Republicans in Congress have publicly rebuked former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for his recent comment that illegal immigrants break U.S. border laws only as an "act of love" for their families and shouldn't be treated as felons.
Mr. Bush made the comments during a public address in Texas to mark the 25th anniversary of his father's presidency, and at a time when he's being talked about as a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2016.
Party colleagues took umbrage almost immediately.
"When you trivialize the fact that these people have broken the law, I think your message is a little bit off," Rep. Raul Labrador said Tuesday during a public event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, the Hill reported.
Mr. Labrador, Idaho Republican, added that he thought Mr. Bush was "pandering" to the Hispanic population.
"I think comments from Jeb Bush and other Republicans — what they're doing is they're pandering to a certain group of people," he said. "And I've got news for you. If we pass immigration reform tomorrow like members of the Republican conference want us to do, they're not going to vote for the Republican Party."
Louisiana Rep. John Fleming called Bush "overly enthusiastic about giving amnesty" to illegals, the Hill reported.
"Just the fact that [immigrants] love the opportunity that's available to the United States is not enough," Mr. Fleming said. "It doesn't give them the right to step ahead of U.S. citizens when it comes to education and our opportunities."
Even Arizona Sen. John McCain, not known for hard-line conservative views — was critical, saying Mr. Bush's views "probably could have been better phrased," the Hill reported.
Republicans nevertheless aren't dismissing Mr. Bush as a possible presidential candidate.
"As a whole, the No. 1 issue for me is how do we get the economy back on track and I think he's got the leadership to do that," Georgia Rep. Austin Scott told the Hill, adding that Bush's statement is "not a disqualifying issue for me."
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