MCALLEN, Texas — Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush — on his own visit to the Mexican border Monday — denounced party front-runner Donald Trump's immigration plan as unrealistic and expensive.
The former Florida governor told reporters that the billionaire businessman Trump should read his book, "Immigration Wars," if he wants to learn how to deal with illegal immigration. Earlier, he met privately with local, state and federal officials in this city along the Rio Grande across from Reynosa, Mexico.
Trump has proposed building a massive border fence and kicking out the estimated 11 million people who are in the U.S. illegally before allowing the "good ones" and "talented" ones back in.
That plan is "not based in reality," Bush said, arguing it will require a "much better strategy than building a fence" to deal with the complexity of America's broken immigration system.
"If he's interested in a comprehensive approach, he might to want to read my book," Bush said.
Trump took his 2016 campaign to the Mexican border in July to highlight what he considers a broken border-security system. Appearing on "Fox & Friends" earlier Monday, he said of Bush, "I think it's great that he's going to the border because I think he'll now find out that it is not an act of love."
That was a jab at Bush's comment before he joined the race that people come to the U.S. out of love for their families and the wish to give them a better life.
"I was down on the border," Trump said. "It's rough, tough stuff. This is not love."
Bush told reporters at the Palenque Grill restaurant that Trump's immigration plan would cost billions of dollars, violate civil liberties and "create friction" with Mexico, America's third-largest trading partner.
Trump reacted to those claims in an interview later Monday on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor." ''You tell me about civil liberties," he said. "We have to get them out and some of these people are causing tremendous problems. All you have to do is look at the crime wave."
He added: "As far as Mexico being our third largest partner, they are making a fortune, we're not making anything. Mexico is making a fortune because their leaders are smarter, they know what they're doing, our people are grossly incompetent."
Bush said border security extends beyond the land border with Mexico, noting that at least 40 per cent of the people in the U.S. illegally came with valid visas. The federal government should vastly improve how it tracks the entry and exit of millions of foreign visitors, he said.
Bush also said most of those illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border are Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans, not Mexicans.
Reporters peppered Bush with questions about his use of the term "anchor babies" to describe children born in the United States to parents who are in the country illegally. Some find the term offensive.
Bush said he was referring to alleged fraud by families seeking to have their children born in the U.S. to guarantee citizenship. He said stricter enforcement of immigration laws would help resolve the problem and repeated his opposition to any move to deny U.S. citizenship to those born in America.
He said it was "ludicrous" to think he was being derogatory toward immigrants given his own family's Hispanic heritage.
"I'm proud to be married to a Mexican-American woman and I have children who are Hispanic," he said in Spanish as the restaurant crowd applauded.
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report from Newark, New Jersey.
Sergio Bustos, The Associated Press