With the Senate tied in knots over a House-passed bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security while simultaneously blocking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, a nearly two-year-old video was released that shows leading GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush explicitly contradicting a key Republican position on providing illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
First reported by CNN, the video shows Bush at an appearance at an event sponsored by the Hispanic Leadership Network in April 2013. Bush was asked about his position on a Senate immigration reform bill and, specifically, on offering citizenship to people brought to the United States as children -- commonly known as “Dreamers” after failed legislation called the DREAM Act that would have granted many of them legal residency.
“I’ve never felt like the sins of the parents should be ascribed to the children,” Bush says to the interviewer. “If the children always have to pay the price for the adults’ decisions they make – How fair is that? So, for people that have no country to go back to, which are many of the Dreamers, it’s ridiculous to think there shouldn’t be some accelerated path to citizenship. The [immigration reform] bill gets close to that and I think that’s great. And I think there is almost universal support for that.”
The statement puts Bush squarely in opposition to the efforts of Capitol Hill Republicans. One of the explicit measures that House Republicans attached to the DHS funding bill they passed is a ban on using any appropriated funds implement the president’s “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program, known as DACA, which lifted the threat of deportation from illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
On Tuesday, Senate Democrats filibustered an attempt to open debate on the House bill, which President Obama has promised to veto. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is currently expected to order another vote on the same measure – possibly several more votes – this week.
On Wednesday morning, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, a staunch foe of easing restrictions on immigration, railed against the president’s “radical, unlawful, unpopular amnesty agenda” on the floor of the Senate, and said that Democratic proposals to introduce a “clean” DHS funding bill would go nowhere.
The battle over DHS funding is one of increasing urgency, as funding for the agency is due to run out at the end of the month. In addition to managing U.S. border security, DHS has numerous other national security related functions.
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday that Democrats are not averse to debating immigration policy, but object to debating “with a gun to our head.” He called on Senate Republicans to pass a “clean” DHS funding bill and to debate immigration law separately.
The revelation that Bush, at least in the past, supported accelerated citizenship for immigrants brought here illegally as minors is only the most recent signal that he doesn’t share the animus much of the GOP base has toward illegal immigration. Last year he expressed sympathy for illegal immigrants entering the country in an effort to support their families. “Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love.”
The footage discussing Dreamers, which went live this morning, was posted by American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic political action organization that specializes in tracking the public statements of Republican politicians.
“It’s tracking footage from one of our trackers that attended this conference in Miami in 2013,” said Ben Ray, the communications director for American Bridge. “We’ve been keeping an eye on Jeb for quite a while now,” he added.
Asked if that meant that the organization expects to release more footage from other appearances by the former Florida governor, Ray said, “Where he’s going to pander the way that he has on immigration, we’re going to call him on it.”
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