The argument of the student, and much of the left, goes something like: Many of these people are hard-working members of society-- just like Bush's wife. They deserve the same rights citizens have.
Bush, whose wife is indeed Mexican, essentially replied: It's called illegal immigration for a reason. And giving citizenship to 11 million people isn't feasible, politically or logistically, so let's move on.
Bush is among the most moderate in the 2016 GOP field when it comes to immigration reform. As governor of Florida, in 2004 he supported a controversial bill to get undocumented immigrants driver's licenses. But he has a complicated history with the notion of a path to citizenship. He's gone from supporting it -- saying in the summer of 2012, "You have to deal with it, you can't ignore it" -- to appearing to say the opposite in his 2013 book, "Immigration Wars."
"It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences — in this case, that those who violated the laws can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship," he wrote.
In that paragraph, Bush sums up what many on the right are also concerned about when it comes to a path to citizenship -- specifically, the kind of message it would send. These people, hard-working or not, broke the law. What would happen to the rule of law -- and America's borders -- if they weren't punished but rather given a leg up on other immigrants?
Bush essentially tells the student as much when he says, "My wife didn't come here illegally -- that's the difference."
Public opinion would appear to be just as stubbornly split, mostly along party lines, between Bush and the student.
A July Washington Post-ABC News poll found that six in 10 Americans support -- with some conditions -- allowing undocumented immigrants to gain a form of legal status. Exactly 40 percent said they should be allowed to apply for a path to citizenship.
But as my colleague Janell Ross noted, there are just enough people who find Republicans' stance on securing the border and focusing on the rule of law appealing to keep public support weighted on both sides. And Democrats' support for a path to citizenship isn't winning them this debate; according to the July poll, 37 percent of Americans trust Democrats more to handle immigration, while 40 percent trust Republicans to.
Just about as well as anything, Bush's encounter with that student signifies the vast chasm between the two sides on this issue. And when the disagreement is on such a fundamental level, that makes action even more unlikely.