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By Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Jeb Bush is standing by his use of the term “anchor babies” to describe children born in the U.S. to immigrants in the country illegally, the latest turn in the debate over immigration that’s at the forefront on the campaign trail this summer.

During a radio interview earlier this week, Bush used the phrase, drawing ire by many who view it as derogatory. While campaigning in New Hampshire on Thursday, the Republican presidential hopeful was asked whether he regretted saying it.

“I don’t,” Bush said. “Do you have a better term? You give me a better term and I’ll use it.”
Immigrant advocates and leading Democrats quickly seized on Bush’s comments, with Hillary Rodham Clinton tweeting several possible alternatives to the controversial phrase Thursday:

Clinton’s said on Twitter: “How about ‘babies,’ ‘children,’ or ‘American citizens.'”

“The term ‘anchor baby’ is so vile we don’t even have an equivalent for it in Spanish,” Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., said in a conference call with journalists hosted by Democratic Party leaders Thursday.

During the original radio interview, Bush called for “better enforcement so that you don’t have these, you know, ‘anchor babies,’ as they’re described, coming into the country.” It’s a phrase that has been used by other Republican presidential candidates in recent days, including front-runner Donald Trump, to talk about birthright citizenship for children born in the U.S. to immigrants in the country without legal status.

Earlier this week, Trump issued a lengthy immigration policy proposal that would end birthright citizenship, which he says encourages immigrants to enter the country unlawfully to have children.

Bush has defended birthright citizenship, saying it is a constitutional right that should be protected, although he has called for stricter penalties for those who abuse it.

The uproar over Bush’s comments underscore the tricky line he must walk as Trump and other GOP candidates tack to the right on issues such as immigration. Bush, who has raised more money the other GOP candidates and was seen as the likely front-runner for the nomination before Trump’s unlikely rise in the polls, has sought to portray himself as more moderate than candidates like Trump while also trying to appeal to his party’s staunchly conservative base.

Democrats have seized on that dilemma and have sought to draw parallels between Bush and Trump. Democratic National Committee Chair and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Thursday that Bush’s comment makes him “no better than Trump or the rest of the Republicans running for president.”

At the campaign stop on Thursday, Bush appeared annoyed by multiple questions about his use of the term.

“I said it’s commonly referred to as that,” Bush said of the phrase. “I didn’t use it as my own language. What we ought to do is_do you want to get to the policy for a second? I think that people born in the country ought to be American citizens. OK? Now we got that over with.”

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Former Florida Governor and Republican candidate for president Jeb Bush greets supporters at a VFW town hall event in Merrimack, New Hampshire, August 19, 2015. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter

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