Jeb Bush: Republicans must 'cease being the obstacle' to immigration reform

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) on Monday said it's time Republicans "cease being the obstacle" to immigration reform and urged House GOP leaders to hold a vote on legislation passed by the Senate last week.

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"Republicans have much in common with immigrants — beliefs in hard work, enterprise, family, education, patriotism and faith," Bush and Goldwater Institute Vice President Clint Bolick wrote in a Wall Street Journal  op-ed.

Bush and Bolick argue that passing immigration reform would benefit Republicans on the campaign trail. They note that, in 2012, Republicans received 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, a 40-percent-decrease from a dozen years before that. They describe immigration as a "gateway issue" for Hispanic and Asian voters. 

"But for their voice to penetrate the gateway, Republicans need to cease being the obstacle to immigration reform and instead point the way toward the solution."

Bush and Bolick, who recently co-authored a book on immigration reform, argue that the majority of House Republicans will need to vote for an immigration reform bill. A failure to do so would harm economic growth by allowing "flaws" in the current immigration system to remain in place. 

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently said he would only bring an immigration bill to the floor of his chamber if a majority of the majority supports it.

"This is a tall order. But it is one to which House Republicans should respond," Bush and Bolick write.

"No Republican would vote for legislation that stifled economic growth, promoted illegal immigration, added to the welfare rolls, and failed to ensure a secure border. Yet they essentially will do just that if they fail to pass comprehensive immigration reform — and leave in place a system that does all of those things."

The op-ed comes shortly after the Senate approved an immigration reform plan introduced by a group of eight Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

The bill aims to strengthen border security along the U.S.-Mexico border as well as overhaul the nation's immigration system. Bush and Bolick write that, while the Senate bill is not perfect, it still improves "most of the flaws of the current system."

"It reduces family preferences, increases the number of high-skilled visas, expands guest-worker programs, and creates a merit-based immigration system for people who want to pursue the American dream," Bush and Bolick continue. 

"It also offers a path to citizenship for those who were brought here illegally as children, and dramatically increases resources and tools for border security."

A number of top House Republicans have indicated opposition to the Senate bill even though they have called for immigration reform. 

Some have suggested that immigration reform should be passed in a series of separate, smaller bills. 

Others have also said the House should focus on its own immigration bill instead of the Senate's proposal. Bush and Bolick argue immigration reform cannot happen though a piecemeal approach.

"The necessary overhaul of the immigration system cannot be achieved piecemeal," Bush and Bolick write. 

"The most important changes — reducing family preferences, creating a robust guest-worker program, and increasing border security — cannot be enacted with Republican votes alone. That means compromise and a comprehensive approach — or the perpetuation of the status quo that has all of the detriments of amnesty without any of the economic benefits of reform."