George W. Bush captured 40 percent of the Latino vote in winning the presidency 12 years ago. Imagine a Republican Party determined to take that share to 45 percent or 50 percent during the presidential elections that followed. Chances are, Mitt Romney would be preparing his Inaugural address.
As it happened, Republicans traveled in the other direction, too much harsh rhetoric, Romney, the party’s most recent presidential nominee talking about the “self-deportation” of illegal immigrants. In November, the party collected just one-quarter of the Latino vote.
On Tuesday, Bush broke with his respectful distance from the policy debate. In doing so, the former president performed a favor for his party and the country, in desperate need of an enlightened policy toward illegal immigration. He spoke at a conference in Dallas highlighting the benefits of immigration, something Texans as a whole know well. He argued that “not only do immigrants help build our economy, they invigorate our soul.”
That’s easy to say about legal immigrants. Bush looked to stressed something more, especially “as our nation debates the proper course of action relating to immigration.” He urged that “we do so with a benevolent spirit and keep in mind the contributions of immigrants.” That is the way to a humane and productive compromise, one that seeks to secure the borders yet recognizes how the country has benefited from those who have come here in pursuit of better lives.