MIAMI, Florida — As Mitt Romney spent yesterday promising to create conditions deplorable enough for undocumented immigrants that they will engage in “self-deportation,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) warned that his party’s rightward shift on state-based immigration legislation “turned off” Hispanic voters.
ThinkProgress asked Bush about Alabama’s new anti-immigrant law, HB 56, which includes provisions requiring officials to check the immigration status of children enrolling for school and prompting local utilities to shut off residents’ water service unless they prove their citizenship.
Bush said that Hispanic voters “see the ramifications of the Alabama law and other things like that and get turned off.” The former Florida governor went on to declare that, given the growing influence of Hispanic voters, “it makes no sense to me that we are sending these signals:”
BUSH: The problem is that the federal law’s not being enforced. The more that’s being done to enforce the borders and to enforce the laws, the greater probability that this issue begins to subside. From a conservative point of view, I think that’s appropriate and important because Hispanic voters hear these debates and see the ramifications of the Alabama law and other things like that and get turned off. It’s not a good thing — I know this will sound a little crazy — but I happen to believe that if swing voters decide elections and swing voters in swing states are the most important voters in the presidential race, and if you send a signal that turns them off, that’s a bad thing. So from a practical political view, putting aside the policy, it makes no sense to me that we are sending these signals, not withstanding the frustration that people feel that the federal government’s not enforcing the immigration laws of the country.
Still, Bush’s sensible warnings on immigration policy are falling on deaf ears among many in his party. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the presidential race, where Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney has made anti-immigrant rhetoric a centerpiece of his campaign. He has pledged to veto the DREAM Act, his immigration plan involves forcing “self-deportation,” and he has trumpeted the endorsement of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the author of not only Alabama’s immigration law, but Arizona’s draconian SB 1070 bill as well.
Though Bush has tried to steer his party away from its anti-immigrant tendencies, the proliferation of state-based bills has continued unabated. In December 2010, after Arizona’s SB 1070 bill passed, the Denver Post reported that “Bush said if his children walked the streets of Phoenix they might look awfully suspicious to police.” (Bush’s wife was born in Mexico and his children are Hispanic.)
With Romney as the favorite to soon lead his party, Republicans may have difficulty winning Hispanic voters in the fall as moderate voices like Bush get pushed to the wayside.
To learn more about the Republican presidential candidates’ views on immigration, check out ThinkProgress’ regularly-updated page here.