Jeb Bush sought to draw contrasts between himself and fellow Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, whom at first he avoided addressing by name, on the divisive issue of immigration after he visited the U.S.-Mexico border on Monday.
The former Florida governor said calls to build a big fence along the border are unrealistic and would not solve the problem of illegal immigration.
He said that his tour of the border with local officials made clear that “the proposal made by another candidate of building a fence…doesn’t work. You have to have a much deeper strategy.”
When a reporter brought up Donald Trump by name and asked Bush to comment on the real estate mogul’s hard line positions on immigration, the governor said “Mr. Trump’s plans are not grounded in conservative principles. It will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. It is not realistic.”
Among Trump’s vows if he is elected president is that he will deport all undocumented immigrants from the country, and perhaps let “the good ones” back in through a legal process and that he will build a wall along the southern border.
Trump also objects to giving U.S.-born babies of undocumented immigrants automatic U.S. citizenship, which is a right bestowed by the 14th Amendment.
“It won’t be implemented and we need border security to be able to deal with getting this county back on track,” Bush said of Trump’s call for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. “His proposal is unrealistic. It will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. It will violate people’s civil liberties. It will cause friction with our third largest trading partner that is not necessary, and I think he is wrong about this.”
He said he favors comprehensive immigration reform, which generally involves tightening border security as well as providing a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants who meet a strict set of criteria.
Trump has kept a front-runner status in polls of GOP voters for weeks now, and has dominated media coverage. He has made headlines, often with his take-no-prisoners approach to immigration and Mexico.
That seems to be alienating Latinos, despite Trumps prediction that he will win the Hispanic vote.
A Gallup poll released Monday shows that two thirds, or 65 percent, of Latinos respondents said they have an unfavorable view of Trump, while 14 percent had a positive one.
About 34 percent view Jeb Bush favorably, compared to 23 who see him unfavorably.
The poll surveyed roughly 650 Hispanics nationwide.
The two were the most well-known to Latinos of the large field of GOP candidates, who include two Cuban-Americans.
In answer to a reporter’s question, Bush said that he supports giving undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors a path to legal status, though he added that he objects to it being by executive action, as President Barack Obama has done.
Obama actually suspended deportation for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came as minors, and extended them the ability to obtain work permits and some federal benefits.
He defended his use of the controversial term “anchor baby,” seen by many as a derogatory way to refer to children born in the United States to people who may be looking to give birth here as a way to obtain legal U.S. residency.
Bush balked at a reporter’s suggestion that might be risking offending Latinos by using the term.
He said what he had more in mind when he spoke about the issue was “Asian people coming into our country, having children, and taking advantage of a noble concept – birthright citizenship.”
Bush said there are organized efforts to bring people to the United States to have babies, and that is what he was expressing concern about.
“We don’t need to get restrictionist” about using politically correct language, he said.
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on https://twitter.com/Liz_Llorente