In “Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution,” former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) argues that undocumented immigrants shouldn’t be eligible for American citizenship, breaking from the growing bipartisan consensus surrounding reform and contradicting his own position on the issue earlier this year. The book, written with attorney Clint Bolick, will be published on Tuesday.
According to an advanced copy obtained by the Huffington Post’s Elise Foley, Bush writes, “It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences — in this case, that those who violated the law can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship.” “To do otherwise would signal once again that people who circumvent the system can still obtain the full benefits of American citizenship,” Bush adds. He opens a crack in the door for the unauthorized population, however, noting that those who wish to become citizens, must first return to their home country:
“A grant of citizenship is an undeserving reward for conduct that we cannot afford to encourage,” they write. “However, illegal immigrants who wish to become citizens should have the choice of returning to their native countries and applying through normal immigration processes that now would be much more open than before.”
Asking 11 millions undocumented immigrants to leave the country — “three-fifths of whom have lived in the United States for more than a decade” — isn’t only impractical, but could disrupt businesses and economies and create a permanent underclass of Americans.
Unauthorized immigrants would face the choice of remaining in the country without all of the rights and privileges of citizenship or abandoning their jobs, families, and communities to travel back to a native country that they haven’t seen in years. At least 4.5 million native-born U.S.-citizen children who “have at least one unauthorized parent” could be separated from their mother or father.
Bush would allow young DREAM-eligible immigrants to apply for citizenship while remaining in the country, but his stance on the wider population positions the former Florida governor to right of Republicans like Marco Rubio (R-FL), John McCain (R-AZ), and brother George W. Bush — all of whom support a path to earned citizenship. And for good reason: under the bipartisan immigration principles advanced by the Senate and President Obama, undocumented immigrants would have to learn English, pay taxes, and undergo numerous background checks before qualifying for permanent status. As Rubio explains, immigrants who register with the government and receive probationary status “will not be allowed to apply for a green card for a substantial period of time,” waiting “in line behind everyone who has applied before them.”
They would truly have to earn the status and once they did, the economic benefits of naturalization for the nation will be substantial. A naturalized immigrant will earn “between 5.6 percent and 7.2 percent more within two years of becoming a citizen,” boosting consumer spending and overall economic growth. Researchers “found that even if only half of those eligible to become citizens do so, it would add $21 billion to $45 billion to the U.S. economy over 10 years.”
Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick seemed to agree with this idea as recently as January, writing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “A practicable system of work-based immigration for both high-skilled and low-skilled immigrants—a system that will include a path to citizenship—will help us meet workforce needs, prevent exportation of jobs to foreign countries and protect against the exploitation of workers.”