Story highlights

The potential presidential candidates have been criticized by conservatives over immigration

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, moderates on immigration, keeping a low profile in border crisis

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, another relative moderate on the issue, has been more aggressive

CNN —  

Three Republicans with lofty aspirations nearly had their political careers derailed over risky positions on immigration.

But the crisis on the southern border involving an influx of nearly 60,000 migrant children this year from Central America may help Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Rick Perry repair a broken trust on immigration with conservatives.

All three are positioning themselves in a way that could help them make peace.

Perry, as governor of Texas, is out in front publicly since his state is directly affected, while Rubio, a Florida senator, and Bush, a former Florida governor, have been relatively quiet.

And Republican strategist Ana Navarro said that’s OK.

“I don’t think you have to play a leading role on every issue,” she said.

Rubio took a risk

Both Rubio and Bush have been leaders on immigration in the past.

Rubio took a risk last year by taking a leadership role in crafting a comprehensive reform bill that passed the Senate but crashed and burned in the House.

Conservatives attacked him for supporting “amnesty,” their opinion of providing a path to legal status for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.

Rubio then distanced himself from the Senate package that he helped broker in favor of a piecemeal approach backed by some House Republicans that also has gone nowhere.

Bush: a compassionate tone