DES MOINES, Iowa — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush offered a strenuous defense for a pathway to legalization for immigrants in the country illegally at a summit in Iowa on Saturday.
“Immigrants that are here need to have a path to legal status,” Bush said. “Nobody I know has a plan to deal with illegal immigration other than to just say they’re going to be rounded up and taken away.”
Bush said those in the country illegally should be given the opportunity to earn legal status if they work, don’t break the law and learn English.
“This is the only serious thoughtful way to deal with this,” Bush said
Immigration reform is one of Bush’s biggest liabilities with the base. But in his first political trip to the early-voting state since moving towards a presidential run, Bush forcefully stood his ground on the hot-button issue.
He also sought to highlight areas where he and the base agree.
“The first thing you do is change presidents,” Bush said. “A president that will undo the executive actions. … This president has used authority he doesn’t have to go way beyond what any president has done before.”
The former Florida governor also talked at length about securing the borders and expanding the guest worker program.
Bush and several other likely Republican presidential contenders are in Des Moines this weekend for the first-ever Iowa Ag Summit. The potential candidates are taking the stage one after another to be grilled by agribusiness mogul and influential conservative donor Bruce Rastetter on the policy issues that are important to the state’s business-minded rural conservatives.
Bush is touching several other bases on his trip as he begins to outline a play for the Iowa caucuses next year.
Bush held a fundraiser for Rep. David Young (R-Iowa) on Friday night. He has arranged a closed-door event with key state activists at Jethro’s BBQ ‘n Jambalaya in Waukee, followed by a meet-and-greet with supporters at a Pizza Ranch in Cedar Rapids.