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Jeb Bush on Immigration: Bush Welcomes 'Earned' Legal Status for 11 Million US Immigrants

First Posted: May 01, 2015 05:00 AM EDT
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Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said the 11 million U.S. immigrants deserve an "earned legal status," but his comments on immigration have drawn ire from groups.

On Tuesday, Bush, a likely Republican presidential candidate, visited Puerto Rico said, "I know the power of the immigrant experience because I live it each and every day."

The Texas Democratic Party, however, criticized Bush's comment as he was set to address the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), a Latino evangelical group, on Wednesday afternoon.

"Jeb Bush's comments are offensive to people who have actually lived the immigrant experience," said Texas Democratic Party Communications Manager Javier Gamboa, an immigrant beneficiary of the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

"Jeb Bush has never had to wait in line for a green card. He has never lived under the fear of being ripped from his family by deportation," continued Gamboa. "As the son and brother of two former U.S. Presidents, I'm not sure what Jeb Bush means by his 'immigrant experience.' Jeb doesn't speak for immigrants and he certainly doesn't speak for me."

At the NHCLC, Bush again commented on immigration and recognized the U.S. as a nation of immigrants.

"This is not the time to abandon something that makes us special and unique," said Bush in Houston.

"We have the ability, because of immigration, to be an emerging country again, to be full of optimism. ... But we have to fix a broken immigration system and do it in short order," said Bush

Bush said the U.S. immigration system has to improve by making the legal immigration process easier and dealing with the 11 million immigrants who should "come out of the shadows." According to Bush, the 11 million immigrants should have an "earned legal status" path, pay a fine, not receive government assistance and then "over a period of time" earn legal status.

"This country does not do well when people lurk in the shadows," Bush said.

Bush addressed attendees in both English and Spanish. He spoke about meeting his Mexico-born wife Columba Garnica Gallo when she was 16 years old during a foreign exchange program he participated in 1970.

As Latin Post reported, Public Policy Polling (PPP) released a new poll from Iowa showing Bush in third place behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. In regards to favorable reviews, Bush encountered mixed results. While 38 percent of Republicans gave him a favorable rating, 37 percent had an unfavorable view of the former Florida governor. Twenty-five percent of respondents were not sure.

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