Jeb Bush says “a lot of people can be persuaded” to back an overhaul of U.S. immigration laws that would include amnesty for some 12 million illegal aliens.
The former Florida governor also said he would keep in place the executive action by President Obama — even though he called it an unconstitutional action — but would press Congress to work on a legislative fix that would deliver bipartisan support.
“I think illegal immigration ought to be punished by coming out from the shadows, earning legal status over an extended period of time where you pay a fine, where you work, where you don’t receive government assistance, where you learn English, where you don’t — you know, you’re where deported if you commit a crime as is the law,” Mr. Bush said Monday evening on Fox News.
“There are no, very few other options that I can see. 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. We need to enforce the, enforce the laws of our country for sure, and enforce the border.”
But Mr. Bush denied that he would support amnesty.
“No, I’ve said as long as there — if that was a way to get to a deal, where we turn immigration into a catalyst for high sustained economic growth, where we did all the things we need to do on border security, where we narrow the number of people coming through family petition and dramatically expanded a lifetime number for economic purposes, which will help us grow and help the median rise up and 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.”
Below is the interview with Fox’s Megyn Kelly.
KELLY: Got it. What about, when you were governor of Florida, you supported driver licenses for in-state illegal immigrants, you also supported in-state tuition rates for the children of illegal immigrants, and your critics say well those are magnets, that, that will encourage more illegal immigration.
BUSH: Well, that didn’t happen in Florida. I proposed support of a state senator’s bill that never even got a hearing, as it relates to in-state tuition. It passed this year. A conservative Republican legislature led by a very courageous speaker of the house, Will Weatherford, passed this and the governor signed it into law. It didn’t happen under my watch, but I supported that, because if you’ve been here for an extended period of time, you have no nexus to the country of your parents, what are we supposed to do? Marginalize these people forever?
I mean, there’s got to be a point where we fix this system so that legal immigration is easier than illegal immigration, and show some respect for people, a kid that might have been here 10 years, that might be a valedictorian of their high school, to say, no, no, no, you’re not allowed to go to college, I just think, there’s a point passed which we’re over the line.
I do understand and respect people’s sentiments and frustrations about this broken system and I totally understand why people are upset when Barack Obama with a — you know, with a just a stroke of a pen, through executive action, takes unconstitutional action.
KELLY: What about that? Would you reverse that if you became president?
BUSH: Absolutely I would. Of course.
KELLY: Because I talked to Marco Rubio about this and he had said, look, it’s going to be very difficult to undo that, once all these folks here, if that if that legal challenge to his action does not succeed.
BUSH: I think, by the way, I think it will succeed.
KELLY: But how would you undo it? Once those folks are here and they’re…
BUSH: Passing meaningful reform of immigration and make it part of it.
KELLY: Would you support the Senate bill that did not pass?
BUSH: I would have had a different bill that was based on the, you know, my deeply held views on this. But I would have supported that to get beyond this. Sure. And it was a bill that I don’t think, I think there should have been more efforts made to get something like that passed.
Look, the criticisms of the bill in my mind was—way too complex, hard to understand, but they made a good effort to narrow family petitioning and expand economic immigrants which is what we need to do.
KELLY: This is another area where, where folks say I like Jeb Bush, but how can he ever get through the GOP primary with this position on immigration? You know that there’s a core wing of the party that for whom this will be a deal breaker.
BUSH: I don’t know that. I’ve been traveling over the last three months. I get a sense that a lot of people can be persuaded, to be honest with you.
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 is 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.
KELLY: Let’s talk about your brother, uh president—