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Bush on Immigration Reform

On Monday, Jeb Bush discussed security along our nation’s borders and how he would enforce our existing immigration laws, contending that both must be resolved before any president can begin addressing the status of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

Bush said that finding a practical solution to the status of the people who are here illegally is a nonstarter if the borders aren’t secure against future illegal immigration, Florida’s former Republican governor said in a statement released Monday.

Bush’s focus on border security is notable, given the time that he’s spent supporting a path to permanent legal status for those who are in the country illegally.

Bush, who is married to a Mexican immigrant, speaks Spanish fluently and refers to his children as Hispanic, has taken a softer approach than most in the GOP on immigration issues.

In the past, Bush said that people who come to the U.S. illegally do so as an “act of love” to create a better life for their families. He has argued that resolving the immigration debate is critical to boosting economic growth, contending that the legal immigration process shouldn’t focus on reuniting families, but on letting in the workers that our country needs.

Last week, Bush rejected the idea that the solution is to begin with a mass deportation of the individuals who are currently in the country illegally.

In his Monday proposal, he said that the federal government needs to keep better track of foreign visitors. He cited a 2006 report from the Pew Hispanic Center that found that as many as 50 percent of the people in the U.S. illegally overstayed their visas.

We need to identify the people when enter the U.S. legally but overstay their visas or violate the terms of their admission, he said.

To date, Homeland Security officials have had difficulty developing a reliable entry-exist visa system.

Last month U.S. Customs and Border Protection launched a pilot program testing handheld devices that scan fingerprints of some foreign travelers as they leave the U.S. from the airport in Atlanta. According to CBS News, the test will be expanded to airports in eight more cities by the end of the year, and will be used through June 2016.

The tests are the result of a congressional mandate, which aims to create a biometric exit system for foreign visitors. While the program could prove effective, it’s been repeatedly delayed and according to Homeland Security officials, it’s because of the program’s exorbitant cost.

On Monday Bush broadly discussed how he would deal with undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. He touched on criminal background checks, having them pay fines and taxes, learn English, obtain a provisional work permit, and a job so they could obtain legal status.

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