Jeb Bush is seizing on a federal judge’s order halting President Barack Obama’s executive actions to protect millions of immigrants from deportation, using it to test drive a message on the explosive issue ahead of an expected 2016 presidential bid.
“Last year, the president overstepped his executive authority and, in turn, hurt the effort toward a common sense immigration solution. That’s not leadership. The millions of families affected across the country deserve better,” Bush wrote in a Facebook posting on Tuesday.
“Now, more than ever, we need President Obama to work with Congress to secure the border and fix our broken immigration system,” he added.
Bush’s statement raises more questions than it answers. What more do the “millions of families affected” by the actions “deserve” that Obama hasn’t given them? A path to citizenship? And what sort of a “fix” to the “broken immigration system” does Bush support?
He didn’t say, and his stance remains something of a mystery.
That may be because the issue of immigration has left Bush — and other Republican presidential hopefuls — in a political predicament, caught between the anti-immigration passions of the GOP base and the pro-immigration passions of the fast-growing Hispanic electorate.
Bush’s past attempts to thread that needle have gotten him into trouble with conservatives and raised eyebrows among immigrant-rights advocates. Last April, he sympathized with illegal border-crossers, calling it an “act of love” on behalf of their families, but he was unsympathetic to those who overstay their visa, saying the country should “politely ask them to leave.” Last month, he skipped an Iowa event hosted by immigration hawk Rep. Steve King (R-IA), and instead went to San Francisco to deliver a paean to border security and call for “a path, to legalized status for those that have come here and have languished in the shadows.”
Does that include the possibility of citizenship? Preclude it? He didn’t say.
Earlier this month in Florida, he said, “we should fix our immigration system” to entice “the best and the brightest” to make the United States their home.
Passions for and against immigration leniency have only intensified since the 2012 election, when Republican nominee Mitt Romney made his candidacy toxic among Hispanics by calling for “self-deportation” of undocumented immigrants.
For a Republican presidential hopeful, especially one seeking to brand himself as the “electable” establishment candidate, perhaps the only safe thing to do on immigration is to attack Obama. That’s what Bush did Tuesday.