George W. Bush's Immigration Regrets: Anti-Migrant and Pro-War

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I haven't written much about George W. Bush in a while.  It's a testament to his irrelevancy.  He's been doing interviews looking back on his presidency as of late, and I was surprised to find this in an interview Bush did with ABC's Charlie Gibson:

Bush said that one of his biggest disappointments was the failure to pass a comprehensive bill on immigration reform.

"I firmly believe that the immigration debate really didn't show the true nature of America as a welcoming society," he said. "I fully understand we need to enforce law and enforce borders. But the debate took on a tone that undermined the true greatness of America, which is that we welcome people who want to work hard and support their families."
Lauren Sher - ABC News (1 December 2008)
I've often been criticized for caring so much about migrant rights and allowing that passion to cloud my perception of other battles that need to be fought.  If that were true, I could very easily say that George W. Bush got it right on U.S. migration policy.   

In fact, I still have one of Bush's quotes from his attempt to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2006 on my facebook profile:

We cannot build a unified country by inciting people to anger, or playing on anyone's fears, or exploiting the issue of immigration for political gain. We must always remember that real lives will be affected by our debates and decisions, and that every human being has dignity and value no matter what their citizenship papers say.
George W. Bush (15 May 2006)
I continue to believe that it's important to praise conservatives when they push for pro-migrant policies and express pro-migrant ideals.  It's part of putting people before political expediency.  I advocate for migrants.  I'm not here to score political points or advance my own ends.  Despite what's happened over the last years, I still believe the President of the United States, affirming the dignity of all people no matter "what their citizenship papers say" is extremely important in a time when there are so many treat unauthorized migrants as if they were less than human.

The beautiful thing about migrant advocacy, though, is that migrant well-being truly does correlate with everyone's well-being.  Migration is merely a symptom of global ills.  It is by analyzing migration in this way, from a global perspective, that we can truly determine if Bush was really concerned about how the failure of comprehensive immigration reform undermined the perception of the United States as a "welcoming" nation. 

To refute this, I could easily bring up the fact that the Bush administration has terrorized migrant families with its stepped up immigration enforcement and raids.  I could bring up the fact that hundreds of thousands of people are being deported, some of them U.S. citizens and some of them drugged against their will.  I could bring up the fact that tens of thousands are being kept in detention centers everyday and that dozens are dying from lack of medical care in those detention centers. 

But I will step back from the traditional migrant advocate line of attack and bring up an entirely new subject that illustrates just how expansive migrant advocacy is.  One of the silent tragedies of Bush's decision to invade both Afghanistan and Iraq is the amount of refugees that have had to flee those nations.

A recent Los Angeles Times article announces the latest figures:

More than 3 million refugees have fled Iraq, and 1.5 million more have been displaced from their homes, according to Deborah Decker, community resource director of the Interfaith Refugee & Immigration Service in L.A.
Teresa Watanabe - Los Angeles Times (29 November 2008)

3 million refugees. 3 million refugees.  This is one of the great unspoken contradictions of the nativist movement in the U.S.  It is impossible to be pro-war and anti-migrant. War causes the very same mass migration that nativists are opposed to, yet I'll bet anything that most nativists are pro-war.

If Bush truly cared about the U.S. being a welcoming nation, he would admit as many Iraqi refugees as he could.  That same Los Angeles Times article reports that more Iraqi refugees being admitted to the U.S..  Up from 1,600 in 2006, 13,800 were admitted in 2007.  The target is 17,000 in 2008.

17,000?  17,000 out of the 3 million refugees that the U.S. is directly responsible for?  That's .567% of the damage the U.S. has caused in Iraq when it comes to refugees and that doesn't even include Afghanistan.  

I appreciate Bush's support for comprehensive immigration reform, even if it was the sort of pro-business support that might as well enslave migrant workers.  But was George W. Bush a pro-migrant president?  No way, Jose.  And no, creating 3 million refugees of war does not count.  You have to actually care about migrants well-being in order to be pro-migrant.  Goodbye, George W. Bush, and good riddance. 

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1 Comments

janna said:

Kyle, thanks for this post. I've often wondered how he could say things that sound pro-migrant and still allow such harsh anti-migrant tactics from ICE. I guess I kind of always knew he wasn't so much pro-migrant, as pro-businesses-(that depend on migrant labor). The link between his wars and massive global migration is an important one. I always enjoy stepping back and seeing migration as you present it - globally, and all connected.

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This page contains a single entry by kyledeb published on December 1, 2008 6:21 PM.

Miami Herald's New Immigration Series was the previous entry in this blog.

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