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Julie Delegal: Jeb Bush tacks right on child-refugee crisis

Two weeks ago Context Florida asked why former Gov. Jeb Bush remained silent while more than 50,000 unaccompanied child-refugees crossed into the United States.

The children fled violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. In those countries, drug cartels battle for power and kill people — children, included — who don’t fall in line with their regimes. Bush has been an advocate for immigrants. He says that for many illegal immigrants, crossing onto U.S. soil is “an act of love.”

 But on July 23, in an op-ed that appeared in the Washington Post, Bush abandoned that advocacy in favor of right-wing partisan politics. Teaming up with Clint Bolick of the conservative Goldwater Institute, Bush framed the crisis not as a failure of governance in these violence-plagued Central American countries, but as our failure.

“It is the latest consequence of the failure of President Obama and Congress to overhaul America’s broken immigration system,” he and Bolick wrote.

 Notably, under the Wilberforce Act that was signed by President George W. Bush in 2008, the children’s presence here is legal.

 Jeb Bush and Bolick contend the opposite. They then go on to reject Obama’s proposal to deal with the here and now: tens of thousands of children who are guaranteed immigration hearings by law.  The president has asked for $3.7 billion to ensure the rights and safety of the child-refugees while strengthening security at our border. Bush and Bolick favor the Republican-proposed measures instead  — all of which ignore the children who need our attention now.

Among the Republican suggestions: Change the 2008 law that protects these children; send in the National Guard; create specific, new visa opportunities for other people who want to flee the three Central American nations.

These options need not conflict with what the president is proposing. The only reason we can’t both handle the refugees and address the future of immigration is partisan politics.

Instead of taking the lead in forging compromise, though, Bush takes the path of least partisan resistance. He exalts Republican solutions and blames the president for not joining them in ignoring the most pressing issues — the more than 50,000 pressing issues. Bush is blaming the umbrella for the rainstorm.

But what did we expect from the younger son of the kinder, gentler president? Statesmanship? Leadership? Before the 2016 Republican presidential primary? Not a chance.

Not when the GOP is still kowtowing to the most extreme ideologues in their party.  The GOP-drawn maps, like the one that was just declared unconstitutional in Florida, ensure the “safe districts” that drown out the voices of moderates in Congress. Safe districts translate into wins for extremists during the primary, since partisan candidates never have to face truly competitive general elections.

Gerrymandering has polarized our electorate, polarized our Congress, and paralyzed our government.  But, instead of standing up and saying “enough,” the would-be, moderate GOP leader essentially pays fealty to the obstructionists, bowing to the politics of gridlock.

Bush and his co-writer even refer to the possibility that President Obama, in the face of congressional inaction, will issue an executive order regarding the child-refugees. The authors have sounded the dog whistle, encouraging already-salivating congressional Republicans to plan impeachment proceedings against the president.

Was it silly to expect anything better from Bush? The words of a veteran, dyed-in-the-wool conservative columnist tell me it wasn’t.

 On a CNN talk show, George Will said what Jeb Bush should have said.

 “We should say to these children, ‘Welcome to America. You’re going to go to school and get a job and become Americans.’ We have 3,141 counties in this country. That would be 20 [children] per county. The idea that we can’t assimilate these 8-year-old ‘criminals’ with teddy bears is preposterous.”

 Bush has stepped to the right on the immigration issue, ceding his authority as a moderate. Are there any Republican presidential contenders who have the courage to do otherwise?

Julie Delegal, a University of Florida alumna, is a contributor for Folio Weekly, Jacksonville’s alternative weekly, and writes for the family business, Delegal Law Offices. She lives in Jacksonville. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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