Jeb Bush Walks Back Opposition to “Citizenship” for Illegals, Away from Newly Released Book

Jeb Bush Immigration Reform

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush began what most believe to be a trial run for a White House bid in 2016 this week with a promotional tour pushing his new penned book Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution.  Therein, the brother and son of former presidents made a case for comprehensive immigration reform and the Republican Party’s place in that endeavor.  While I have yet to read the book, summaries and public statements (by Bush) reveal that the cornerstone for his reform plan was to be designating “permanent residency” status or “a path to legalization” for those who have entered this country illegally and refuse to return home to “get in the back of the line.”

While a path to permanent residency may have seemed “cutting edge” six, twelve, or eighteen months ago; November’s presidential thumping among Hispanic and Latino voters has quickly moved much of the Republican Party to Bush’s Left.  Cutting edge is now “not far enough.”

Perhaps, sensing the delay in bringing his book to store shelves had rendered his plan and proposals somewhat outdated, Bush began to walk back his previously stated position Tuesday in an interview on MSNBC’s The Morning Joe.  “If you can craft that in law, where you can have a path to citizenship where there isn’t an incentive for people to come illegally, I’m for it,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with it. I don’t see you how you do it, but I’m not smart enough to figure out every aspect of a really complex law.”

Beth Reinhard at National Journal frames the Jeb Bush bottom line/angle…

The bottom line is that in Bush’s zeal to kick-start an immigration reform debate in the GOP, he apparently laid the groundwork for his own flip-flop. While he’s arguing against citizenship for illegal immigrants in his book because it would give them a leg up over those who applied legally, last year in an interview with Charlie Rose on CBS, he said, “You have to deal with this issue. You can’t ignore it, and so either a path to citizenship, which I would support–and that does put me probably out of the mainstream of most conservatives–or a path to legalization, a path to residency of some kind.”

Despite Bush’s intentions to help pave that path, his position on citizenship in the book makes him appear to be at odds with his brother and his former protégé and longtime ally, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who came out in favor of a path to citizenship in January along with a bipartisan group of senators. Exit polls that showed seven  of 10 Hispanic voters rejected Romney have pushed Republican Party leaders to rethink the party’s immigration policy.

“He sent the book to the printer at a time when he was anticipating the direction of the debate tilting against citizenship. It is clearly contrary to what he has said before,” said Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the liberal Center for American Progress. “In hindsight, Americans have always judged severely efforts to deny citizenship to classes of people. Is this really the GOP’s path out of the political wilderness?”

What’s more, Bush’s revamped position on citizenship looks like the maneuvering of a potential presidential candidate who wants to outflank Rubio and appease the conservative, anti-amnesty contingent that dominates GOP primaries. “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,” the book says. “It must be a basic prerequisite of citizenship to respect the rule of law.”

As I’ve read and watched this story makes its rounds today, I couldn’t help but share Reinhard’s view of the position Bush now finds himself in; and I don’t necessarily think it’s by accident.  If he is truly going to make a run at the White House in 2016, he’s going to have to win a primary first.  Primary voters rarely forget the first Republicans to move to the Left in response to electoral defeats.  With the fate of comprehensive immigration reform anything but a foregone conclusion at this point, Bush’s pathway to residency proposal may prove to be as far Left as the base of the Party is willing to accept.

Remember, just as Rubio and his 7 colleagues in the Senate floated out the parameters for their proposed, yet hypothetical, legislation; the White House conveniently sprung a leak revealing a more liberal proposal of its own.  Rubio and his colleagues may very well be working on a proposal destined for presidential veto.  And then what?  Another leftward move?  The base will never stand for it.  And that may leave Jeb Bush and his plan for permanent residency – rather than citizenship – looking like a sensible alternative.

Jeb and his publisher may be taking a few blows today; but they could prove to be well ahead of the curve (by being behind it) when all is said and done.

More at Memeorandum…


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