Jeb Bush Emails: ‘Penalizing’ DREAMers by Denying U.S. Citizenship ‘Wrong’

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File

When he was Florida’s governor, Jeb Bush wrote that penalizing illegal immigrants who came to the country as children (DREAMers) by denying them U.S. citizenship was “wrong.”

In 2006, Bush reportedly wrote a Los Angeles Times reporter that “the notion that we would felonize folks that have been here and that are contributing to our progress is just plain wrong.”

“Penalizing the children of illegal immigrants by denying US citizenship is wrong,” Bush reportedly wrote in opposition to “piling on provisions that are punitive to many who have made a great contribution to our country.”

Bush, a potential 2016 GOP presidential contender, supported giving driver’s licenses and in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants in Florida when he was governor.

The Times obtained emails that Bush wrote regarding those issues while he was governor.

When he supported a 2004 bill that would give driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants in Florida, Bush received backlash. Floridians reportedly asked whether Bush was “the governor of the people or the governor of the illegals” and warned Bush that “our citizenry and way of life must be protected from this illegal onslaught.” Another Floridian reportedly called the bill “a load of owl poop.” As the Times noted, “within three weeks of its introduction, the 2004 legislation was dead.”

Bush repeatedly emphasized in emails that “the situation of illegal immigrants won’t go away” and indicated that America needs to “deal with the millions that are here illegally but aren’t leaving. It is a big task but we need to do it. It should be done without the emotion of hatred and fear.”

Bush reportedly attacked Phyllis Schlafly’s opposition to the DREAM Act by writing, “it seems to me that valedectorians should be treated fairly if for no fault of their own, their parents came illegally to our country.” And he defended Miami by saying then-Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) was “nuts” when he referred to Miami as a “Third World country.” He wrote that Tancredo was “an ignorant man on the subject of Miami.”

Bush, who has called illegal immigration “an act of love,” has indicated that he would try to persuade conservatives on the need for amnesty legislation during a potential 2016 campaign. He has expressed support for a pathway to citizenship or legalization for illegal immigrants, and on Friday Bush told an audience in San Francisco that he was ready to engage in “adult conversations” on issues like illegal immigration in 2016.

He reportedly “drew loud and sustained applause when he called for immigration reform that would provide a path to legalized status for undocumented immigrants living in the United States.”

“We have a history of allowing people to come in legally to embrace our values and pursue their dreams in a way that creates prosperity for all of us,” Bush reportedly said, according to the Washington Post. “No country can do this like America. Our national identity is not based on race or some kind of exclusionary belief. Historically, the unwritten contract has been, come legally to our country, embrace our values, learn English, work and you can be as American as anyone else.”

Bush’s emails reflect that he, like much of the Republican establishment, was worried that the national GOP may become a minority party like California’s Republican party after the 1990s when Latino voters blamed Republicans and Pete Wilson for Proposition 187. Though studies in the New York Times and the Washington Post have indicated that Republicans can win the White House in 2016 and beyond without embracing massive amnesty legislation, that fear still drives Bush and other establishment Republican leaders.