I knew that Jeb Bush's wife, Columba, was born and raised in Mexico, but until I read this Washington Post story over the weekend, I didn't realize that her father was an undocumented worker in America for a while, and later became a legal worker under a program that I'm sure would be described by right-wingers as "amnesty":
Jose Maria Garnica Rodriguez, who died at 88 in 2013, grew up in Arperos....
After World War II, it was common to cross the border without proper papers, said Columba’s uncle, Antonio Garnica Rodriguez, who made the trek, too. “We just went across the border, worked, stayed there for a while and came back.”
He said his brother later joined the “bracero” program, which allowed manual laborers temporary legal entry to the United States. Jose Maria got his “resident alien” card on Feb. 4, 1960.
Are GOP primary primary voters going to be cool with that?
There's also some mystery surrounding Columba's legal status in the years before her 1974 marriage to Jeb, according to the Post:
Columba’s father provided financial support and arranged for his daughter to obtain the legal documents she needed to settle in the United States, several relatives said.
Records indicate that Columba was issued a Social Security card in California in 1966. But it is not clear when she obtained a green card, and the Bushes declined to provide the date.
Columba may have been a migrant worker herself:
Members of her father’s family in Mexico -- a half-dozen of whom were interviewed by The Washington Post -- insist that he was very much a part of Columba’s life when she was growing up. They say she visited him more than once in La Puente, Calif., outside Los Angeles, and even lived with him for a while in her late teens, as her romance with Jeb was blooming.
A cousin, Abdon Garnica Yebra, recalls picking almonds with her one weekend, when she visited California for the summer.
According to a biography of Columba Bush, her father was physically abusive:
In the slender volume, Columba, who declined to be interviewed for this story, is quoted as saying that her father “caused the most painful memories of my life and made the life of my mother hell.” She said he often beat her mother, once breaking her fingers with a belt buckle.
A source who has spoken with the Bushes, but who declined to be identified, confirmed that Columba did speak to the author about her childhood but said she did not authorize publication of the book.
The biography says that a few months before Columba married Jeb, she was living with her father in California and he assaulted her:
The version in Parga’s book goes like this: He came home from work, saw that Columba had been smoking a cigarette -- which he forbade -- and was so angry at her that he took off his belt and came after her. She said she locked herself in the bathroom until he left the house, then went to the bus station and began the long journey back to her home town in Mexico.
His relatives tell a different story: That she told Jose Maria she was going out to get the mail -- and never came back. They assume that Columba left for Jeb, who they said had been calling while she lived in California.
The abuse stories have the ring of truth. Columba, by all accounts, broke off contact with her father and didn't speak to him for the rest of his life. It's telling that, during her time as Florida's first lady, she focused on the issue of domestic abuse.
To me, that's the story -- Garnica Rodriguez was an individual who was violent toward members of his family. It makes me more sympathetic to Columba Bush as a person, even though I'll never vote for her husband.
But right-wingers are obsessed with stories of criminality among undocunented immigrants, as you know if you regularly read Free Republic or the Drudge Report. Domestic abuse, drunk-driving accidents, murder -- you and I know that all sorts of people are guilty of these things, but on the right it's widely believed that the undocumented have a special predilection for such behavior. So how will right-wingers respond as stories like this about Columba's father become better known? Especially given the fact that Jeb has cited his marriage into this family as a major reason he's not an immigration hard-liner?
A Politico story on Columba Bush tht was published last week notes that her father "moved back to Mexico from La Puente when he retired, living off a Social Security check and a pension he earned working in the United States." He was a legal worker in America, and he earned these things through his labor -- but will his receipt of Social Security benefits make Republican voters' blood boil?
And how will they feel about Columba Bush's biculturalism? As the Politico story notes:
Over the past almost three decades, in brief interviews, the publicity-shy Columba Bush has told reporters that she likes watching Mexican soap operas and listening to Mexican music and eating Mexican food and that her eyes get wet when she hears the Mexican national anthem.
Sorry -- I just can't imagine Republican voters nominating a man for president whose wife tears up at the national anthem of Mexico. And if it happens, I expect a lot of them just won't turn out for him in November.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog