Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told a crowd of several hundred at Hofstra University Wednesday that he supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants -- a position at odds with GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Bush, 59, a Republican, spoke for more than an hour on domestic and foreign policy. Bush also answered questions from students on issues ranging from the cost of public education to his own political aspirations. He said he likely will not run for the presidency.
"We could re-create and re-energize this incredible country by having an open immigration system that is part of an economic strategy and not a political strategy," Bush said.
Bush said both political parties are too focused on scoring political victories on issues including business deregulation, energy policy and immigration. The former two-term governor, who now runs a consulting firm in Florida, said lawmakers should focus on nonideological approaches that would create sustained economic growth.
Bush, whose wife, Columba, was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, said he supports stronger border control. But he said the United States should be "more hospitable to legal immigration."
He advocated a citizenship path for undocumented immigrants who learn English, stay out of legal trouble and pay a fine.
Bush, whose father, George Herbert Walker Bush, and his brother George W. Bush served as the 41st and 43rd presidents, said he chose to stay out of the 2012 presidential race out of respect to his wife, who he said does not enjoy the political spotlight. He said he doubted he would run for the White House in 2016 or beyond.
"I don't wake up each morning thinking I'm the chosen one," said Bush, who peppered his remarks with the occasional self-deprecating joke.
Bush also encouraged Hofstra students to enjoy and participate in the political experience. The university will host a presidential debate next month.
"You are going to be part of something that is bigger than yourself," he said. "You will remember it for a long, long while."