Jeb Bush hammered Obama for unilateral action, but past Bush presidents have done similar
George H.W. Bush, son both gave relief to undocumented during their presidencies
Former Bush administration official says there's "hypocrisy" from both parties on the issue
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s opposition to President Obama’s executive action on deportations puts him in the uncomfortable position of running counter to policy moves taken by both his father and his brother during their presidencies.
It’s the latest example of the complications Bush has faced on the immigration issue as he considers a 2016 presidential run. Bush has long drawn criticism from conservatives for his more moderate positions on reform, including his support for a pathway to citizenship for those here illegally.
His Friday statement on Obama’s executive action to protect nearly 5 million immigrants from deportation was nuanced, taking aim only at the tactic, not the ultimate effect.
“President Obama’s ill-advised unilateral action on illegal immigration undermines all efforts to forge a permanent solution to this crisis. Action must come in the form of bipartisan comprehensive reform passed through Congress,” Bush said.
He later tweeted that the move was “an abuse of power.”
But both Presidents George H.W. Bush and his son used similar unilateral action to protect immigrants from the threat of deportation under similar circumstances.
In 2001 President George W. Bush extended protections to as many as 150,000 Salvadorans in the United States illegally. And the elder Bush implemented a “Family Fairness” policy to allow an estimated 1.5 million close family members of newly legalized immigrants under the sweeping 1986 immigration reform measure to avoid deportation while they applied for legal status.
Those moves were used by Democrats to defend the legality of Obama’s executive action.
And Julie Myers Wood, a former George W. Bush administration official who wrote a memo arguing for prosecutorial discretion on deportations, admitted that there was some hypocrisy from Republicans in opposition to this move.
“I think there’s a lot of hypocrisy on both sides,” she told CNN, “but certainly prosecutorial discretion has been a longstanding policy.”
She said, however, Obama’s move was unique because of “the broadness of the scope and the lack of individualized assessments,” and because Obama was expanding access to work permits.
Wood echoed Jeb Bush’s concern over the tactic used to solve the problem, saying that while she “actually liked the result that we’re getting…it’s an odd way to do it.”
But she also acknowledged the President was running out of options to solve the problem.
“What was the President to do?” Wood asked.
She added: “This needed to be done. It’s a pretty broken system.”