Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush fired back on Tuesday when asked again about his use of the term “anchor babies,” saying his immigration-friendly policies and multicultural family show he doesn’t need to be “lectured to about the politics of immigration.”
The former Florida governor, who drew criticism for using the term last week, outraged some Asian Americans on Monday when he attempted to clarify his remarks by saying the term is actually “more related to Asian people” than Hispanics.
“Look, my record is pretty clear,” Bush said Tuesday in response to a question at a town hall event in Colorado. “I’m married to a Mexican American, United States citizen. I’m immersed in the culture. I’m bilingual. I feel like I’m bicultural. I’m proud of the diversity in my own family. And my record not just yesterday but over my lifetime is one that people can look at.”
“I appreciate the comment but I’m 62 years old and when I was 17 years old I fell in love with Columba and it’s gonna be really hard for me to get lectured to by anybody about the politics of immigration,” he added.
Immigration continues to be a hot-button issue in the Republican primary, where Donald Trump has made inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants a fixture of his campaign. Bush has positioned himself to the left of Trump, offering up a more compassionate take on immigration reform and denouncing the Republican front-runner’s plan to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and end birthright citizenship.
“Mr. Trump believes that you can just round people up and that it’s just an easy thing to do cause he’s a successful guy and he’ll just have successful people do it and it’ll all work out,” Bush said at the town hall. “Well the cost of this will be extraordinary, it will disrupt community life, it doesn’t embrace American values that I think should be respected, it’s not a practical plan.”
Within his party, Bush enjoys the highest favorability ratings with Hispanic voters, according to a Gallup poll released Tuesday. In Colorado, a state with a large and growing Hispanic population, Bush emphasized the relatively progressive stance on immigration that has earned him that standing, reminding attendees that he supports the citizenship right of babies born in the U.S. to non-citizen parents.
“I support birthright citizenship by the way. I support it. I think that is a noble thing we should do,” Bush added. “But we’ve got to control the immigration system in this country. We have to control our borders.”
He doubled down again in a post published on his website Tuesday afternoon, arguing against Trump’s immigration stance and for a “practical solution.”
“We must find a practical solution to the status of the 11 million people here illegally today. We need a vigorous path to earned legal status where people are required to learn English, pay a fine and taxes, pass a criminal background check, work and not receive federal government benefits,” Bush wrote. “This isn’t amnesty. It’s a sensible proposal that can be embraced by people across the political spectrum. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton the politicians in Washington have talked about immigration for 6 and half years but they have no interest in fixing it, only creating a political wedge issue. I will solve this problem, once and for all.”