During an interview at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Sunday, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) said many undocumented immigrants come into the country out of an “act of love.” The statement was Bush’s latest show of support for comprehensive immigration reform. He previously endorsed the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill.
Bush explained in an interview with Fox News’ Shannon Bream that the priority should be on targeting the 40 percent, or six million, of undocumented immigrants who overstayed their visas because “that would restore people’s confidence.” He expressed his views that immigrants who come into the country without proper authorization are committing a “different kind of crime” because it’s “an act of commitment to your family.” He said:
The Senate bill attests to doing that and it does exactly what you’re saying. which is that the rule of law requires us to be able to — 40 percent of illegal immigrants come with legal visas and they overstay their balance. A great country ought to know where those folks are and politely ask them to leave. Now you’ve cut out 6 million people and if you did that as it occurs, that would restore people’s confidence. There are means by which we can control our border better than we have. There should be penalties for breaking the law.
The way I look at this, someone who comes into our country because they couldn’t come legally, they come into the country because their families. The dad who loves [his] children was worried that [his] children didn’t have food on the table. And they wanted to make sure that their family was intact and they cross the border because they have no other means to work 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 this is a different kind of crime. There should be a price paid. It shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to provide for their families. The idea that we’re not going to fix this, but with comprehensive immigration reform ends up trapping these people when they could make a great contribution for their families, but also for us. I think we need to get beyond the harsh political rhetoric to a better place.
Bush’s “act of love” comment reflects data showing that most U.S. undocumented immigrants are deeply entrenched in American communities. A 2013 Latino Decisions poll shows that 85 percent have U.S. citizen family members. And 62 percent have at least one U.S. born child, while 29 percent have a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. Although anti-immigration politicians have made drug cartel members and violent murderers as the public of undocumented immigrants, the reality is that most immigrants ensnared in the deportation process, have not committed serious crimes. In fact, the top reason for removal proceedings since at least 2011 is illegal reentry, in which noncitizens “unlawfully return after a prior order of removal” — a federal felony punishable by up to two years in prison for people without felony convictions. What’s more, a New York Times analysis found that at least two-thirds of the two million deportation cases “involve people who had committed minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all.”