It is rare, indeed, to find ourselves nodding in agreement with a pronouncement from a politician named Bush.
But when Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, became the first prominent national Republican to speak out against Arizona’s new, draconian immigration law, he reminded us that there was a time not long ago when some of his party’s leaders understood the need for both comprehensive immigration reform and protection of civil liberties.
The Arizona law, a creature of the state’s GOP, is offensive in two ways, one abstract, the other personal. Since, oh, the early-19th century, immigration has been a federal issue in the United States, under the wise assumption that, even when there were fewer states in the union, it would be wrongheaded and impractical for each one to have a different policy and method of enforcement. Guarding its borders is a fundamental obligation of any nation, and Arizona’s decision to go it alone sets a dangerous precedent.
On a personal level, it’s not difficult to imagine the fear created by this law — the fear by anyone resembling an “alien” that, without the proper papers, he or she can be arrested. But there is another fear as well. Many police are concerned that their new job description — enforcer of immigration laws — will distract them from pursuing more serious crime, damage their relationships with the Hispanic community, and invite potential abuse.
“Illegal immigration is complicated, but it can be resolved. And it must be resolved in a way that upholds both our laws and our highest ideals.” That was another Bush, the former president, in his 2008 State of the Union address. What an astonishing turn the Republican Party has made, that such a basic sentiment is now so cruelly disregarded.