When Donald Trump toured the U.S.-Mexico border last month in Texas, he was greeted by throngs of television cameras and reporters and declared illegal immigration a “huge problem.”
By comparison, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s trip Monday to the border city of McAllen, Texas, was more low-key. He met with local officials behind closed doors and briefly took questions from reporters afterward.
The contrast was illustrative of the approaches to their presidential campaigns: Trump, the brash and unpredictable front-runner, and Bush, who ceded that top status to Trump, more methodical. And in recent days, they have sparred on substance, too, particularly over immigration.
On social media and in stump speeches, each have assailed one another’s proposals on the issue. Bush has called Trump’s plan to end the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship as out of line with conservative principles.
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In brief remarks Monday as he toggled between English and Spanish, Bush said that Trump’s plan to fix the immigration system, which includes building a wall along the border and having Mexico pay for it, is simply “unrealistic.”
“This is not grounded in conservative principles,” Bush said. “ It would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. It’s not realistic. It won’t be implemented and we need border security to be able to deal with getting this country back on track.”
Bush, who supports legal status for the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally, has among the more moderate Republican immigration proposals. But in a Republican primary those positions make Bush – polling second behind Trump in several national polls – a target for candidates looking to capture support from the conservatives who vote in the party’s primaries and caucuses.
And when Trump has attacked other challengers, he has largely focused on Bush, castigating him as coming up short on immigration.
He’s helped force Bush to sharpen his tone; Bush used the term “anchor babies” last week, which is considered derogatory by some, and defended his use of it.
When Bush released his book “Immigration Wars” two years ago there was no mention of the term.
On Monday, his use of the term came to the forefront again, when a reporter asked Bush whether his use of it hurt him with Latino voters.
“What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed where there’s organized efforts, and frankly it’s more related to Asian people coming into our country having children in that organized effort, taking advantage of a noble cause … birthright citizenship,” he said.
He seemed to be referring to raids by federal officials on so-called maternity tourism businesses that cater to Chinese clientele. The outfits fly pregnant women to the United States and charge a premium to help get them to hospitals to give birth, then travel back to China.
Bush’s explanation drew attacks from Democrats.
“This latest comment from Bush shows just how out of touch he is. The only thing worse than Jeb Bush's words about immigrant families may be his policies towards them," said Democratic spokesman K.J. Bagchi.
Bush has also focused in recent weeks on the issue of so-called sanctuary cities since the shooting death of a woman on San Francisco’s waterfront. The man arrested in her death had been deported five times. A key pillar to his immigration plan – outlined on his campaign website – is to “crack down” on sanctuary cities by withholding federal law enforcement funds to cities that undermine federal immigration laws. There was no mention of sanctuary cities in his book, either.
For Trump, it’s simple – by him raising the issue of immigration “other candidates are finally speaking up.”
“Just politicians!” he tweeted.
Follow @kurtisalee for political news
Aug. 24, 3:34 p.m.: The story was updated with additional comments from Bush.
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