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George W. Bush is right

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Sat July 13, 2013
Dean Obeidallah says he when it comes to immigration reform, former President George W. Bush is right.
Dean Obeidallah says he when it comes to immigration reform, former President George W. Bush is right.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: George W. Bush is 100% correct on immigration reform
  • Obeidallah: House Republicans should take a page from the former president
  • He says the GOP will likely take a hit in upcoming elections if they block reform
  • Obeidallah: A majority of Americans support reform, so what is the GOP thinking?

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog The Dean's Report. Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- I can't believe I'm saying this, but George W. Bush is 100% correct -- at least when it comes to immigration reform.

And just so it's clear: I was never a Bush supporter. In fact, I made a living during his presidency telling jokes that mocked him, from his policies to his greatest weakness -- speaking English.

But Bush's statement this week on immigration reform was right on target. The ex-president told attendees at a naturalization ceremony on Wednesday: "We're a nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways.

"I hope during the debate that we keep a benevolent spirit in mind, and we understand the positive contributions immigrants make to our country. ... But we have a problem, the laws governing the immigration system aren't working. The system is broken."

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

A majority of Americans think our immigration system is in dire need of repair.

Indeed, a recent Fox news poll found that 76% of Americans believe it's important to pass major immigration reform, with 74% favoring a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Yes, I'm touting not only George W. Bush but also a Fox News poll as well. (Clearly, the apocalypse can't be too far.)

So what has Congress done to address the issue?

Well, in June the U.S. Senate passed legislation with bipartisan support to overhaul the immigration system. The proposed law would greatly increase border security by requiring the completion of a 700-mile fence along our Mexican boundary, adding 20,000 more border agents and spending more than $3 billion in border monitoring technology.

In addition, it would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants after they fulfill numerous conditions, including waiting 13 years and paying back taxes.

Political Gut Check - Immigration
Bush: The immigration system is broken

With polls showing so much support for immigration reform, you would assume that the bill will soon become the law of the land. But there's one huge problem: The Republicans control the House of Representatives.

This week, House Republican leaders made it clear that the Senate bill would not be brought to a vote because it does not have sufficient support of Republican members. House Republicans especially oppose the pathway to citizenship provision.

So what's going to happen to immigration reform? Well, House Republicans did say there's a chance of enacting laws that focuses on border security.

The GOP truly has an existential question to answer: Will it remain a national political party or just a regional one? That's the stake with immigration reform.

Just look at the 2012 election. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney received only 27% of the Latino vote. That is a lower percentage than what Republican presidential candidates received in the past three elections.

Latinos make up 16% of our population, and their numbers will only grow. Opposition to immigration reform will likely take a toll on the GOP in upcoming elections.

But this is not an issue that concerns only Latino Americans. It also hits close to home for many, if not all, other immigrant communities in America.

Why would House Republicans refuse to enact a law that is good policy and good politics?

There are many reasons. One is that many House Republicans represent grotesquely gerrymandered conservative districts that give them little incentive to compromise.

Two, they are being bullied by loudmouths on the right such as Rush Limbaugh, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and others.

Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin even got into the action urging people via her Facebook post to: "Join the mama grizzlies who are rearing up tirelessly to swat away false claims that amnesty is a good thing." (Whenever I'm on the fence about an issue, I will see where Palin stands and then take the opposite view because I know that's the correct one.)

Perhaps these words of Bush can inspire House Republicans to do the right thing: "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?" OK, that's not relevant but it makes me laugh every time.

Actually, what Bush said this week sums it up: "We can uphold our traditions of assimilating immigrants and honoring our heritage of a nation built on the rule of law."

Let's hope House Republicans have the courage to stand up to those on the far right of their party and not focus solely on building walls at the border but also on helping America remain the great melting pot that it is.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

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