HUDSON, N.H. (AP) – Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said Wednesday that blocking federal police money to cities that harbor immigrants in the U.S. illegally would be a way to corral those who have committed crimes.
During a campaign event at a VFW hall in southern New Hampshire, Bush said it's not inconsistent for him to support allowing immigrants who overstayed visas to pursue activities that allow them to remain in the U.S., while also stepping up policies to root out criminal offenders who are also immigrants.
"We ought to eliminate sanctuary cities," Bush told more than 300 people at an evening town hall meeting at the Veterans of Foreign Wars facility. "Talking about things the federal government can do, we shouldn't provide law enforcement monies for cities like San Francisco until they change their policies."
In recent days, Bush has dismissed rivals inside and outside his party on the subject of immigration.
Bush said fellow Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's comments last week characterizing Mexican immigrants as criminals, drug dealers and rapists was "extraordinarily ugly."
At the same time, Bush deflected Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's reference to him and other GOP presidential candidates as "part of a spectrum of hostility" toward immigrants. Clinton specifically noted that Bush supports allowing people in the country illegally to achieve permanent legal status, where she would support a pathway to full citizenship.
During the town hall meeting, Bush said it was possible to support an immigration policy that hews toward economic growth by opening the workforce to more legal residents, and appreciate immigrant culture, while also seeking to stem crimes such as the fatal shooting in San Francisco last week by a man who had been deported several times.
"You can love the Mexican culture, you can love your Mexican-American wife, and also believe that we need to control the border," Bush said during the town hall meeting. "This is a bizarre kind of idea that somehow you can have affection for people of a different country and not think the rule of law should apply."
Bush's wife Columba is a Mexican immigrant and American citizen. Bush speaks fluent Spanish and refers to his home life as bicultural.
Afterward, when asked about Clinton's characterization of him, he said: "She's just wrong about that."
"My record as it relates to immigrants is pretty clear," he said. "There's no hostility at all."