As they competed for the GOP presidential nomination in 1980, future presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush both offered a more modern and accepting take on immigration than some in their party are offering in 2013.
Bush echoed his son George W. in calling for solutions to a broken system:
But the problem has to be solved. The problem has to be solved. Because, as we have made illegal some kinds of labor that I’d like to see legal, we’re doing two things, we’re creating a whole society of really honorable, decent, family-loving people that are in violation of the law and secondly we’re exacerbating relations with Mexico.
Reagan rejected the idea of building a wall, offering pragmatism and openness to Mexican immigrants:
Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems? Make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit. And then, while they’re working and earning here they can pay taxes here.
It’s a far cry from the 2012 primary, when Mitt Romney endorsed “self-deportation” to get to the right of Rick Perry, who accused him of hiring “illegal immigrants.”