Arizona’s Intractable Issue?
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I love nearly everything about the state that agreed to adopt me a
dozen years ago. But the one exception is the widespread antipathy
toward immigration among many Arizonans.
My interest in the issue stems largely from having represented immigrants from Mexico, Asia and Africa in many cases over the years, usually
defending school choice programs or challenging regulatory barriers to
entrepreneurship. Overwhelmingly, immigrants work hard, open businesses, respect the law, and are devoted to family. Most important, they
cherish the values that make our nation great—often more than many of
those who were lucky enough to have
been born here.
Despite my interest, I’ve never had a
professional outlet to work on immigration issues—until the Goldwater Institute
last year gave me permission to work on
my own time on a forthcoming book
with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called
Immigration Wars: Forging an American
Solution (Threshold Editions/Simon &
Schuster, March 5, 2013).
My usual relationship with politicians
is suing them. But Jeb Bush is different.
I first worked with him in 1998 to help
implement Florida’s school voucher
program and then defend it in court.
His systemic education reform agenda
helped Florida become the first state to
substantially narrow the academic gap
between white children and minorities,
while lifting test scores and college
opportunities for all.
Jeb also has repeatedly called upon
the Republican Party to lead the way on
fixing America’s immigration system, rather than being an impediment.
Last year the chickens came home to roost, as not only Hispanics but
Asian immigrants voted overwhelmingly to give President Barack
Obama a second term.
Early last year Jeb came to Arizona for an event completely
unrelated to immigration. Naturally, of course, the first audience
question was about immigration. How can we stop the hordes of
illegals pouring over our southern border, the questioner asked,
bringing crime and welfare dependency with them?
Jeb paused reflectively. Let me rephrase the question, he
replied. How can the Republican Party avoid committing suicide
by continuing to alienate people who should be natural allies?
Every jaw in the room dropped. Had Jeb just said that? In
In that moment I started formulating the idea of writing a
book together that might help break the impasse over immigration policy, to which both sides of the political divide have contributed mightily.
Jeb and I believe that although the issues are complex, the solu-
Clint Bolick is vice president for
litigation at the Goldwater Institute.
tions are relatively simple. They begin with
two overriding values: recognizing the vital
importance of immigrants to America’s past
and future, and adhering to the rule of law.
For instance, the best way to stop illegal immigration is by creating a fair and
logical system of legal immigration. We
often hear that people who came here illegally should return to their native countries and wait in line like everyone else.
There is one major problem with that
approach: There is no line. Unless prospective immigrants have relatives in the
United States or can acquire one of a
ridiculously low number of work- or
investment-based visas, they are out of
luck. Until we fix that central problem, we
can expect people to enter the country illegally, no matter how much we invest in
The political terrain seems to be changing in Arizona. A bipartisan coalition, in
which Maricopa County Attorney Bill
Montgomery is prominently involved, has
formed to advance sensible reforms. Both
of our U.S. Senators, John McCain and
Jeff Flake, are already taking a leadership
role in bipartisan reform legislation.
Such efforts come none too soon. Our
nation’s population is shrinking, just as the
number of people retiring and collecting
retirement benefits is poised to skyrocket.
We need abundant numbers of young
workers to fuel our economy and support
our social welfare system, and legal immigration is the main possible source.
Meanwhile, because of broadly defined
family preferences and its restrictive work-based visa system, the United States for the
first time is losing the race for the world’s
best and brightest. Countries like Canada
and New Zealand—and even China—are
luring high-skilled students and workers in
record numbers. Our nation’s economic
vitality depends on scrapping our defective
immigration laws and replacing them with
a policy geared toward America’s 21st century needs.
Here’s hoping that the book that Jeb
and I have written can contribute to help
forge the bipartisan consensus necessary to
get the job done. AZ AT