Could Have Phrased That Better: Jeb Bush Edition
Jeb Bush at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to the Majority conference (via the Washington Post):
“Immigrants create far more businesses than native-born Americans [...] Immigrants are more fertile, and they love families, and they have more intact families, and they bring a younger population. Immigrants create an engine of economic prosperity.”
Kudos to Bush for discussing the important economic and communal contributions of immigrants. Even better, he’s talking about their economic effects without falling back on “they do the jobs that American’s don’t want to do.” Generally speaking, this is exactly the sort of messaging pro-”pro-immigration”-reform people should be using… except of course for a single, incredibly charged word he works in there.
Unfortunately, the use of “fertile” immediately means that everything good about that statement will be ignored.
I’m not sure that the statistics back-up the fact that immigrant communities have significantly higher birth rates than US citizen communities (especially when you look across different ethnic groups). What he’s really saying is that immigrants have a higher birth rate than *white* communities.
Talking in this way, immediately sets up a framework where immigrants are always ethnic minorities (because, of course, we never have any White immigrants coming to this country).
There is little-to-no scientific evidence to suggest that fertility is tied to racial genetics. There are without a doubt cultural factors that contribute. But fertility is largely understood as an innate quality. If a woman is in-fertile, its thought to be a problem of the body, not cultural practice. And, when one takes a historic look at racist texts, one of the most common accusations directed at “lesser races” is that they breed at “animal” rates due to super- (or rather sub-) human fertility.
To be clear, I don’t think that Bush intended this to be racist. But given the history of race and immigration in this country, it’s hard to not read those words without hearing the echo of past racism. And ultimately that undercuts what turns out to be a valuable message.
And what’s potentially going to be worse for Bush, and Republicans for a whole, are all the people who are going to come out of the woodwork and twist themselves into knots trying to prove why Bush was correct to have said what he did and deny any racist reading of these words.