Print Friendly and PDF

A National Voice

Jeb Bush discusses immigration and education reform

Page 26-28

Son of President George H.W. Bush and brother of President George W. Bush, Governor Jeb Bush is considered a leading national voice on the major issues facing the nation. Governor Bush was the 43rd governor of Florida, serving from 1999 through 2007 – the only Republican in the state’s history to be re-elected. Currently president of Jeb Bush and Associates, LLC, and chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, Governor Bush is the co-author of a book titled “Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution.” Governor Bush answered some key questions from the Detroiter weeks before he was set to deliver the opening keynote address at the 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference.

Why are talented immigrants critical to a prosperous 21st century America?

This issue is of critical importance for America’s continued economic and national security. We are not producing enough new talent to replace those leaving the workforce. America’s birthrate is dropping. Millions of baby boomers are retiring. We must assure the most talented students and highly skilled workers receive visas that allow them to work. Right now, other countries including Canada, New Zealand and China are appealing to these graduates, entrepreneurs and workers to join their workforce.

How can comprehensive immigration policy and reform help drive economic growth?

Today’s immigration policy is broken. It was written for another century and a different economy. We need a comprehensive policy that recognizes our immigrant heritage, respects the rule of law  and keeps our economy  moving forward by attracting the best and allowing them to work.

At last year’s Mackinac Policy Conference, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria Highlighted immigrants as one of the United States’ competitive advantages and a key issue to keeping our nation prosperous throughout the 21st century. What impact will we see if the U.S. loses out on the growing competition for highly skilled immigrants?

The impact would be far-reaching and could have serious implications on the security of our nation. We will not be able to prevent companies from moving overseas. We will experience ever-greater pressure on our budgets, social programs and social fabric. As a result, America’s status as a global superpower could be in serious jeopardy.

Here in Michigan, Governor Snyder has been vocal about the positive effects immigrants have on the economy. What can we do to make Michigan a magnet for immigrants and how will that benefit our state?

Governor Snyder is leading on this issue and has already taken steps to making Michigan more attractive to immigrants, such as strengthening Michigan’s business climate by streamlining your tax system and reducing unnecessary regulation. He has also worked to reform your education system to make Michigan attractive to immigrant families. There is a great history of immigrant entrepreneurs making it in Michigan. Meijer, Masco and Dow are just some of the great companies founded by immigrants in Michigan that continue to drive your state’s economy today. 

How could policies that reward and encourage entrepreneurship by immigrants benefit cities like Detroit?

Again, your Governor is showing leadership and resolve in tackling head-on the issues facing Detroit. Detroit is a great American city with a rich and storied history that was founded on innovation, entrepreneurialism and the immigrant spirit. By once again returning to those founding principles, Detroit can restore its former glory.  Vibrant neighborhoods, strong families, a skilled workforce and a diversified economy are all crucial to that revitalization, and an environment that welcomes immigrant families can help achieve those goals and further strengthen the fiber of Detroit.

In “Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution” you wrote that we are at a critical moment following the 2012 election where there is more resolve to reach a bipartisan accord on immigration reform. How likely is it that our elected officials will seize this moment and achieve comprehensive immigration reform designed to meet the realities of the 21st century?

I am more optimistic than I was when Clint and I were writing “Immigration Wars” last fall. No one would have guessed then that both houses of Congress would be releasing comprehensive immigration reform bills the following spring.  A bipartisan group in the Senate recently released proposed legislation that creates a new immigration system that first and foremost secures our border; creates a new invigorated system of legal immigration which will spur economic growth; and creates a tough but practical means to process those currently here illegally. This proposal respects the rule of law and our country’s immigrant heritage. I am encouraged that America could have a new, working immigration policy this year.

You played a critical role in overhauling Florida’s education system — by expanding school choice for instance. What must we do as a country to ensure we have the quality schools to prepare students for the 21st century workforce?

We need to completely transform our outdated, industrial society-based system into a student-focused system that recognizes all children can learn, holds adults accountable for student-learning, empowers parents and provides children with a customized education experience. We do this by embracing accountability, high expectations, robust school choice and unleashing the power of technology.

What can we do better to ensure U.S. students graduate with the skills and training employers need?

We can embrace high academic standards, such as the Common Core State Standards. This state-led initiative resulted in academic standards for math and English language arts that are deeper, more focused and more challenging than most state standards today. They are also benchmarked against countries with the most skilled math and science students to ensure American students are able to compete globally.

Your book points out that many native born citizens could not pass our country’s own citizenship tests and struggle with civic literacy. What are the long-term impacts of this growing crisis in civics education in our country?

A lack of civic literacy – among both native-born and naturalized citizens alike – jeopardizes the lifespan of our democracy. Without an informed citizenry, we cannot expect American ideals to flourish. One cannot effectively influence government if they have no idea how it works.

Coming from one of the most prominent political families in our nation and having your own accomplished political career, you have received quite a bit of public attention over the past few decades. What is something people don’t know about Jeb Bush?

I am the proud grandfather to Georgia Helena Walker Bush, who I affectionately call 41 because of her initials. I cannot wait to meet my second grandchild whose arrival we are eagerly anticipating later this year.

There is a lot of speculation about your future in politics. What’s next for Jeb Bush?

Right now, I am focused on my family, my business and the education foundations of which I serve as chair.

Is there anything else you’d like to discuss?

One other thing is lacking in the public realm, something that is hard to define, but American’s generally know it when they see it   — leadership. We see it when someone thinks first of the greater good — what does the nation need to do and where does it need to go? Leaders set goals and build support outside their comfort zones.  Leaders have the humility to share credit and accept responsibility when things don’t work out. Leaders force others to show leadership as well. Michigan has this kind of leadership. We need this kind of leadership in D.C. I hope and pray we will see it.

Jeb Bush is the former Governor of Florida, 1999-2007.