As he flirts with a 2016 White House run, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has been one of the strongest voices calling on Congress to act on its own to reform the nation’s immigration system. He also has been among the Republicans to offer the most specific solutions.
“The Constitution requires Congress to pass laws, not the president,” Mr. Bush said last month, imploring Congress to act after the election on immigration rather than leave the job to President Obama to carry out through executive action.
Mr. Bush, the son of the 41st president and brother of the 43rd, laid out some of his most detailed ideas this summer as waves of children flooded the border. He argued for a multi-tiered solution to strengthen border security, remove incentives for illegal border crossings and expand legal immigration with a focus on economic growth.
“A chief reason so many people are entering through the back door, so to speak, is that the front door is shut ,” Mr. Bush wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in July co-authored with Clint Bolick. “The best antidote to illegal immigration is a functioning system of legal immigration. We must rebuild one that is economically driven — for example, looking for those whose skills and drive will make a difference — in our national interest and true to our immigrant heritage.”
Mr. Bush also has implored his fellow Republicans to show courage and act on their own, rather than let face a solution imposed by regulatory powers. He has applauded some of the “more pragmatic ideas” that congressional lawmakers have offered and declared in his op-ed that, “Now is the time for House Republicans to demonstrate leadership on this issue.”
Mr. Bush’s voice is particularly influential on the issue because he governed one of the nation’s largest states with one of the largest immigrant populations, and he is respected for offering not just platitudes but concrete ideas for conservatives to rally around.
Among the solutions Mr. Bush has offered over the last year:
•Closing loopholes that allow illegal immigrants to be released from federal custody between hearings.
•Removing the incentives that encourage foreigners to violate U.S. immigration laws and enter the country illegally.
•Carry out interdiction strategies that head off illegal immigration before it gets to the U.S. border, including increased cooperation with Mexico and strategic targeting of human trafficking cartels.
•Expanding legal immigration policy while eliminating “chain migration” resulting from extended family preferences. His ideas include increasing the number of visas for highly skilled workers and expanding the guest worker program.
“Nearly two-thirds of the 1 million lawful immigrants admitted into the U.S. each year do so through family preferences. That means that unless someone seeking to immigrate has a relative in America or can squeeze into the relative handful of available work-related or asylum visas, the only way they can enter is illegally,” he lamented in his op-ed.
Last year, the former Florida governor wrote a book that offered many other specific solutions, including increasing the rights of states to enforce immigration laws and to determine which services must be provided to illegals.
He also has made repeated pitches to start the process of immigration reform with a strong focus on securing the border. He has been an early supporter of allowing the president to use drones, the National Guard and active-duty military troops to enforce and patrol the border and for requiring biometrics in the identification cards of legal immigrants. He also has urged stepped-up enforcement against companies that hire illegals.
Mr. Bush also has waded into the issue of what to do with the millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States. Currently, Mr. Bush does not support a special path to citizenship but said in 2013 he could support a special legal status under which illegal immigrants could declare themselves in the United States and attempt to gain legal residency through various avenues, such as work permits.
Mr. Bush told The Washington Times this week he believes Mr. Obama should defer to Congress on immigration reform to ensure a lasting resolution and to avoid both legal and political conflicts.
“We need a permanent solution passed by Congress that will fix our broken immigration system. It’s in our nation’s best long-term interests,” he told the Times.
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