Jeb Bush is trying his best to convince his fellow Republicans that immigration reform is good for the party, despite concerns among some that there is little to gain politically from allowing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
“It’s always: immigrants don’t like Republicans. Why? Why do we assume that?” Bush lamented today at a Bipartisan Policy Center event on immigration. “Why do we assume it’s always going to be that way because it currently is that way?”
Bush is ardently making the case that Hispanic and Asian American voting patterns, which currently favor Democrats, won’t always be that way if Republicans do something about it.
According to the former Florida governor, the answer lies in creating a more optimistic, aspirational message that resonates more with recent immigrants.
“So I would argue that Republicans win when we are positive and hopeful and aspriational. And we draw people towards our cause when we do that,” Bush said. “If we just play the game that we’re for less government … that message is not aspirational, it’s not very hopeful, it’s not particularly optimistic, and we could lose.”
But if Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s warnings are any indication—that immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship will mean the end of the Republican Party—Jeb Bush has a lot of convincing to do.
“This is President Obama’s number one political agenda because he knows we will never again have a Republican president ever if amnesty goes into effect,” Bachmann told conservative website World Net Daily this week. “We will perpetually have a progressive liberal president, probably a Democrat and we will probably see the House of Representatives go into Democrat hands and the Senate will stay in Democrat hands.”
“So you’ll have a permanent liberal progressive Democrat class. And you will never again be able to see the country go back to its constitutional foundation. That’s what is at risk right now,” the Minnesota Republican continued.
Bush, who said he supports the Senate’s immigration reform plan, which prescribes a 13-year pathway to citizenship, seems to believe that cooler heads will prevail among Republicans and that the party stands a chance of winning over future recent immigrant voters.
“My guess is that the messaging will change and that we could garner significant support amongst immigrants from Africa, from Asia, from Latin America,” Bush said.
In the House, Bachmann is working hard to raise the alarm that the opposite is true. She, along with Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), are also circulating a petition this week calling for a special conference meeting in the House that would force additional debate on an immigration bill, her office confirmed to ABC News.
It’s unclear how many House Republicans will sign the petition, but it could be an indication of how steep the climb toward a comprehensive bill– especially one with a pathway to citizenship–will be in the House.
ABC News’ John Parkinson contributed to this report.