The unwillingness of Americans to even consider compromise on the hot-button issue of immigration is tearing our nation apart. Many on the left vigorously oppose scuttling reunification of families as a primary justification for granting immigration. Many on the right condemn what they call “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, even when punitive measures are clearly applied. One group is so maniacal lately it has signaled a willingness to throw the U.S. Constitution under the bus to fund a border wall.
How reassuring then to see former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush participate this week in a naturalization ceremony in which 49 individuals from 22 countries became U.S. citizens at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas. Patriotism and optimism imbued the affair. The former president kept spirits high, humorously noting that “not only are you becoming an American but, as Laura mentioned, you’re a Texan — and if you walk out of here with a little extra attitude in your step, it shows the culture is taking hold.”
A couple of years ago, we published a wonderful column by University of St. Thomas School of Law professor Mark Osler, formerly on the faculty at Baylor Law School, about the joys of naturalization ceremonies. You can’t help smiling at new citizens who, in efforts to become full-fledged citizens, not only have left behind all they know but probably know more about U.S. history and civics than many of us. The former president clearly enjoyed all the pomp, expressing hopes that politicians in Washington “can dial down the rhetoric, put politics aside and modernize our immigration laws.”
As the Dallas Morning News reports, there’s good reason for Texans to embrace the former president’s can-do attitude. Last month more than 50 companies and chambers of commerce formed the Texans for Economic Growth Coalition to press state and federal lawmakers for common-sense laws to bolster businesses relying on immigrant labor. The Migration Policy Institute reports that in 2017 more than 40 percent of labor in Texas construction came from immigrant labor (with some 230,000 unauthorized), while nearly a quarter of Texas agricultural workers were immigrants. Our good friend Lloyd Coffman, part of the Trump voter roundtable discussion the Trib conducted in 2017, put it best: “This may sound bad, but you’re not going to get the common white boy sitting at home in Hewitt to get out there and work his ass off on that damn hot road all day long. And I thank God that [immigrants are] here. But enforce the laws. If they’re here, rubber-stamp [vet and legally certify these immigrants] and move on.”
The Bush Institute backs some of the proposals encouraged by the Trump administration, including a “shift [in] U.S. immigration policy from family reunification to employment-based migration,” as well as expansion of the H-1B high-skilled visa program. On the other hand, the institute pushes programs that liberals (and even a few conservatives such as Hugh Hewitt) favor, including a pathway to “earned citizenship for undocumented immigrants.” Given the Bushes’ faith in immigration as an all-American tradition, the Bush Institute plan sure seems a solid place to restart immigration reform.