Jeb Bush: Illegal Immigration Is Sometimes ‘an Act of Love’

The former Florida governor stands (mostly) alone in the field of Republican 2016 contenders.

WOODBURY, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 24: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during a Long Island Association luncheon with LIA President and CEO Kevin S. Law at the Crest Hollow Country Club on February 24, 2014 in Woodbury, New York. Bush is widely seen as a possible presidential contender in 2016. 
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Emma Roller
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Emma Roller
April 7, 2014, 4:48 a.m.

Jeb Bush tacked left on im­mig­ra­tion re­form on Sunday, set­ting him­self apart from fel­low Re­pub­lic­ans con­sid­er­ing a pres­id­en­tial run in 2016. In an in­ter­view with Fox News at an event for his fath­er’s pres­id­en­tial lib­rary in Texas, Bush said he sym­path­ized with fam­il­ies who come across the bor­der il­leg­ally.

“Someone who comes to our coun­try be­cause they couldn’t come leg­ally … and they crossed the bor­der be­cause they had no oth­er means to work, to be able to provide for their fam­ily, yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony,” Bush told Fox News. “It’s an act of love, it’s an act of com­mit­ment to your fam­ily.”{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4871) }}

Com­ing out in fa­vor of com­pre­hens­ive im­mig­ra­tion re­form would set Bush apart from vir­tu­ally every po­ten­tial con­tender in the Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial field — per­haps with the ex­cep­tion of fel­low Flor­idi­an Marco Ru­bio. As Philip Ruck­er and Robert Costa have re­por­ted, power play­ers with­in the Re­pub­lic­an Party are work­ing to draft a Bush 2016 tick­et (Bush has said he’ll make a de­cision by the end of 2014).

This is not the first time Bush has voiced his sup­port for im­mig­ra­tion re­form. He ori­gin­ally sup­por­ted a path to cit­izen­ship, but has since toned down his po­s­i­tion — most not­ably in a book he re­leased last year. In­stead, Bush has ad­voc­ated for looser visa laws for fam­il­ies, in­creased visas for tech­nic­ally skilled work­ers and en­tre­pren­eurs, and a path to cit­izen­ship for chil­dren brought in­to the U.S. il­leg­ally.

And, since a grow­ing seg­ment of the U.S. vot­ing pop­u­la­tion is His­pan­ic, 2016 will be a year when the GOP will likely try to reach past its tra­di­tion­ally white base. In 2012, 71 per­cent of His­pan­ic voters cast their bal­lots for Pres­id­ent Obama, while just 27 per­cent voted for Mitt Rom­ney.

With com­ments like these, Bush is show­ing party lead­ers that he’s the can­did­ate who could cap­ture their af­fec­tions.

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