Jeb Bush Praises Senate Immigration Bill

Former Fla. govenor: Bill attempts to balance immigrant experience and respect for the rule of law

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    AP
    Former Florida governor Jeb Bush gestures as he speaks at the Hispanic Leadership Network conference on Thursday in Coral Gables.

    Former Florida governor Jeb Bush opened the annual Hispanic Leadership Network conference Thursday with praise for the bipartisan Senate immigration bill, which some conservatives are criticizing as being too weak on border enforcement and security.

    Bush said the bill attempts to balance both the immigrant experience and respect for the rule of law.

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    Jeb Bush — the man many in the GOP want to see run for president in 2016 — appears to be reversing his long-time stance on immigration with a new book on immigration out Tuesday. But Politico's Kevin Robillard noted that Bush's comments to Chuck Todd on NBC's "Nightly News" didn't appear to mesh with comments he made to the "Today" show's Matt Lauer Monday morning. "I think we need comprehensive reform, and if there is a path to citizenship that has enough of a realization that we have to respect the rule of law, then so be it," Bush told Todd. But while he supports a path to citizenship for legal immigrants, Bush had suggested to Lauer that he wants to limit those who come illegally to permanent resident status. That position appears to reflect a change of heart, Politico writes, from the path to citizenship approach Bush endorsed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in January. Freely acknowledging that he is considering running in 2016, Bush stressed to Todd that he believes his Republican Party needs to remind voters of what it supports — not what it opposes.

    "They've come up with a comprehensive, really detailed approach that I applaud," Bush said.

    The legislation was formally unveiled Thursday in Washington. It calls for a path to citizenship for the 11 million people already in the United States illegally as long as certain border security goals are met first. It also would allow tens of thousands of new high- and low-skilled workers into the country while requiring employers to verify their legal status.

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    Two Republican senators and several law enforcement officials publicly criticized the bill's border enforcement and security measures Thursday.

    Many Republicans have taken a hardline stance on immigration though some have started to change their viewpoints. Hispanics are a growing segment of the electorate and the Republican party has been trying to make inroads into capturing the Latino vote once again.

    Bush said immigrants bring a love of country and "injection of optimism" that the nation needs. He also said there needs to be a fair way for those who have taken a legal route to entering and residing in the U.S. to become citizens before those who did not.

    "I think an American value would be those that wait patiently should be given higher priority," he said.

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    Bush has been mentioned as a possible 2016 presidential contender. The annual Hispanic Leadership Network conference attracts some of the nation's top conservative Latino voices. Bush was introduced by former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, who called him "just as Hispanic as everyone in this room and maybe a little more."

    Asked in a public forum whether he was motivated to run for president, Bush declined to answer, saying it was non-partisan event. But the audience gave an enthusiastic applause at the notion.

    "This is the wrong forum to ask that question," Bush said.

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