Jeb Bush and the Fear of “Fertile” Immigrants

The undeclared 2016 GOP contender talks economics and family values, but his intended audience hears the real message.

In a world filled with endless uncertainty, it is a comfort to know that we probably won’t have to endure another Bush presidency.

Jeb Bush, son and brother of George I and II, respectively, has assured us of this with his recent comments about immigrants.

Speaking to a group of conservative activists in Washington about immigration policy on Friday, he said, “Immigrants are more fertile, and they love families, and they have more intact families, and they bring a younger population.”

Let’s be clear: Despite the public spin about economics, the ongoing debate about immigration reform is really about curbing the steadfast browning of America. Just a day before Bush’s speech, the Census Bureau reported a decline in population among white Americans — in 2012, for the first time in American history, more white people died in the United States than were born.

Bush’s rhetoric smacks of the kind of coded language used to subtly racialize conversations about immigration reform. He “others” those who are not like “us,” wrapping his racism in pleasant platitudes and talking points about family values to pluck on the heartstrings of tender conservatives in the audience.

Those of us who know better know that his comments reinforce age-old sexual and biological stereotypes about women of color and their presumed hyper-fertility and hypersexuality.

And because patriarchy, a system our culture thrives on, suggests that women cannot exist as both sexual and intellectual creatures, immigration reform becomes a conversation that denies agency to the people the laws directly affect. So lawmakers talk among themselves over how to deal with the immigration issue instead of how to fix a broken system to better serve people.

Not “them.” People.

Bush, who has backed a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants, hasn’t even formally announced his interest in the nomination yet and is already exhibiting the type of off-putting ignorance I’ve come to expect from a Bush.

Talk about family values.