Every so often, you hear predictions that progress on bipartisan immigration reform is just around the corner. After all, it’s an issue on which many Republicans are relatively moderate, the Chamber of Commerce types are supportive, and many GOP strategists worry that the party’s current stance is a long-term political disaster. But then the base howls.
Over the weekend, Donald Trump tapped into the Tea Party anger on this issue at the New Hampshire Freedom Summit, an event organized by Americans for Prosperity and Citizens United. The Donald, the clownish pretend presidential candidate, derisively brought up the moderate immigration stance of possible presidential candidate Jeb Bush and sneered at Bush’s statement that immigrants here illegally “broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love.” The crowd erupted into boos.
Obviously, that’s just one speech and just one crowd. But intensity matters, and immigration reform is an issue on which a very vocal block within the GOP base has been able to cow Republican lawmakers (will poor Marco Rubio ever recover?).
Here are Bush’s full remarks, from a little more than a week ago, which will be a landmine in the primaries should he pursue the presidency:
There are means by which we can control our border better than we have. And there should be penalties for breaking the law. But the way I look at this — and I’m going to say this, and it’ll be on tape and so be it. The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally, they come to our country because their families — the dad who loved their children — was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table. And they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.
No room for that kind of sentiment from Rep. Tom Cotton, of course, who toes the Trump/Tea Party line, and will likely try to use this as a wedge issue against Sen. Mark Pryor. Pryor, after some hemming and hawing, voted for the bipartisan immigration reform bill in the Senate that included increased border security, increased legal immigration, and would offer a very long path to citizenship for around 11 million immigrants now in the country illegally.