WASHINGTON • Republican White House hopeful Jeb Bush has accused Asians of abusing rules allowing infants born in the United States to be US citizens.
Mr Bush has clashed with rivals - including Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump and top Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton - over the use of the term "anchor babies", a derogatory description of children born in the US to undocumented parents, gifting their offspring with US citizenship and enhancing their legal status.
Last week, Mr Bush sparked the criticism when he told a radio show that the United States needs "better enforcement so that you don't have these, you know, 'anchor babies', as they're described, coming into the country".
In the midst of a campaign row over immigration, migrants' rights activists see the term as a slur used by anti-immigration campaigners.
On Monday, during a visit to Texas near the US border with Mexico, when asked whether the "anchor baby" row would hurt his ability to win the Hispanic vote, Mr Bush said the situation has more to do with other immigrants.
"What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed where there're organised efforts - and frankly it's more related to Asian people coming into our country, having children in that organised effort, taking advantage of a noble concept with birthright citizenship," Mr Bush said.
The former Florida governor told reporters last week that he did not regret using the term because he did not know of a better one.
"I support the 14th Amendment," he said of the constitutional guarantee of citizenship to anyone born in the country.
The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans on Monday condemned "the use of the derogatory term 'anchor babies'."
Saying that because of actions ranging from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 "to now calling us 'anchor babies', Asian American and Pacific Islander communities continue to be discriminated against as part of larger anti-immigrant rhetoric," the group said.
In another development, the White House has acknowledged that Vice-President Joe Biden is still weighing a possible run for the top job, amid controversy surrounding Democratic front-runner Mrs Clinton.
Mr Biden, President Barack Obama's deputy for nearly seven years, has said that he would make a decision on entering the 2016 race by the end of the US summer.
"I would assume that that means he's got another month or so to think about this," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Monday.
Mrs Clinton's struggles to explain why she used a private e-mail server to conduct state business has raised questions about her status as presumptive nominee.
Mr Biden would provide stiff competition, but his path back to the White House may not be easy. He has been a presidential candidate twice and twice lost badly.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS