KEENE, N.H. — Jeb Bush, as he often notes, co-wrote a book two years ago called "Immigration Wars," laying out a path to reforming America's immigration system. In the six chapters of the book, two phrases never appear: "sanctuary cities" and "anchor babies."
But in a six-point immigration proposal he released earlier this month, the former Florida governor included a plan to crack down on cities that don't cooperate with federal authorities on immigration law enforcement.
Now, Bush has invoked the term "anchor babies," the idea that some women enter the U.S. illegally simply so they can have babies who are U.S. citizens, which might make it easier for those women and their families to then become citizens too. Many, particularly in the Latino community, find this phrase offensive.
These two new phrases in Bush's lexicon raise two questions. Is Bush simply speaking clearly about policy challenges, as he and his aides argue, or pandering to anti-immigrant voters amid the rise of Donald Trump? And by using these phrases, particularly "anchor babies," is Bush violating the informal pledge he made to "lose the primary to win the general" and taking steps that would make it harder for him to win a general election?
"No, it isn't," the candidate said here at a press conference, when asked if the phrase anchor babies is offensive.
Repeatedly pressed on the phrase, a frustrated Bush said, "give me another word" to use instead. He suggested describing the kids as children of undocumented immigrants was too long.
Bush is already being compared in some quarters to Mitt Romney, who in 2011 suggested the solution to illegal immigration was "self-deportation," making life in the United States so difficult for undocumented immigrants that they chose to return home on their own.
But in reality, Bush, unlike Romney, has actually maintained most of his pro-immigration tone and more moderate stands on other issues, even amid the rise of Trump in polls. Bush continues to insist that he favors a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants. He this week defended granting citizenship to children born in the United States, even if their parents came here illegally, while several other GOP 2016 candidates aligned themselves with Trump's call to rethink birthright citizenship.