I sometimes wonder if I’m wrong that the public perception of issues are distorted in the general population. Jeb Bush’s recent comments reaffirmed for me that the reality is often obscured by the rhetoric and the misinformation perpetuated by the news media. What Jeb Bush said about immigration really should not surprise anyone that has taken a look at the history of immigration reform in the US. Especially since the Bush family has been in the forefront of immigration reform.

Almost everyone is surprised that a Republican like Jeb Bush would be immigrant friendly. This is because the general perception is that Republicans are stanchly opposed to immigration reform. The facts show that, that notion is distorted.

Like everything else, there are the highly vocal talking heads that create the public perception. In the case of the Republicans, these vocal perception manipulators are led by the likes of individuals like Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter and the radio personalities that seem to dominate the public persona of the Republican Party. The common denominator in all of these talking heads is that they must be extreme in order to remain relevant and collect paychecks for espousing erroneous information.

It should not be a surprise that Jeb Bush would take the position he recently took on immigration. The fact is that Republicans have been the leaders in immigration reform in recent years. It hasn’t been perfect but when compared to the fact that the Democrats only pontificate about immigration reform then the Republicans should be applauded.

As has been reported by the news media, Jeb Bush stated on Sunday:

“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 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.”

Clearly, Jeb Bush understands the plight of the immigrant. Why should that surprise anyone? Is it because he is a Republican? Or, is it because the public perception has been manipulated to the point that the truth has been lost in all of the rhetoric.

Let us take a look at immigration reform for the last 20 years.

In 1979, Ronald Reagan announced the North American Accord where he publicly advocated for the free movement of commerce and people between Canada, Mexico and the United States. This led to NAFTA that was pushed forth by the elder George H. Bush. Bill Clinton reluctantly signed the bill; only after it was manipulated in order placate the labor movement in the US. Even then, among the overlooked provisions of NAFTA are the mechanisms for recognizing the professional credentials of certain professionals, like attorneys, and allowing them to practice their trade in any of the three countries through expedited travel documents.

In 1986, Ronald Reagan signed into law the Immigration and Control Act, also known as the Simpson-Mazzoli law. Alan K. Simpson is Republican and Ron Mazzoli is a Democrat. The law fundamentally recognized immigrants in the US and accepted them into the society.

In 2007, George W. Bush attempted to pass a comprehensive immigration reform law, however he was stymied by Republican Party members in the House and the Senate. The law would have legalized many immigrants and established a guest worker program.

After the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush focused on the terrorism threat and moved away from immigration reform. In his book, “Revolution of HopeVicente Fox wrote that Bush felt betrayed by Mexico because Mexico refused to support Bush’s invasion of Iraq at the United Nations and thus Bush never attempted to bring up immigration reform again during his presidency.

In 2012, Texas Governor Rick Perry defended the law allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition for college.

And, as you already know, Jeb Bush articulated the plight of the immigrant last Sunday, much to the horror of the Republican Party vocal extremists.

Now, let us look at what the Democrats have done.

In 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt exchanged diplomatic notes with Mexico’s president, Manuel Avila Camacho initiating a manual labor exchange program between Mexico and the United States. This program became known as the Bracero program. This is after Roosevelt supported the Mexican Repatriation program started by Hoover as a result of the Great Depression. The Mexican Repatriation forced as many as 2 million Mexicans out of the US and into Mexico without due process. Roosevelt was forced to agree to the Bracero program in order to replace US men fighting in World War II.

In 1965, the United States Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 that set the immigration standards that are the basis for the current immigration process into the United States. The Act, passed by strong Democratic support, set a quota system for immigration into the United States. The quota system increased immigration access to Latin American citizens as it replaced the previous national origin based system that gave preferential treatment to North Europeans. John F. Kennedy championed the measure and the law was signed by Lyndon Johnson. Senator Ted Kennedy reassured the opposition to the measure by stating that the demographic mix of the United States would not be altered by the immigration law. By the way, this law, for the first time legally excluded homosexuals from immigrating to the United States as they were legally deemed “sexual deviants”.

The new immigration law eliminated the Bracero program thus ending access to Mexican labor for agriculture.

Although the law allowed more immigration from south of the border it also created the quota system that has aggravated the immigration system to the United States. The Democrats were the ones that assured the US population that the immigration law would not alter the ethnic makeup of the US, in essence saying that Hispanics would not dominate US politics.

Obviously, that was not the case as the Hispanic voter has started to flex their electorate muscle. This leads us now to Barack Obama, the presumed salvation for immigration reform. As much as Barack Obama has advocated for immigration reform the facts speak for themselves.

According to official US statistics, under the Obama Administration the US has deported 383,031 individuals in FY 2010. In FY 2011, 388,031 were deported. In 2012, 419,384 people were departed and in FY 2013, 368,644 immigrants were sent home. By the end of the current year, Barack Obama’s administration is on track for deporting over 2 million individuals. The current administration has deported more people then when the Republicans were in office, under George W. Bush.

As much as the Republicans have done and attempted to do for immigration reform, I am not blind to the xenophobia emanating from party operatives that hijack the initiatives and the conversations about immigration reform. They are the ones that have created the perception that Republicans are bad for immigration. They are also the ones that ultimately stymie any attempt to resolve the immigration problem as they allow party politics to dictate their votes.

I wish the Republican Party stopped allowing itself to be portrayed by the fringe public persona that it allows to speak for its values because the fact is that when it comes to immigration reform the Republican Party has done more than talk about doing something, unlike the Democrats.

I am not sure if Jeb Bush will be running for office but I welcome his comments, as I believe they more accurately represent the value set of the silent Republicans. If he were to secure the Republican nomination, I would seriously consider taking the final step to becoming a US citizen so that I could cast a vote for him.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...