Jeb Bush Support for Dreamers Dismissed, Cheered, at Hispanic Chamber

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By Suzanne Gamboa

Hecklers interrupted GOP candidate Jeb Bush over immigration Monday, tongue-tying him briefly, but Bush regrouped to voice support for a path to citizenship for young people not legally in the country.

"No hope without our vote," the protesters yelled as he started his speech.

Bush, speaking at a women entrepreneurs luncheon at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce conference in Houston, had just said he was tired of "how we figure out ways to break ourselves up in our disparate parts," and was naming honorees, when the protests began.

"Hey!" he responded, trying to stop the protesters, followed with "I can't see you."

But as it kept on, Bush shifted to immigration saying he has been consistently for the Dream Act kids to get a path to citizenship.

"I'll continue to be consistently for it, irrespective of what the political ramifications of that are," he said. The line was cheered by attendees and the protests ended.

Bush did not address what he supports for other immigrants who did not arrive or stay here legally.

He has previously said he would undo DACA, the program created with authority from President Barack Obama to shield young immigrants from deportation, and DAPA, which would do the same for parents illegally here who have U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident children. Bush has said he would end the programs and would advance legislation.

The protest was organized by FIEL of Houston. The acronym stands for Familias Imigrantes y Estudiantes en la Lucha (Immigrant Families and Students in the Struggle), but as a word, "fiel" translates to "faithful." The group is a coalition of members of other immigrant organizations.

RELATED: Jeb Bush Speech Interrupted by Immigration Activists

Cesar Espinosa, one of the protesters, said Bush's comments are the reason they were at the event protesting.

"He has said that and turned around and said the complete opposite, so we do not believe him," Espinosa told NBC News Latino in an email. "As a leading voice in the Republican Party and with an immigrant wife, he should be the champion in his party."

Espinosa said the protesters were "scorned" by attendees and "pushed out."

The USHCC issued a statement criticizing the protesters, saying the chamber "does not protest, especially against candidates that have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the Hispanic community." President and CEO Javier Palomarez had lauded Bush's initiatives as Florida governor in his introduction of the candidate.

Bush never said his rival's name, but he taunted GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, who has been bashing Bush regularly. "There are voices in my party that don't agree with any of this, or some of it ... the louder voices," he said creating a ripple of chuckles in the audience.

"Yeah, we have to secure the border, of course we do. Coming legally should be easier than coming here illegally," Bush said. "But we don't need to build a wall. We don't need to deport every person that's in this country at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars. That's not a practical, conservative plan."

Congress passed the Secure Fence Act under his brother, George W. Bush, that called for building a 700-mile, double-layer fence and other barriers on the border.

That law was altered slightly by then Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican, with an amendment giving Border Patrol more say over where and what type of fencing or barrier would be built in some places. The fence and barriers were finished during the early months of the Obama administration.

Although he said he didn't want to "create more of the food fight," Bush chucked a few barbs at Obama and some in the GOP, saying "this president is a gifted man, but he's used his talents to divide ... If someone disagrees with him he pushes that person down. He exaggerates his view and the gulf that exists now creates the gridlock in Washington, D.C. On our side, we have people that are preying the same way," Bush said.

Bush said candidates should campaign by standing on principle, rather than "playing the game of striking fear in people's hearts. We need to give people the sense that we fix these things, their lives will soar."

While Bush was in Houston, Trump was on social media - or at least posting on it - taking a crack at Bush's admission in the most recent Republican debate that he had smoked pot 40 years ago. Trump suggested the effects had not worn off:

And Trump repeated his immigration view to Twitter followers.

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