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.”
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.