Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush officially announced his 2016 presidential campaign on Monday at Miami Dade College, a largely Latino school chosen to demonstrate Bush’s potential appeal to Latino voters. But in one of the most surprising moments of his speech, a group of immigration activists interrupted Bush’s planned remarks by demanding he support deportation relief programs.
The demonstrators, members of local immigration organizations like United We Dream, GetEQUAL Florida, Alliance for Citizenship, Farm-Workers Association, were led by Homestead's Equal Rights for All. They wore neon yellow shirts spelling out “Legal status is not enough” and clutched signs reading “DACA and DAPA are acts of love.”
In the prepared remarks Bush's campaign sent to reporters, the word “immigration” was nowhere to be found. Bush went off script to respond to the demonstrators' heckles, saying, "By the way, just so that our friends know, the next president of the United States will pass meaningful immigration reform so that that will be solved -- not by executive order," an apparent reference to President Obama’s executive action to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
“Jeb Bush thought he could dodge the immigration issue all together at today’s announcement but immigrant youth forced the former governor to address an issue he’s been inconsistent on,” Julieta Garibay, co-founder of United We Dream, said in a statement.
Bush’s policies on immigration have varied. He endorsed a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in 2013, but later backed away from that position, only to support it again days later.
Saul Aleman of Homestead ERA, the demonstrator in the “H” shirt, said he finds Bush’s positions on immigration to be insufficient if they do not include a pathway to full citizenship.
In a phone interview, Aleman told msnbc that the protesters felt they had to “stand up for our families” during Bush's announcement.
“We felt he was putting words in our mouth that our community didn’t want full citizenship. We can represent our community better than he can,” Aleman explained.
Aleman said he is wary of politicians who use immigration as a way to make inroads with Latino voters while not delivering tangible results.
“Bush has more work to do for our community. He has to stand by us if he wants our community to stand with him. We want to send a clear message to any presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican, that our community will not be played with politically.”
“Anyone who stands in our way will be held accountable,” he added.