Which GOP Candidate Makes Sense on Immigration?

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Presidential candidates from both sides of the political spectrum have been taking on a very busy agenda these past few weeks, and as expected, the immigration issue is taking over the discussion.

It started with Hillary Clinton’s “policy speech” at a school library in Nevada last week in which she said she was for a path to full and equal citizenship for all undocumented immigrants.  Then, Jeb Bush gave a TV interview Monday on Fox News’ “The Kelly File”, in which he clarified he is for an immigration reform proposal that allows for a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants. The next day, Ted Cruz took to “The Kelly File” and responded to Jeb’s position on the issue, categorizing it as as pro-amnesty and presenting border security as his own main topic of concern.  What we are seeing is an angry dispute between presidential candidates who are desperately trying to convince constituents that their position is the right one on the issue and that once again, on the presidential trail, immigration is and will be a hot-button topic.

And as we analyze each candidate’s position on this topic, we will have to take their words cautiously, since politicians tend to go through an “evolution” process over the course of a campaign. Instead of taking their recent statements as their definite position on the topic, I would suggest that we go back to each candidate’s record and give them points based on their consistency and the results of their actions.

An example of a humorous-but-factual retro-analysis on the immigration topic is what Jon Stewart and his contributor and Senior Latino Correspondent, the irreverently comical Al Madrigal, did in response to Hillary’s proposition of a full and equal citizenship for illegal immigrants.  While the show covers this issue in a satirical way, they were able to contrast Hillary’s “Hispanic pandering” to the rhetoric of the Democratic Party and President Obama in 2008.  Although the President had promised a reform of the immigration system with a path to citizenship during his first run for the White House, he never delivered on his promise.

This highlights an important fact that Republicans need to internalize and act upon: that Democrats are the“Latino champs” of empty promises. The only reason the Latino community favors them is because they pander their way into the Hispanic communities by building castles made of sand that wash away after the election wave passes. If only the Republican Party understood that the Hispanic electorate is predominantly socially conservative and eager to hear ideas and proposals that are sensible to their community needs, the GOP would undoubtedly be much more proactive in coming up with better strategies to communicate and approach Latinos across the nation.

As Stewart and Madrigal point out in their satire, while Cruz is Hispanic, he is missing a great opportunity to relate with his own electorate when he treats all potential immigration reform prospects as pure amnesty. While he may be grounded on his principles, he is not proposing a serious solution on this issue other than further border security.

This is something that Jeb Bush seems to understand pretty well. In his statements on immigration, he has shown consciousness of the over 11 million undocumented immigrants that are in the U.S. in legal limbo and that need to be provided with a real solution to their situation.  As Madrigal comically calls Jeb Bush,“El Jebe” is looking each day more like “El Jefe” on immigration.

Carlos Mercader is Deputy Director of American Principles in Action’s Latino Partnership.