Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) officially launched his presidential campaign in Miami on Monday afternoon, but was interrupted by pro-amnesty protesters who temporarily derailed him from his prepared remarks.
As Bush introduced his “wonderful mom,” Barbara Bush — his presidential relatives, father George H.W. Bush and brother George W. Bush, were not present — he was interrupted by protesters who were lined up near the back of the crowd.
Taking off their jackets, the protesters — over twenty of them all in the same row — revealed bright neon yellow T-shirts that read “LEGAL STATUS IS NOT ENOUGH.”
Protesters at Jeb event wearing shirts with letters that read “Legal Status Is Not Enough.” (I think) pic.twitter.com/qNolxAwH1j
— Chris Moody (@moody) June 15, 2015
The protest momentarily threw Bush off his prepared speech. Until that moment he had touched on many red-meat conservative issues, and included sharp critiques of the “Obama-Clinton-Kerry” foreign policy. However, as provided to Breitbart News shortly before his announcement, the original remarks did not directly mention the two hot button issues where Bush has drawn the ire of conservative activists: Common Core and immigration.
Bush, who has described himself as an “honorary Latino” and prominently featured Hispanic culture in Monday’s campaign launch, is facing a Republican primary electorate highly skeptical of his immigration positions, which he readily admits are more moderate than most of the Republican field.
The crowd of supporters at Miami Dade College, who had been loudly cheering and clapping throughout Bush’s speech, attempted to drown out what the protesters were trying to say, chanting first, “Jeb! Jeb! Jeb!” and then “USA! USA! USA!” as security escorted the protesters outside.
Bush waited quietly for a few moments for the noise to die down, and then said these words, which were not in his prepared remarks:
“By the way, just so that our friends know, the next president of the United States will pass meaningful immigration reform, so that that will be solved — not by executive order!”
Jeb turns to protestors w “legal status is not enough” shirts and says the next potus will pass imm reform pic.twitter.com/Xr87kbdNT2
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) June 15, 2015
Bush then paused again, apologized — “I kind of lost my train of thought there” — and went back to speaking about his family, thanking his parents for supporting him as “I found my own path [that] led from Texas to Miami by way of Mexico,” where he met his wife, Columba.
Bush referenced a comment former President Ronald Reagan had made during his 1980 campaign, that, “we should stop thinking of our neighbors as foreigners,” and described his meeting and falling in love at first sight with his wife as how he “was ahead of my time in cross-border outreach.”
Protesters at political speeches are nothing new, especially on the topic of immigration. Bush’s fellow Floridian, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), had immigration protesters on both sides of the issue outside his announcement in Miami a few months ago. But for protesters to derail a candidate from prepared remarks on one of the most important speeches he will ever deliver is a rare thing.
Because Bush’s off-the-cuff remarks were not part of his prepared speech, it is likely that they were an honest expression of what he believes, unfiltered by attorneys and advisers. Immigration will undoubtedly be a hot topic during the 2016 election cycle, and whether Bush’s immigration position will be a deal breaker for Republican primary voters will be one of the key issues that will be followed.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.