Another Republican politician pushing for immigration reform? Yes, please.
At Friday's Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference in Washington, several Republican politicians gave speeches on how to win the country back from the hands of the Democrats. Many threw out the idea that it was crucial to provide candidates and a platform that attracted minorities, particularly immigrant voters.
Among those immigrant groups, the Hispanic voting bloc is the fastest-growing and played an influential role in securing the presidency for Obama not once, but twice. A political issue incredibly salient to them, immigration reform, is already being debated in the Senate and fast approaching the House of Representatives. If the hostile House refuses to make any progress with the bill, tacitly indicating a preference for the current broken immigration system, Hispanics will almost surely interpret it as "anti-Hispanic GOP bigotry." That's something the Republican party really cannot afford.
So it was with a sound political mind that Florida's former Republican governor Jeb Bush spoke out at the "Road to Majority" conference in favor of the comprehensive immigration reform bill circulating in Congress.
Despite the fact that he was speaking to an audience that was likely entirely against his view on the matter (and indeed, the applause he received was tepid at best), Bush praised the various benefits that immigrants bring to the U.S., a fact Republican politicians often ignore. Calling them an "engine of economic prosperity," Bush stated that immigrants are often incredibly hard-working and start many new businesses. He added that they would add to the base of the labor pyramid, balance the U.S.' aging population, and help pay for the costs of Social Security and Medicare. He also declared that the immigrant culture was a boon to the U.S. that would make it competitive beyond other nations facing similar aging issues, like Japan.
Unfortunately, Bush also made a rather awkward political gaffe in between these phrases, as Republican politicians often do when talking about minorities. One of his phrases struck a wrong chord with many citizens: "Immigrants are more fertile."
Ignoring the scientific reason why that statement is wrong (immigrants are not more fertile or able to conceive more easily, they just have higher birth rates), some have taken offense to the wording, stating that it treats immigrants as objects and not people, putting them on the same level as, say, cattle. For my part, I see the offensiveness of that wording, and I strongly agree that Bush should learn to be a little more careful with his speeches, particularly if he really does plan to run for the presidential office. But it really seems like more of a misstep to me than an indication of his worldview, particularly in the context of the entire speech.
And at the end of the day, the bigger issue here is that Bush is joining his fellow Republican politicians on the GOP side of the Gang of Eight and Senator Kelly Ayotte to step away from the party line in the interests of Americans as a whole. That's worth a political gaffe or two. Let's keep this ball rolling, GOP!