International Herald Tribune Editorial - Bush's immigration realism
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: December 21, 2006
Every now and then the American public gets a glimpse of the George W. Bush who is a calm realist on immigration, a former governor of a border state who knows, likes and understands Hispanic immigrants. It's an identity sharply at odds with that of many other members of his Republican Party.
At his news conference Wednesday, Bush commented on the raids at Swift & Co., the meatpacking giant that, to nobody's surprise, seems to have had hundreds of illegal immigrants with forged papers on its low-skill work force. Bush did not condemn the detainees as border-crossing evildoers. He spoke with startling tolerance.
"The system we have in place has caused people to rely upon smugglers and forgers in order to do work Americans aren't doing," Bush said. "It is a system that, frankly, leads to inhumane treatment of people." He continued: "The best way to deal with an issue that Americans agree on — that we ought to enforce our borders in a humane way — is we've got to have a comprehensive bill."
Bush understands that many illegal immigrants are doing what they have to do to support families within a system that offers few routes to lawful entry. He understands that giving immigrants the opportunity to earn an honest foothold in America — the path to citizenship despised by restrictionists as "amnesty" — is not giving a reward to criminals. It is an attempt to fix a system that draws in millions of illegal immigrants each year, taking their labor but withholding hope.
Bush has shown a way to move the debate away from the "amnesty" trap by casting reform as a means to end an abusive system. It may sound shocking to say that illegal immigrants deserve better. But as long as America keeps swallowing them up into a broken, unjust system, they do.