HOUSTON — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush declared Wednesday that 11 million immigrants in the country illegally should have an opportunity to stay, wading yet again into his party’s contentious immigrant debate.
In tone and substance, Bush stands out among the many Republicans lining up for the GOP’s next presidential primary, where conservatives who oppose an immigration overhaul often hold outsized influence. As he moves toward a presidential campaign, the brother and son of former presidents has not backed away from his defense of immigrants in the country illegally and a policy that would allow them to attain legal status under certain conditions.
“We’re a nation of immigrants,” Bush said at the National Christian Hispanic Leadership Conference that brought several hundred Hispanic evangelical leaders to Houston this week. “This is not the time to abandon something that makes us special and unique.”