Leading up to his presidential announcement this week, Jeb Bush reportedly began “conducting opposition research on himself” to identify any potential issues that may arise during his campaign. What his campaign managers should be most concerned of is difficult to say, but two figures from his past, one obvious, the other less so, immediately come to mind: Raul Salinas, drug-trafficker, convicted murderer and a previous associate of Jeb’s; and Fredo Arias-King, a Harvard academic and former foreign affairs aide in Mexico’s National Action Party who Jeb briefly met once.
Jeb’s ties with Salinas appear to be close; he stayed at Salinas’s ranch and vice versa on several occasions and Jeb’s wife Columba was once part of the official delegation to the inauguration of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas, Raul’s brother. But it was his brief yet revealing exchange with Arias-King on the topic of immigration that may cause the biggest headache for Jeb’s presidential ambitions.
During his own campaign, George W. Bush received flak for his connections with the long-reigning, chronically corrupted Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). As Newsweek’s Alan Zarembo observed at the time, George W. inadvertently played up his ties with Mexico’s ruling class when, while flunking a reporter’s pop quiz on foreign leaders, fired back: “Can you name the secretary of state of Mexico?” As Zarembo wryly noted, George appeared to be “quite fluent when it comes to the names of Mexican politicians.”
Jeb’s ties with PRI are apparently strong as well. Apart from his connection with the Salinas brothers (both, including their father, were high-up PRI officials), Jeb showed his loyalty to PRI, when during the party’s reign, he refused to meet with members of the opposition National Action Party (PAN), including Arias-King. Jeb had also stumped for PRI candidates in the past, as did George W. and George Sr.
As recounted by Arias-King, after the win of PAN’s Vicente Fox against the long-standing PRI, Jeb agreed to an impromptu meeting with emissaries from the Fox camp, which included Arias-King, while both sides were attending the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. Arias-King found Jeb “unusually solicitous,” apparently “aware of the unease surrounding his and his brother’s meddling in the Mexican election in favor of the PRI and against then-candidate Fox.” He found Jeb “jittery” and Jeb “hardly allowed [their] delegation to share impressions” and he “rambled on several topics he thought would be of interest to [them].”
One of the topics Jeb brought up was immigration. According to Arias-King, Jeb explained he was aware how non-Cuban, Hispanics in America usually vote, but he claimed to have a welfare-based formula to turn them into a solid Republican constituency. Says Arias-King, Jeb spoke of a racial spoils system of sorts, which included several “concessions, subsidies, scholarships, and other government programs that could be targeted specifically to Mexican-Americans.”
He seemed to think that once he found the right formula, it would be easy to lure a majority of Hispanics into the GOP. This rather puzzling strategy was Jeb’s motivation for embracing mass immigration which was remarkable to Arias-King, at the very least because Jeb’s formula was so “statist” and resembled a system of welfare state-patronage.
To be fair, Jeb’s not alone in trumpeting a Latin-style “patron-client system” for Hispanic constituencies in the U.S., according to Arias-King. In meetings with 80 U.S. congressional members during this period, on emissary trips to the RNC and DNC conventions and to Capitol Hill, a large majority of both Republicans and Democrats seemed to “idealize the patron-client relation” system in Latin countries and wanted to see it applied in America.
Legislators confided in him that they supported mass immigration because “they saw Latinos as more loyal and ‘dependable’ in supporting a patron-client system and in building reliable patronage networks” in the U.S. This would work to “circumvent the exigencies of political life as devised by the Founding Fathers and expected daily by the average American.” In other words, “new Americans,” Arias-King was told, were “more malleable than the existing Americans,” would ‘criticize and question less’ and would be “more dependent on and accepting of active government programs and the political class guaranteeing those programs.”
Some congressmen also cited a certain “admiration for the long-running Mexican political class,” such as the Salinas family. Those who made state trips to Mexico “would talk at length about how they were ‘given the royal treatment’ in the ranches and yachts and other perks of the Mexican political class.” Referring to PRI’s near 70-year rule, Arias-King was surprised that “[o]thers would marvel at how the ruling party could govern for so long despite their abuse and without voter reaction.”
Those congressional members with Hispanic constituents told Arias-King, “they never give me problems” and “they are grateful for whatever you give them.” This kind of unconditional support that professional politicians expect from their Hispanic constituents was apparently part of Jeb’s formula and the motivation behind his push for open-borders. Although Jeb was “not alone” among the many legislators Arias-King met, Jeb had “more in common” with those that thought this way. The most notable legislator who didn’t, says Arias-King? Jeff Sessions, America’s Senator.