Jeb Bush Doesn’t Call for Limits on Legal Immigration During Candidate Forum

Jeb Bush
AP Photo/Jim Cole

At a candidate forum in New Hampshire at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sounded like he would support limits on legal immigration in the wake of a surge from GOP frontrunner Donald Trump. But that’s not really what happened.

During an answer about steps he would take to fix the economy, Bush said, among other things, he supports “moving from a broken legal immigration system to an economic driver.”

“All those things could allow us to grow at a faster rate,” Bush said in his answer that included increasing legal immigration. “It allows us to solve our entitlement challenges and many other things. In order to grow at that rate, we also need a secure world. I think I have the leadership skills based on my record to do that.”

In response to that, moderator Jack Heath asked Bush if he meant he’d support cutting down on the number of people admitted into America.

“Real quickly, on legal immigration, does the illegal immigration problem or crisis—should that affect the number of folks we let in legally?” Heath asked.

“I think we need to narrow the number of people coming by family petitioning,” Bush began his reply.

“So you’d cut that down some?” Heath followed up.

“I would cut it down to spouses and minor children instead of adult siblings and adult parents,” Bush began his full answer before time ran out and he could finish answering the question.

Immediately after Bush’s shortened answer, liberal group American Bridge attacked him for it. “Jeb! is ready to limit legal immigration as well,” American Bridge Tweeted. “Trump really is driving the GOP bus.”

Since Bush ran out of time before he could give his full answer, Breitbart News reached out to his campaign to get the full answer. The long and short of it is, no, Bush does not support limiting legal immigration levels. What he wants to do is shift from what’s called chain migration—family members, sometimes distant ones, getting admitted into America—to a more economic needs focused system.

That means, instead of who a given person from a foreign country is related to inside the United States being the key factor in determining whether they’d get in, he thinks the key factor should be what business interests like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others say they need for more workers in a given field—and the ability of potential immigrants to fill those positions. Since almost every special interest Bush is listening to says it needs more workers regardless of record low workforce participation rates across America, that means Bush supports a massive increase in imported foreign workers.

Bush’s campaign shared several resources with Breitbart News to make his full answer to that question clear. First, they pointed to Bush’s answer this weekend at the Koch Brothers-sponsored Freedom Partners event in his interview with Mike Allen from Politico in Dana Point, California.

“[W]e need to fix a broken immigration system,” Bush said when talking about immigration there.

I talked about the rule of law, and border enforcement. How about this, narrowing the number of people that come by family, that’s 80 percent of all legal immigration is in the broadest definition of family in the world. We have spouse and minor children, which every country has, and that’s the definition of family, the proper one. And then you have adult siblings and adult parents, and we’ve had this since 1965 I believe, in the 1960s, and what’s happened is a concept called chain migration has taken place where it crowds out all economically driven immigrants. So here’s the deal: there are more economic immigrants going to Canada, a country 1/10th our size than the United States. Which immigration system is going to create high-sustained growth?

Secondly, Bush’s campaign shared a Tampa Bay Times article on an interview he gave to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly—who will be one of the moderators of Thursday night’s debate in Cleveland, Ohio—in which he is quoting as saying it is “what we need to do” when talking about expanding the number of “economic immigrants” imported into America.

A third resource the Bush campaign shared with Breitbart News was a Daily Beast article about an interview National Review’s Rich Lowry did with Bush about the Gang of Eight amnesty bill that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) championed through the Senate last Congress.

“My idea is to narrow the number of people coming for family petitioning and expanding the number of economic immigrants,” Bush said there.

Bush’s argument was identical to that of Rubio’s in the New Hampshire forum.

When Rubio talked about the same issue, he also pushed expanding immigration levels into the United States.

“We are the most generous country in the world on immigration, we admit 1 million people a year legally to the United States, but we do primarily on the basis of whether or not they have a relative living here,” Rubio said. “We cannot afford to do it that way anymore. In the 21st Century, legal immigration must be based on merit—on what you can contribute economically. Basically, whether you are coming to be an American as opposed to simply live in America.”


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.