The former governor has a new book that has ignited debate inside the Republican Party.
WASHINGTON – Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush writes in a new book that Mitt Romney moved so far to the right on immigration that it proved “all but impossible” for the Republican presidential nominee to appeal to Hispanic voters last year. He says the nation needs to overhaul its immigration policies but cautions against providing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
In “Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution,” Bush writes that the immigration debate holds serious consequences for the nation and the GOP, calling fellow Republicans “remarkably tone-deaf when it comes to courting Hispanic voters — to the extent they court them at all.” If the GOP fails to change, he says the influence of Hispanic voters “will doom” the party’s future.
Bush’s book released Tuesday, arrives as President Obama and Congress consider the revamping of the nation’s immigration laws following Obama’s re-election, which exposed a large deficit for Republicans among the nation’s growing Hispanic electorate. Bush and co-author Clint Bolick, an attorney and vice president for litigation at the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, contend immigration reform is essential to economic growth and the nation’s future but must be governed by the rule of law.
The son and brother of U.S. presidents writes that lawmakers should create a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants who live in the United States and agree to plead guilty to a crime of illegal entry.
But unlike a bipartisan Senate proposal pushed by fellow Florida Republican Marco Rubio and others, Bush says tougher border security should not be a prerequisite and a pathway to legal status should not include citizenship for those who entered illegally as adults.
Bush said offering a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in the United States could encourage more illegal immigration and undermine the nation’s laws. “It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences,” he wrote.
A reversal and reaction
The approach marked an apparent reversal for Bush, who said in an interview with Charlie Rose in June 2012 that, “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.”
Immigration activists pounced on Bush’s shift. Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, said Bush’s approach would lead to a “permanent underclass” for a mostly Latino group of workers.
On Tuesday, Bush did some interviews to promote his book, trying to clarify and elaborating his position. He said he is open to proposals that include a pathway to citizenship as long as it didn’t create an incentive for people to come to the United States illegally.
The confusion over statements past and present perplexed some fellow Republicans. GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a member of a bipartisan group of senators working on immigration reform, said Tuesday that Bush’s proposal “caught me off guard, and it undercuts what we’re trying to do.” He said the pathway was favored by the public and crucial to passage in the Senate. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., another member of the group, told reporters Monday that he was “a bit perplexed” and “disappointed” to learn of Bush’s approach in the book.
Bush, in an interview Tuesday with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” said if Congress could develop legislation “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.” He said the nation needs a “forward-leaning immigration reform” that would encourage lawful immigration and attracts people with skills to help the economy grow.
In a CNN interview, he said he supports a path to legalization and a path to citizenship “with the underlining principle being that there should be no incentive for people to come illegally at the expense of coming legally,” he said. “We need to create another category of legal immigration where there is actually a line. So if you could create that through a path to citizenship I would support that.”
Bush has said he would make an exception for young illegal immigrants who were brought to this country as children. They could earn their citizenship if they earn a high school degree or volunteer for military service.