Democrats are pouncing on another bungled Jeb Bush comment -- but it's more complicated than it seems

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) sought to clarify Monday his use of the term “anchor babies” — which refers to children born in the US to parents living in the country without permission.

At a campaign event in in the border town of McAllen, Texas, Bush hit back at Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton’s attacks over his use of the term in a radio interview last week, saying that it was taken out of context.

But in doing so, he said the practice was “more related to Asian people,” and that he wasn’t directing it at Latinos, opening up a new front in Democratic criticism.

“This is ludicrous for the Clinton campaign and others to suggest that somehow I’m using a derogatory term,” Bush said. “What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed where there [are] organised efforts — frankly, it’s more related to Asian people — coming into our country, having children, in that organised efforts, taking advantage of a noble concept, which is birthright citizenship.”

Democrats once again sought to pounce on Bush’s comments, with the Democratic National Committee’s director of Asian-American and Pacific Islander engagement calling Bush’s comments “vile.” But the context is more complicated.

Bush was referring to recent high-profile busts of organised groups involved in “birth tourism,” a practice by which affluent women come to the US several months before they are expected to give birth in order to ensure that their child has US citizenship. Then, the mothers return home.

The Department of Justice has noticed a spike in birth tourism involving affluent Chinese women in recent years, according to The New York Times.
Earlier this year, FBI agents raided 37 locations across Southern California suspected of engaging in the practice.

Affidavits in the case described how some businesses charge clients up to $US60,000. They also quoted Chinese government source estimates of as many as 12,000 Chinese nationals engaging in the practice in 2012.

Top Republican political strategist Liz Mair, who advised Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), told Business Insider last week that she believed Bush’s use of the term “anchor baby” would not be particularly damaging to his run because the term applies to a real problem in US immigration laws.

Mair said the term “probably encompasses quite a few non-Hispanic immigrants who in many cases come from richer countries and who are more educated (think Asian economies, especially) who want to give their kids access to the US economy without ever having to deal with our ridiculous and almost un-navigable immigration system as it applies to better-educated and skilled prospective immigrants.”

Despite Bush’s concerns about birth tourism, his comments mark a slight shift from last week, when he was steadfast in refusing to back down on his use of the term “anchor babies” when challenged by reporters. Still, on Monday, he said the country should “chill out” and stop being overly politically correct.

“This is all how politics plays,” he said. “And by way, I think we need to take a step back and chill out a little bit as it relates to the political correctness that somehow you have to be scolded every time you say something. It’s not fair to be taken out of context. That’s the nature of politics, but I just don’t think that this is appropriate.”

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