There must always be some unresolved tensions in a book by two authors, but those tensions are magnified when one is an ambitious politician and the other is a policy wonk. Jeb Bush is plainly considering a run for the presidency; for him this book must help, and certainly not hinder, a possible presidential campaign. It is his attempt to craft an immigration policy that will win support from both Republican donors and the GOP’s base. Clint Bolick is a leading pro-immigration policy expert on the Republican side. He knows the standard arguments for his case, but he must also have accumulated many interesting, paradoxical stories and unorthodox insights about the issue. Most of them, however, might not fit comfortably into an electoral campaign in which a single sound bite can sink a candidate. The result is a quasi-campaign book that can never be too fresh or too daring because such qualities might put Jeb’s potential candidacy at risk.
That said, the book has its virtues. It is written in a briskly readable fashion. Many of its subsidiary points, notably giving more authority over immigration to the states, are sensible and well taken. In particular, its chapter on education — where Jeb’s co-authorship is probably most felt — outlines several reforms that look pretty desirable irrespective of their marginal impact on immigration. It sensibly treats many of the anxieties of its audience as reasonable (rather than dismissing them as nativist bigotries). It is manifestly more honest than the ever-changing proposals of the “Gang of Eight,” which should mainly remind us of Elliott Abrams’s First Law: “Never play cards with a man whose first name is a city.” And its central argument, with which I shall quarrel, is nonetheless quite cleverly crafted.