Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says he thinks people can be “persuaded” on the issue of immigration and questioned whether people want to elect a president who will simply “bend with the wind.”
“I’ve been traveling over the last three months, and I get a sense that a lot of people can be persuaded, to be honest with you,” he said in an interview that aired Monday evening on Fox News’ “The Kelly File.” “But here’s the deal, Megyn: if I go beyond the consideration of running to be an actual candidate, do you want people to just bend with the wind, to mirror people’s sentiment, whoever’s in front of you? ‘Oh yes — I used to be for that, but now I’m for this.’ Is that the way we want to elect presidents?”
“Running for president is tough. Serving as president, which should be the objective, is a little harder. Dealing with Putin is a heck of a lot harder than going to a town meeting in New Hampshire and explaining your views on immigration,” he said.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is running for president in 2016, was part of an original “Gang of Eight” senators that crafted legislation that passed the U.S. Senate in 2013 that included a broad rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws and provided an eventual path to citizenship for most of the millions of illegal immigrants in the country.
Mr. Rubio, whose support for the bill cost him some backing among conservatives, later backed away from it and has said since then that border security has to happen first.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who like Mr. Bush is laying the groundwork for a possible White House run, said earlier this year that his “view has changed” on immigration and that he firmly opposes amnesty, dinging President Obama for mishandling the issue.
Mr. Bush also separated himself from rhetoric used by former Massachusetts Gov. and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney during a 2012 debate in which Mr. Romney advocated for “self-deportation” of illegal immigrants.
“The option of self-deportation, or making things so harsh is not really — I don’t think that’s practical. And rounding people up door-to-door isn’t practical, either,” Mr. Bush said.
“We need to enforce the laws of our country for sure — enforce the border,” he said. “There’s a lot of things we need to do, but a practical solution of getting to fixing the legal system is also allowing for a path to legalized status — not necessarily citizenship.”
He said he could support a path to citizenship if that was the way to get to a deal “where we turned immigration into a catalyst for high sustained economic growth, where we did all the things we needed to do on border security, where we narrowed the number of people coming through family petition and dramatically expanded a like-kind number for economic purposes, which will help us grow and help the median rise up, in return for that as a compromise, sure.”
“But the plan in [our] book and the plan that I’ve suggested when I go out and speak which is almost every day on [the] subject — I’m talking about a path to legalized status,” he said.
Mr. Bush also reiterated his position that he would reverse President Obama’s executive actions to shield millions from the threat of deportation and also said he understands people’s frustrations and sentiments on the issue.
Asked how he would undo the actions, Mr. Bush said, “passing meaningful reform of immigration and make it part of it.”