(CNSNews.com) - "Immigration is a key element of our country's success," Jeb Bush, a possible contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, told the National Christian Hispanic Leadership Conference in Houston on Wednesday.
An advocate of immigration reform, Bush said the 11 million people who are in the country illegally "should come out from the shadows and receive earned legal status."
He said the United States is the only country that "has the chance to become young and dynamic again," all because of immigration. "This is not the time to abandon something that makes us special and unique," he added.
Bush opened his speech by telling the crowd, in Spanish, that they are "the hope of the country."
He then introduced himself to the crowd as a loving son and proud husband of a Latina wife (who inspired him to get a degree in Latin American studies). He described his faith, including his conversion to Roman Catholicism; and he generally outlined his position on the issues, including the economy, education, and immigration -- the platform on which he seems likely to run.
Of the Republicans mulling a run for President, Bush is the most liberal on immigration. In fact, his views are the same as President Obama's.
In January 2013, Obama said, "We have to deal with the 11 million individuals who are here illegally. We all agree that these men and women should have to earn their way to citizenship. But for comprehensive immigration reform to work, it must be clear from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship. We’ve got to lay out a path — a process that includes passing a background check, paying taxes, paying a penalty, learning English, and then going to the back of the line, behind all the folks who are trying to come here legally."
On Wednesday, this is what Bush said:
"Immigration is a key element of our country's success. We're a nation of immigrants. This is not the time to abandon something that makes us special and unique.
"Think about this. Japan has a declining population right now because shared values is not the definition of national identity, it's race. And as they decline in population, they will decline as a country.
"Europe does not embrace a set of shared values -- they have a multicultural approach. And so immigration there is a social challenge.
"Only America, a country of scale, has the chance to become young and dynamic again. We have the ability, because of immigration, to be an emerging country again, to be full of optimism, to believe that our future is brighter than our present, but we have to fix a broken immigration system, and do it in short order.
"That means controlling the border; that means making legal immigration easier than illegal immigration; that means creating a catalyst for economic growth for sure, but it also means dealing with the 11 million undocumented workers that are here in this country -- 11 million people that should come out from the shadows and receive earned legal status, where they pay a fine, where they work, where they do what they want to do, which is to come out from the shadows, work, provide for their families, not receive government assistance, and over a period of time, be able to receive earned legal status.
"This country does not do well when people work in the shadows. This country does spectacularly well when everyone can pursue their God-given abilities."
The Associated Press noted that this was Bush's second Hispanic outreach event this week, following a visit to Puerto Rico, which holds a presidential primary but is not part of the Electoral College.