Jeb Bush championed a path to “legalized status” for people in the U.S. illegally on Saturday during a trip to Iowa, calling it the “only serious, thoughtful way” of dealing with the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.
“Immigrants that are here need to have a path to legalized status. No one I know has a plan to deal with illegal immigrants — to say that they’re going to be rounded up and taken away. There isn’t a specific plan,” Bush said at the Iowa Ag Summit.
The prospective 2016 presidential candidate stopped short of calling for
reforms that promise eventual citizenship to unauthorized immigrants as long as they meet certain criteria, as President Barack Obama and Democrats want.
“What we need to do is to make sure people pay fines, that they learn English, that they work, that they don’t receive government assistance, that they earn legalized status over the long haul,” Bush said. “That they come out of the shadows where they can be productive with a provisional work permit. This is the only serious, thoughtful way, I think, to deal with this. And we better start doing it.”
Bush’s remarks run contradictory to his party’s leadership in Congress, which has blocked legislation to provide legal status to undocumented immigrants. The issue promises to play a role in the 2016 Republican primary — many conservatives fiercely oppose legalizing those in the country illegally, while some top Republican donors insist that the party must support such a provision in order to win the support of the Hispanic community.
Bush also called for strong border security and reforming the legal immigration system.