Between today and the first Republican primary of 2016, Jeb Bush surely will tell America exactly how government should cope with undocumented workers and their families. The former Florida governor, whose wife was born in Mexico, prompted headlines this week when his new book, Immigration Wars, seemed to abandon his earlier support for a “path to citizenship” in immigration reform and to adopt a much harder line — which he promptly dropped as well.
Unsurprisingly, Bush’s opinions on immigration are confused and confusing, not to mention ill-informed, which probably makes him a perfect leader for his party. He favored a path to citizenship for the undocumented when most Republicans opposed it; then his book warned that such a provision would encourage a renewed wave of illegal immigration; and now, as Republicans complain that he is out of step with their effort to court Latino voters, he is squirming away from his own book’s argument.
But no matter which direction Bush ultimately takes in the immigration debate, he can cite at least one Latino immigrant whose deportation he strived successfully to prevent, almost a quarter-century ago, when his father was president. The only drawback to this heartwarming humanitarian story is that the man whose cause Bush advocated was a bloodthirsty terrorist who was almost certainly responsible for the brutal murder of scores of innocent victims
In 1989, the Justice Department was seeking to deport one Orlando Bosch, a Cuban exile and anti-Castro militant who was then imprisoned for entering the United States illegally. Leaders of the Cuban-American community were agitating for Bosch’s release, although US law enforcement and intelligence authorities held Bosch culpable in many acts of brazen terror. Along with his suspected (and sometimes confessed) responsibility for various bombings and attacks on civilian and diplomatic targets, Bosch was believed to have overseen the sabotage of a Cuban airliner. The resulting explosion killed all 76 civilians aboard, including all the young members of Cuba’s Olympic fencing team, several passengers from other countries, and a pregnant mother. Corrupt Venezuelan prosecutors had failed to convict Bosch of this crime, but he publicly sought to justify the airliner bombing, almost to boast of it, when he wasn’t proffering unpersuasive denials. (He was also strongly suspected of running the conspiracy that blew up a car in Washington, D.C. in 1976 — an incident that killed Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and his assistant, American citizen Ronni Moffitt, in perhaps the most infamous assassination carried out by foreigners on American soil.)
Miami’s Cuban leaders considered Bosch their greatest hero and turned to Jeb Bush, then a budding businessman seeking real estate deals in South Florida, to prevent his deportation.
The Bush Justice Department wanted to deport Bosch because, according to the FBI, he had “repeatedly expressed and demonstrated a willingness to cause indiscriminate injury and death.” Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, a Bush appointee, denounced Bosch as “an unrepentant terrorist.” None of this deterred Jeb Bush from lobbying against Bosch’s deportation – and in the end, from persuading his father to pardon Bosch, which meant he could live freely and comfortably in Miami until his death in 2011 at the age of 85.
Eight years later, with the help of the same wealthy Cuban-Americans who had implored him to help Bosch, Jeb Bush had become a wealthy man and newly elected governor of Florida.
Now Bush has adopted a hard line against those who have disobeyed America’s immigration statutes. But his outrage over the flouting of those laws seems extremely selective: For the ordinary worker with impoverished family, no mercy; for the demented terrorist with powerful friends, no effort spared.