Immigration has long been a personal and important issue to likely 2016 GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush, new emails from his time as Florida governor show. 


Bush personally responded to desperate pleas from citizens who ran into immigration roadblocks and appealed to the governor in an attempt to stay in the country or reunite with their loved ones.

In one instance, Bush said he would direct his legal counsel to intervene in a case, and in others, offered his help or the help of his immigration lawyer in cases where citizens said they had nowhere else to turn.

A sampling of the hundreds of thousands of emails Bush released ahead of a potential White House bid give new insight into the events that may have helped shape Bush’s position that many immigrants are seeking a life in the U.S. out of an “act of love” for their families.

In an email from 2003, a woman wrote to Bush about the plight of a husband and wife with three young children who arrived in the U.S. from Argentina on tourist visas.

The email says a Florida man who advertised himself as an immigration lawyer stole $3,500 from the family after falsely promising to help them stay in the country permanently.

“This family has entered our country legally and have now lapsed into illegal status due to the scam of a lawyer that was to help them,” the email says. “Their dream of dreams is to work, raise their family and pay their taxes in this country. Mr. Bush, these are the type of immigrants who have made our country great.”

Bush responded saying he didn’t know if there was anything that could be done, but that he would try.

“My legal counsel will intervene with the [Immigration and Naturalization Service] officials in Miami,” he said.

The Bush emails, which have been put in a searchable archive by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, reveal the complexity of the immigration debate. Bush has argued that the current system puts a preference on family reunification, which he says should be replaced with a work-based preference system.

But in an email from 1999, a Florida woman wrote to Bush because her husband, a Mexican citizen, had not heard back about his application and was unable to travel to the U.S. to see her.

Bush put the woman in touch with GOP strategist Ana Navarro, whom he described at the time as his “immigration lawyer/adviser.”

“She will be back in touch,” Bush assured the woman.

In a third email, a pregnant Florida woman married to a Mexican citizen appealed to the governor saying she and her husband desperately wanted to raise their child together but he hadn’t heard back about his application as her due date drew closer.

“I am beginning to get nervous and almost desperate about what is currently happening in my life,” the woman said. “Next month I will enter my last trimester and I will not be able to travel to visit my husband anymore. In planning for my delivery, my closest relative is 3.5 hours away and I only get 6 - 8 weeks of maternity leave from work.”

“I will do my best to try to help,” Bush responded.

Bush’s soft touch on immigration is believed by many to be a significant hurdle for the former Florida governor in the GOP primary. According to a CNN-ORC poll released over the weekend, Republicans say that Bush's statement that some illegal immigration is an "act of love" to reunite families makes them less likely to vote for him.

Bush supports stronger border security, which is a universally held position among Republican lawmakers. However, he also supports a path to legal residency for those already in the country illegally, which could be an issue for him at a time when many in the GOP are furious over President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

Bush has said he intends to take his positions on immigration to Republican primary voters in an effort to “persuade” them that “we have to make legal immigration easier than illegal immigration.”