The strength of Immigration Wars comes from who wrote it: Two bona fide leaders of the policy & ideas branch of the conservative movement. Gov. Bush and Clint Bolick make the case for immigration reform not for political reasons but as a matter of sound policy that will grow the U.S. economy.
Both Bush and Bolick come to the immigration issue from the real world. Bush is married to a naturalized American, has a naturalized daughter-in-law, and witnessed the positive impacts and the challenges of immigration in Florida as a citizen and as governor. As a young man, Bolick was struck by the work ethic of immigrants he encountered in California and in recent years had a front-row seat for the ugly political battles in Arizona, which prompted him to change his affiliation from Republican to independent. These authors are not academics looking at the issue from a theoretical perspective. At the same time, they understand the politics of the issue and how that has made reform more difficult to achieve.
So it should come as no surprise that their proposals are pragmatic and grounded in reality. The core values: “Immigration is essential to our nation, and immigration policy must be governed by the rule of law.” Keys to the Bush/Bolick proposal are expanding legal paths to immigration and prioritizing skill-based immigration over extended family reunification.
Gov. Bush has been undeservedly criticized for drawing a distinction between providing permanent residency and legal status for those who are currently undocumented and citizenship for the same population. In fact, Bush makes a strong, and politically-aware, case for why this is necessary, both as a matter of fairness to those who have managed to migrate legally and will in the future; and as a matter of politics, to assure those who are skeptical that legalizing today’s undocumented population will just lead to more illegal immigrants down the road.
Immigration Wars doesn’t so much add new arguments to the debate as aggregate the work of others. It is not overly reliant on statistics – the book contains only one graph – but does weave in human stories to illustrate how broken current immigration policy is. The weakest part is a chapter on education reform, an issue that is near and dear to both authors, but is simply off-topic for this book.
The notion that this is some sort of campaign manifesto launching a Bush presidential candidacy is laughable. Missing from the book are any cheap shots or veiled swipes at the Obama administration or partisan blame. Only in the last chapter do the authors talk about the issue as a political imperative for the Republican Party, and even then it comes in the form of a nudge. No, Bush and Bolick wrote this book supporting immigration reform because it’s good policy. They deserve credit for showing political courage and leadership in taking on an important issue when it is unclear that there is much political benefit to themselves for doing so.