HOUSTON — Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush pushed back against more than a dozen protesters who repeatedly heckled him Monday with chants of "No hope without our vote" as he tried to address a national Hispanic business group.
The former Florida governor was forced to halt his speech before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Houston to remind those shouting that he supports a pathway to citizenship for children of people in the U.S. illegally, a group often called "DREAMers." They take their name from the acronym for legislation that lays out a process to toward citizenship for immigrant children who were brought into the country illegally and grew up in the U.S.
But like other Republican presidential hopefuls, Bush wants to secure the border with Mexico before dealing with millions of people here illegally. Mary Moreno, communications director of the Texas Organizing Project, which planned Monday's protest, said her group wanted to call attention to "the hostile atmosphere being created by the GOP field of presidential candidates."
The demonstrators held large signs, with one asking "Who is the real Jeb Bush?" Another read "One of us?" and was paired alongside one that read "Or one of them?" The latter featured a photo of Bush low-fiving Republican front-runner Donald Trump at last Wednesday's GOP debate in California.
Bush, whose wife was born in Mexico, supports the long-delayed DREAM Act, which would allow immigrant children who grew up in the U.S. and are living in the country illegally to eventually gain citizenship.
She also said Republican presidential candidates are seeking to "militarize the border" at a time when the U.S. border patrol already has thousands of border patrol agents.
"It's all crazy talk," Moreno said.
The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce released a statement denouncing the protests, saying Bush has a record of commitment to Hispanics.
In his speech, Bush said "a great majority of Republicans believe in immigration reform" and slammed Trump's immigration plan to build a border wall and deport those here illegally before allowing "the good ones" to legally return.
"We don't need to build a wall. We don't need to deport everybody in this country (illegally)," said Bush. "It's not a practical conservative plan."
"Coming here legally should be easier than coming here illegally," said Bush, who added that immigration can boost the U.S. economy.