Jeb Bush arrived on Monday at the Mexican border hoping to reclaim the immigration issue — and the campaign narrative — after two months of domination by fellow GOP presidential contender Donald Trump.
The former Florida governor reminded people of his “comprehensive” immigration strategy and showed off his fluency in Spanish. But even as he sought to shine the spotlight on himself, it was obvious that Trump had followed him to McAllen, Texas.
Bush was dogged by continued questions over his use of the term “anchor babies,” which some consider pejorative but which has been employed unabashedly by Trump. And Bush dropped race into the mix by noting that “Asian people” were more often guilty of the practice.
Bush grew impatient when asked about his use of “anchor babies.”
“My background, my life, the fact that I’m immersed in the immigrant experience — this is ludicrous for the Clinton campaign and others to suggest that somehow I’m using a derogatory term,” the former Florida governor said. His wife, Columba, was born in León, Guanajuato, Mexico.
Bush said he used the phrase to refer not to immigrants, but to specific instances “of fraud” in the form of “organized efforts” to take advantage of birthright citizenship.
“Frankly, it’s more related to Asian people,” he said.
Bush then added what appeared to be a prepared remark, an apparent effort to associate himself with Trump’s rebellion against political correctness. “And by the way, I think we need to take a step back and chill out a little bit as it relates to the political correctness — that somehow you have to be scolded every time you say something,” he said.
Even as he derided political correctness, Bush took a page out of the PC playbook, making most of his remarks in Spanish.
Bush continued his recently launched line of attack against Trump, asserting that the businessman’s immigration strategy was neither practical nor conservative.
“Mr. Trump’s plans are not grounded in conservative principles,” Bush said. “His proposal is unrealistic. It would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. It will violate people’s civil liberties.”
Trump responded on Monday by assailing Bush for his 2014 comment that illegal immigration was an “act of love,” a stand from which Bush has declined to back away.
“Well, I think it’s great that he’s going to the border, because I think he’ll now find out that it is not an act of love,” the real estate mogul said during an appearance on Fox News. “I was down on the border. It’s rough, tough stuff. This is not love, this is other things going on. And I think he’ll probably be able to figure that out, maybe.”
A version of this piece first appeared in LifeZette Tuesday morning.