Jeb Bush Changes Position--Again--on 'Pathway to Citizenship' for Illegals

By Matt Cover | March 11, 2013 | 2:11pm EDT

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. (AP photo)

( - Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said last year that he would support a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens, then said in a recent book that he did not support such a pathway and then said on national television Sunday that he did.

“I support what Sens. [Lindsey] Graham [R-S.C.] and [Marco] Rubio [R-Fla.] and [John] McCain [R-Ariz.] and [Jeff] Flake [R-Ariz.] are doing with their Democratic counterparts, and  if they can find a way to get to a path to citizenship over the long haul, then I would support that,” Bush said Sunday on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press.

Bush wrote in his recently-released book, “Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution,” that a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants was an “undeserving reward” for those who broke the law.

“A grant of citizenship is an undeserving reward for conduct that we cannot afford to encourage,” Bush and co-author Clint Bolick wrote. “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.”

Bush explained himself Sunday to “Meet the Press” host David Gregory, saying that the country could take “either path” – choosing to allow illegal immigrants to become citizens or merely to stay in the country legally.

“First of all, my view has been that, in order to get comprehensive reform, we could take either path; either a path to citizenship or a path to legalization. The important point is that illegal immigrants should not get better benefits at a lower cost than people that have been waiting patiently,” Bush said Sunday.

In their book, Bush and Bolick write that if illegal immigrants want to become citizens, they should get in the back of the line of a reformed immigration system: “However, illegal immigrants who wish to become citizens should have the choice of returning to their native countries and applying through normal immigration processes that now would be much more open than before.”

As recently as June 2012, however, Bush seemed to hold a slightly different view, telling Charlie Rose on “CBS This Morning” that he supported a “path to citizenship.”

“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,” Bush told Rose.

Bush, meanwhile, told NBC's Gregory that he took a harder line on citizenship in his book to try to convince skeptical readers that some kind of immigration reform was necessary.

“But this book was written to try to get people that were against reform to be for it. And it is a place where I think a lot of conservatives should feel comfortable, that there's a way to do this and not violate their principles,” Bush argued.

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