Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sparked controversy earlier this month when he said that many people who come to the United States unlawfully do so as an act of love for their families.
They crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family, he said at an event celebrating the 25th anniversary of his fathers presidency. Yes, they broke the law, but its not a felony. Its an act of love. Its an act of commitment to your family.
SEE ALSO: 2016 and the inevitability of Jeb Bush
Bush is weighing a run for president in 2016. But his recent immigration comments set off a furor of criticism from conservatives and tea party members who want a presidential candidate with a tough stance on immigration, which begs the question: Will Bushs comments hurt his chances of becoming the 2016 Republican presidential nominee?
Jeb Bush’s comments indicate new tone on immigration reform
Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the American Principles Projects Latino Partnership, doesnt seem to think so. Instead, he said Bushs comments indicate how GOP presidential candidates are going to talk about immigration reform in the 2016.
The narrative over immigration in the 2016 primary is going to be very different from 2012, Aguilar told VOXXI. Were already staring to see that from the comments of potential candidates.
He noted that besides Bush, Sen.Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is another potential Republican presidential candidate who is speaking about immigration reform in a new way.
Ryan recently said the GOP has to get beyond deportation and get the issue of immigration reform right in order to court Latino voters and win elections. And like Bush, Paul supports allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status.
Paul is also one of the Republicans whove come out in support of Bushs immigration comments. The Kentucky Republican told ABCs This Week on Sunday that Bush might have been more artful, maybe, in the way he presented this but that he wasnt terrible for making the comments.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), another potential presidential candidate, also said he agrees with Bushs comments. In an interview with Fox Newss Americas Newsroom last week, Rubio said Bush was trying to call attention to the human element of immigration with his comments.
Most recently, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehitnen (R-Fla.) came out in support of Bush. She told The Hill on Monday that if Bush decides to run for president in 2016, Im with him.
At the same time, Bush has also received criticism from some conservative Republicans and tea party members for his stance on immigration and his recent comments.
For example, Donald Trump mocked Bushs latest immigration comments while speaking Saturday at the Freedom Summit in New Hampshire. Some political pundits have also said Bush has no chance of making it through the 2016 primaries given that many Republicans are looking for a presidential candidate who has a tougher stance on immigration.
Jeb Bush’s comments are very well received by Latino voters
But Aguilar sees things differently. He said polling data shows that most Republicans, including many conservatives, who vote in the primaries are not against immigration. Instead, he said many of them support immigration reform with a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.
The problem, he said, is that restrictionist groups have been successful in encouraging Republican candidates to move to the extreme right on immigration.
I think candidates have to overcome that and realize that being good on this issue does not mean that youre going to lose your base, Aguilar told VOXXI.
Aguilar also pointed to Bushs latest comments on immigration as an example of the type of language that is going to attract Latino voters in the 2016 presidential election. He described Bushs immigration comments as being very well received by Latino voters.
To be viable in a general election, you need more support from Latino voters, he said. We clearly saw that in 2012.
Daniel Garza, executive director of the LIBRE Initiative, agreed with Aguilar. He said that when Latinos hear candidates include Latinos in their political narrative, then the impression is that theyre going to include them in their policy solutions.
And I think Jeb Bush gives you that impression, Garza told VOXXI.
Garza added that Republicans have been much more wise in the way they speak about immigration reform. He noted that ever since Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney received 27 percent of the Latino vote in the 2012 election, the GOP has been increasing its efforts to engage with Latino voters.
A number of Republicans have also rejected the self-deportation language used by Romney in 2012 and have softened their tone on immigration. And as many as 30 House Republicans have come out in support of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
As for Bushs latest immigration comments, Garza said they sparked off a new round of conversation over immigration reform, which he said contributes to advancing the cause.
This will help him in the future if he decides to run for president obviously with the Hispanic community, but I think also with non-Hispanics because the majority of people want immigration reform and are looking to move from the status quo, Garza said, referring to Bushs comments. But I think more specifically, his comments speak to his heart.