Speaking in New York at The Manhattan Institute promoting his recent book “Immigration Wars ,” which he co-wrote with Goldwater Institute president Clint Bolick, former Florida governor Jeb Bush (1999-2007) said that “for this country to succeed we need fundamental immigration reform in such a way as to create a “demand-driven” policy. Bush and Bolick call for giving permanent legal status, but not citizenship. 11 million illegal immigrants are estimated to be inside the U.S. borders. Instead of favoring family reunification, which is current policy, Bush raised the example of Alabama, whose strict crackdown on undocumented immigrants left many industries, such as poultry processing, hurting for workers. “They weren’t getting native-born Americans to do the work,” he said.
Immigrants are also an important source of high tech work, Bush said. Other countries, he and Bolick said, are in fierce competition with the U. S. to lure the best workers from around the world to their nations.
“The 21st century is dramatically different than the 20th and 19th centuries,” Bush said. “For us to be successful, we need to shift to be competitive economically. I don’t think that’s trampling over our immigrant heritage.”
Bush and Bolick said that a pathway to legalization should not be contingent to securing the border first.
“That’s like saying we’re not going to treat the cancer until we get rid of the symptoms,” Bolick said.
Bush said he favors a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors, and who meet a strict set of criteria, including graduating from high school or serving in the military.
In 1970, 70 percent of immigrants came to the U.S. primarily looking for work. Today that figure is 30 percent. “Canada, which 10 percent the population of the U.S., said Bolick, gives more work visas than we do.” The U.S. according to the former governor and Clint Bolick faces a demographic cliff, as do most Western European nations along with Japan, where low fertility rates mean that American isn’t adding enough young new workers to its workforce in numbers sufficient to support retirees to pay for future entitlements such as Social Security. “Other countries have figured out that we are in a immigration war to attract workers—not keep them out, “ said Bolick. “Chile is among those who make a concerted effort to attract immigrant talent. Some are calling it ‘Chilicon Valley’.”
Biometric identification techniques, said Bush are readily available to measure illegals that overstay their visas. (40 percent of current illegal immigrants come to the U.S. legally but overstay their visas. “Ironically President Obama has done more to lower levels of illegal immigrants than the last three Presidents combined,” said Bolick. “He’s increase border security, deported more illegals, and wrecked the economy in such a way that fewer potential immigrants are motivated to risk coming here for work.”
Bush, who is mentioned often as a possible 2016 GOP contender for the presidency, also said he supports having local police work with federal agents to enforce immigration law.