In his first Spanish-language television network interview since launching his 2016 presidential campaign, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush fielded questions ranging from the upcoming presidential debate to Latin American foreign policy to whether he had ever experienced discrimination.
The brother and son of presidents, who is fluent in Spanish and speaks the language at home with his Mexican wife, shared an experience his son George P. Bush, who is now 39 years old, had when he and his Hispanic baseball teammates traveled north in Florida to play in a game.
"George, he\’s dark-skinned, and they spoke horrible things about those from Miami," Bush recalled, without offering details. "I had to explain … that people who hate are not the majority, and we must accept them and move forward."
The interview with Telemundo\’s "Enfoque con Jose Diaz-Balart" ("In focus with Jose Diaz-Balart") airs Sunday at noon (1600 GMT). Telemundo provided a translated transcript of the interview to The Associated Press.
Bush has been busy this week courting minority voters, who voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama in the past two presidential elections.
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On Friday, he spoke to hundreds attending the National Urban League in Fort Lauderdale and last Monday was in Florida at a luncheon with a diverse group of pastors and other religious leaders, many of whom were Puerto Rican.
When asked in the Telemundo interview about billionaire Republican rival Donald Trump, whose ratings have soared, Bush said "I\’m not too concerned about that."
He said he planned to focus on his record as Florida governor at next Thursday\’s Republican debate in Cleveland, the first of the 2016 presidential campaign. As governor, he said, he cut taxes, reformed education and grew the Florida economy.
Pressed by Diaz-Balart about immigration reform, Bush promised he would make the issue a top priority if elected president.
"To arrive here legally has to be easier than to arrive here illegally," said Bush. Like other Republicans, he wants to see U.S. borders secured before allowing the estimated 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally to obtain legal status. "I know we can do it," he said.
Bush said immigrants in the country illegally would have to pay "a small fine" and learn English to remain in the country as legal residents, and would not be eligible for government benefits.
On foreign affairs, Bush was critical of Obama\’s new Cuba policy, wants the U.S. to be more active in its support of dissidents in Cuba and Venezuela and said Congress must act to help Puerto Rico deal with its debt crisis.
"We should assist as much as we can," Bush said, of Puerto Rico.