There appears to have been a fair amount of talk regarding Jeb Bush’s comment that illegal immigration is, in a sense, “an act of love.” To be sure, it is also against the law, and contra Bush, it is a felony; see 8 U.S.C. § 1325 if you want the legal specifics. But Bush’s larger point is that families sacrifice and take great risks in order to come to the United States–sometimes illegally–in search of a better life for themselves, and more importantly, for the ones they care about. And I have no idea why this larger point should be controversial.
However many our problems, the United States remains the land of hope and opportunity for many millions who were not lucky enough to have been born here. These many millions admire us, admire our way of life, and I am betting that in most instances, they likely would not even think of breaking the law. That they are willing to do so in order to come to the United States shows how desperate their straits are, and how desirable living in the United States is. Of course, these people want to be better off themselves, but they also want their family members to be better off as well, and they are willing to place themselves in legal and mortal peril in order to attain the better life they seek. All of this indicates that we Americans might be doing something right in terms of working to leave our country better than we found it.
Is illegal immigration a problem? Yes. Do we need to do something about that problem? Sure. It might help if we actually make the immigration system here in the United States look as though it has been designed by sane people; we need to find ways to reduce bureaucracy and waiting times, and process applications faster. And yes, we need to enforce immigration laws whenever we can. But however much some people do not like illegal immigration, let’s not forget that it benefits our economy tremendously. And let’s also not forget that the day illegal immigration comes to a halt–absent any immigration policy improvements on our end–is the day we really ought to be worried, for it will indicate that there is nothing about America that appeals to people in other parts of the world, or for that matter, to Americans.
Jeb Bush seems to understand all of this. He also seems to understand that people are willing to do just about anything in order to help bring about better lives for those whom they love. While recognizing that illegal immigration is a problem, he also understands that one ought to take a humane approach to dealing with that problem. For that attitude, some have chosen to pillory him. They ought to praise him instead.