country. The GOP would do well to heed their advice. To follow the course most GOP members of Congress are currently proposing could prove disastrous to the party in key states like Florida and Texas.