By Julissa Catalan
In his first major speech since announcing a possible run for the Presidency, Republican Jeb Bush focused on immigration reform and its benefits to the U.S. economy.
Speaking to a crowd of almost 600 businessmen at the Detroit Economic Club, Bush told the audience he wants the U.S. economy to grow at 4 percent each year—and he thinks it can do so with the help of skilled immigrants.
Economists currently expect the U.S. economy to expand 3 percent this year. That is above the annual average of 2.2 percent during the recovery from the recession.
“While the political fights go on, we’re missing this opportunity,” he said. “I view fixing a broken system as a huge opportunity to get to that 4 percent growth. We can grow by 4 percent through all sorts of policies, but immigration has to be a part of it.”
Bush, who was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, also touched on extending visas for international students with STEM-related careers as well as allowing businessmen to come over legally to contribute to the economy. “Investors, Dreamers, people that come to our great universities, all these people should be welcomed in the country,” he said. “And the unwritten contract ought to be: ‘Embrace our values, and you can pursue your dreams in this great country. And by doing so, you’re creating opportunity for more people.'”
Bush also suggested that his plan would require Americans to have greater acceptance of racial and ethnic diversity in our country. “You come, you work hard, you embrace these values,” he said. “And you’re as American as anyone who came on the Mayflower.”
Bush’s stance on immigration may be more liberal than most Republicans because he is “bicultural,” as he calls it. His wife, Columba, was born in Mexico and their three children are bilingual. Moreover, he lives in Miami for “its culture,” he says.
Bush said he will reveal details about his “Right to Rise” platform in coming months, but he did disclose it will include reaching the 4 percent economic growth mark, reforms of policies geared toward keeping people in poverty, and closing the education gap.