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Politics

Jeb Bush flips on path to citizenship

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Published:   |   Updated: March 8, 2013 at 09:53 AM

In an interview promoting his new book, “Immigration Wars,” on the Today Show today, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said he opposes a “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants now in the country - a shift for Bush that puts him in opposition to Marco Rubio and the “gang of eight” senators.

In the interview, Bush also dismissed talk of his running for president in 2016, but didn’t rule it out - the same approach he’s been taking for months.

Asked about 2016, he responded, “That’s way off into the future. I have a voice, I want to share my beliefs about how the conservative movement and the Republican Party can regain its footing, because we’ve lost our way.”

When Today Show host Matt Lauer noted he didn’t appear to be ruling it out, Bush responded, “I won’t, but I’m not going to declare it today either.”

Bush’s new book, he said, includes a strategy for immigration reform that would allow immigrants now in the country illegally to obtain legal resident status, but not citizenship.

“If we want to create an immigration policy that’s going to work, we can’t continue to make illegal immigration an easier path than legal immigration,” he said, according to NBC’s blog.

“There has to be some difference between people who come here legally and illegally,” or the nation will face another wave of illegal immigrants, he said.

Bush also said he wants to move away from family reunification as a top priority in the nation’s immigration policy, and “toward a more economically driven strategy.”

As NBC noted, this appears to be a turnaround for Bush, whose brother, George W. Bush, advocated a path to citizenship as president.

In June, Jeb Bush told PBS interviewer Charlie Rose, “You have to deal with this issue, you can’t ignore it. So either a path to citizenship – which I would support and that does put me probably me outside the mainstream of most conservatives - or a path to legalization, to residency of some kind … I would accept that in a heartbeat as well.”

Last month Rubio was one of a group of eight senators of both parties who advocated a comprehensive immigration reform including a path to earned citizenship for illegal immigrants now in the country.

Those senators attached conditions they said were tough, including having an appointed committee certify border security before the citizenship pathway became open, and a long wait-time so illegal immigrants couldn’t achieve citizenship before legal ones.

Nonetheless, Rubio has taken heat from a number of high-profile conservative pundits and advocacy groups for the stance.

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