Jennifer Rubin: Presidents don’t always embarrass us when talking about immigration

Jennifer Rubin: Presidents don’t always embarrass us when talking about immigration


There is no issue as representative of the moral and intellectual decline of the Republican Party as immigration. The GOP has gone from the party of economic growth and innovation (for which legal immigration is essential), optimism (not Malthusian economics, which posits every new American uses up scarce resources), inclusion and family values (e.g., keeping immigrant families intact) to the party of xenophobia, lies (terrorists! murderers!), cruelty (child separation, deportation of “dreamers”) and economic illiteracy.

The traditional immigration approach that President Ronald Reagan advocated didn’t evaporate some time in the distant past. President George W. Bush was a fierce advocate of immigration reform, as he and his wife Laura Bush reminded us at a naturalization ceremony on Monday.

“We’re a state that thrives due to the prosperity, ingenuity, transformation, and generosity of immigrants. And we are a much richer state for all the cultures that have settled on our land,” Laura Bush said. “My life has been shaped by this richness. My grandparents were drawn to Texas by the twin promises of opportunity and good health amid the bright sunshine and dry desert air of West Texas.”

She put her own family within the tradition of immigration to Texas.

“The values and dreams that drew our families here to Texas are the same ones that have drawn tens of thousands of others, from around the United States and around the world. And I know that these values and dreams are part of what led each of you on the journey that brought you to this ceremony today.”

Unlike the president, who wants to keep out immigrants from “s—hole” countries to keep America white, she reminded us that new immigrants become just as much a part of America as past immigrants.

“Today’s new citizens represent many cultures and nearly every region of the world, from Asia to the Indian subcontinent, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, South America, and Central America — and our next-door neighbors of Mexico and Canada. It is never an easy path to leave what is familiar and venture into the unknown. Each of you has done just that. And Texas and the United States are better for it.”

President George W. Bush stressed that America is the big beneficiary of immigration. “We have individuals and families from many backgrounds and cultures. … You paid America the high tribute of aspiring to live here, leaving behind familiar ways and places, and accepting a process that everyone knows is not easy. Our country, in return, honored your efforts, and soon we will be honored to call you ‘citizen.’” He explained, “The United States of America is in many ways the most successful of nations. Historically, where immigration is concerned, we are also the most welcoming of nations. And these two facts are related.”

Bush gave voice to what a responsible immigration debate should sound like:

“America’s elected representatives have a duty to regulate who comes in and when. In meeting this responsibility, it helps to remember that America’s immigrant history made us who we are. Amid all the complications of policy, may we never forget that immigration is a blessing and a strength. …

“That [debate] starts with recognizing a plain responsibility at the border — and, in an often chaotic situation, being willing to state the obvious: Borders are not arbitrary and they need to be respected — along with the fine men and women of immigration services and the Border Patrol. Immigration statutes, likewise, reflect the will of the people and the Congress, and must be enforced. And when the laws are outdated and ineffective, they must be rewritten. I hope those responsible in Washington can dial down the rhetoric, put politics aside, and modernize our immigration laws soon.”

He concluded by expressing regret he didn’t achieve his goal of passing immigration reform.

Those sentiments, which echo the foundational creed of America (“All men are created equal…” ) have no place in the Trumpized GOP. On this issue alone, the GOP has lost many of us who subscribed to the believe that free markets, robust immigration and inclusiveness made the secret sauce for American success. A party that rejects the American creed and sneers at its formula for success is unworthy of our support.


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