WASHINGTON — Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush told a conservative radio host he would undo President Barack Obama’s executive actions to let some five million people temporarily stay in the country if he’s elected president.
The following exchange occurred Tuesday when Bush appeared on the Michael Medved show:
Medved: Would you undo his executive orders on immigration?
Bush: The DACA and DAPA? Yes, I would.
DACA is shorthand for Obama’s 2012 program to let young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children apply for temporary deportation relief and work permits. DAPA is a reference to his 2014 program — currently halted by a federal judge and being appealed by the administration — which could grow that number by more than four million, mostly parents of U.S. citizens. The next president can end the programs in an instant.
“He’s had millions of people, basically by the stroke of a pen, be given temporary status,” Bush said.
Bush called for immigration reform through Congress but didn’t condition his support for undoing Obama’s immigration actions on passage of legislation. Scrapping the programs without legislative action would place the beneficiaries at risk for deportation. That could pose a political problem for Bush in a general election, were he to be the nominee, because Latino voters overwhelmingly support Obama’s moves by margins ranging from 64 percent in a December Gallup poll to 89 percent in a November Presente survey.
Bush has positioned himself as the most pro-immigration candidate in the emerging Republican field, openly stressing the need to provide legal status to the estimated 12 million people living in the country illegally. His remarks Tuesday reflect the extent to which Obama’s executive actions on immigration — abhorred by the conservative base — have become an early litmus test in the GOP primary.
There is no Republican in the field who supports Obama’s immigration actions. Two of Bush’s chief rivals — including Scott Walker and Ted Cruz — have come out against any legal status for unlawful immigrants. Marco Rubio’s position is more complicated: he supports a path to legal status but only after piecemeal reforms have been established to beef up border security and overhaul the legal immigration system.
Meanwhile, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has championed Obama’s immigration actions, setting up a clear contrast with the eventual GOP nominee.
Asked at CPAC in February about the top five priorities in his first 100 days as president, Bush seemed to refer to Obama’s immigration initiatives when he said, “undoing the — by executive order, undoing what the president has done, you know, using authority he doesn’t have.”