Last summer, Jeb Bush was in favor of offering illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. As he told Charlie Rose:
“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.”
In his new book, “Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution”, Bush comes out in stalwart opposition to citizenship.
“It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences — in this case, that those who violated the law can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship. To do otherwise would signal once again that people who circumvent the system can still obtain the full benefits of American citizenship.”
Today on “Morning Joe”, Bush was back to his initial position. Kind of … He repeatedly stressed that the book was written last year, as if something had happened recently to alter what in the book seems to be a strong, principle-based opposition to a path to citizenship. He also argued that a path to legalization would not create a magnet for future illegal immigration, while a path to citizenship somehow would.
“If you don’t have a difference between a path to citizenship or a path to legalization, you’re going to create a magnet going forward for more illegal immigration. So going forward — we wrote this last year — going forward, if there is a difference, 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. I don’t have a problem with that.”
A couple of points:
1.) The Bush flip-flop-flip has angered veterans of Mitt Romney’s campaign, which last year felt stranded on unpopular ground with the candidate’s “self-deportation” approach.
“Where the hell was this Jeb Bush during the campaign?” one advisor told the Miami Herald. “He spent all this time criticizing Romney and it turns out he has basically the same position. So he wants people to go back to their country and apply for citizenship? Well, that’s self deportation. We got creamed for talking about that. And now Jeb is saying the same thing.”
2.) The distinction that Bush attempts to draw between legalization and citizenship in fact has little real consequence. Those who have immigrated here illegally were drawn by jobs, the chance to escape Third World living conditions or greater opportunity for their children. Getting U.S. citizenship was way, way down on their list. A nice possibility, maybe, but hardly a deciding factor.
The notion that a path to legalization would be a less powerful magnet than a path to citizenship makes no sense, and Bush is smart enough to know it. But when you’re caught tacking to the right when the political winds are blowing left, and when you have ambitions of becoming the third consecutive Republican president named Bush, you have to scramble a bit.
– Jay Bookman