Fighting for a Conservative Immigration Reform Agenda

Jeb Bush with American voters. / jeb2016.com
Jeb Bush with American voters. / jeb2016.com

Donald Trump has introduced the idea of an immigration system which comes down to the mass deportation of 11 million people at a cost of as much as $600 billion.

Fighting for a Conservative Immigration Reform Agenda

Donald Trump has introduced the idea of an immigration system which comes down to the mass deportation of 11 million people at a cost of as much as $600 billion.

Yesterday, I spent time with local civic, law enforcement and political leaders in the border communities near McAllen, Texas. It was a good discussion and I learned a great deal about the challenges they face. On the border, people know firsthand the realities of our broken immigration system. What they see, every day, is a failure of Washington to competently manage the border. In Washington, they endlessly talk and debate about the flow of drugs and illegal immigrants across the border – but they don’t actually do anything.

I respect everyone who comes to this issue with ideas. But I think it’s fair to ask every candidate the tough questions on the ideas they bring forward. Donald Trump has staked his presidential campaign primarily on the issue of illegal immigration. But rather than offering serious solutions to this national problem, Mr. Trump is pushing a plan that is not conservative, wildly unrealistic and not reflective of our values. If that is the position put forth by our party’s standard bearer, the result will be the election of Hillary Clinton and the continuation of the disastrous economic and foreign policies of Barack Obama.

Donald Trump has introduced the idea of an immigration system which comes down to the mass deportation of 11 million people at a cost of as much as $600 billion, massive new federal powers to step on the civil liberties of ordinary Americans, and a border plan that could be best described as a fantasy.

That plan is not something a small-government conservative would put forward. It requires the federal government to manage the exorbitantly expensive mass deportation of millions of people. It also requires a massive public works project unlike anything we’ve seen since the construction of the Hoover Dam – and the federal government, as you may have noticed, hasn’t been capable of running such a project judiciously of late. I thought we learned our lesson about government projects and ’shovel-ready’ jobs from Obama’s trillion-dollar ‘stimulus.’

What I also heard from local officials in McAllen was that Trump’s plan to punish legal trade and commerce between the U.S. and Mexico would devastate border cities like theirs that depend on it. We need to ensure legal border commerce is protected. We also need to ensure local law enforcement has the resources they need to do their jobs. In fact, we should expand federal partnerships that train state and local police to help enforce immigration laws, particularly in jails and prisons.

I’m not surprised Donald Trump endorsed big government, big budget, anti-free market ideas – that’s how he approaches most issues, from health care to taxes. He’s a big government guy and that’s how big government guys think.

I have actually written a book on the subject on addressing our immigration crisis, and it relies on a different way of thinking. I rely on insights from people who live on the borders – as well as people who deal with the immigration issue in our schools, businesses and communities.

Not surprisingly, I come to different conclusions than Mr. Trump and have put forth the most comprehensive and realistic strategy for dealing with the problem of illegal immigration.

A great nation must secure its borders for national security and public health reasons. We don’t have to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on fencing when we can use new technology, improve the Border Patrol’s access to streams and rivers on the border, beef up our patrols and adopt sensible policies like e-Verify at workplaces across the country.

We must find a practical solution to the status of the 11 million people here illegally today. We need a vigorous path to earned legal status where people are required to learn English, pay a fine and taxes, pass a criminal background check, work and not receive federal government benefits.

This isn’t amnesty. It’s a sensible proposal that can be embraced by people across the political spectrum. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton the politicians in Washington have talked about immigration for 6 and half years but they have no interest in fixing it, only creating a political wedge issue. I will solve this problem, once and for all.

As we continue this debate, I will continue to advocate for my deeply held belief that diversity is one of America’s greatest strengths and that we are a nation of immigrants and should be proud of that tradition. Most of all, we should look at immigration as a way to build up this country. A thoughtful, strategic approach that reflects the values of this nation and that would treat immigration as an economic driver – meeting the needs of our growing economy.

But we’re only going to get there if we listen to leaders like those in McAllen. Donald Trump has different ideas, and this campaign season will showcase this stark contrast. As a deeply committed conservative who has spent my adult life fighting to strengthen the Republican Party and to advance the causes of limited government and individual freedom, I am confident we will choose the path that best meets those missions.

Fighting for a Conservative Immigration Reform Agenda
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