Then, with lurching swiftness, she was yanked away. On a mild winter morning in 1991, two immigration agents appeared at the door of the family home looking for the woman Bush’s younger son and namesake, then just 10 years old, remembers as “a super nice lady.” They carried deportation orders.
It didn’t matter that Bush’s father was president of the United States at the time or that a Secret Service agent had answered the door. Romero, who was in the country illegally but had a work permit, wasn’t getting a reprieve.
“It was a difficult time for all of us, but most of all for Maria,” Jeb Bush said in an e-mail about that day. His son, Jeb Jr., hadn’t even realized she’d been deported. “I thought she just left,” Jeb Jr. said in a recent interview.
That long-ago deportation is one among many inflection points for the elder Bush in what has been a lifetime of intimate proximity to America’s Hispanic community, to its searing pain and its buoyant joy, to its mores and its politics. While Republicans cast about for leaders who can connect with Spanish-speaking voters, this tall Texas native with the Mexican American wife has remarkably come to represent a kind of Hispanic consciousness for the party.
Living in Miami, mixing effortlessly with that city’s Cuban American power base and speaking near-flawless Spanish, Bush has managed to embody an adopted culture that has enthusiastically adopted him. As former commerce secretary Carlos Gutierrez put it at last week’s Hispanic Leadership Network conference in Miami, the former Florida governor is “just as Hispanic as everyone in this room, and maybe a little more.”
It is a distinction that lends considerable weight to Bush — who was successful in attracting votes from both Republican and Democratic Latinos in his gubernatorial races — in the handicapping for 2016’s GOP presidential candidates. Speculation about another Bush presidency is permeating the festivities this week as Bush, 60, joins his presidential brother and father and the rest of the family in Dallas for the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. In a C-Span interview airing Wednesday night, George W. Bush stokes the speculation about his brother’s presidential prospects, saying, “My first advice is: Run.”
Some may see a third Bush White House as too much to take. Democrats and other critics, though acknowledging the political benefits of his Hispanic connections, say Jeb Bush’s conservative views on health care, economics and other issues put him out of step with the heavily Democratic Latino voter base.
Yet, admirers contend, his unusual links to the Latino community set him apart in the GOP and in American politics writ large, making him an ideal fit for the new America.