Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush addresses the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Annual Conference in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, June 21, 2012. (Photo : Reuters)
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush seems to have changed his mind about a path to citizenship, according to advance copies of his book due out on Tuesday.
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As recently as last June, Bush, the brother of former president George W. Bush, supported offering a method for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country to gain American citizenship. In fact, he lambasted the Romney campaign for opposing that kind of move, decrying Romney's use of the phrase "self-deportation," a tactic supported by some on the far right that involves making life so difficult for the undocumented that they have no choice but to return to their country of origin.
The Democrats called that line of thinking cruel and inhumane, and they won the support of 71 percent of Latinos in last year's election.
But Bush's new book says it is unwise to offer citizenship to undocumented immigrants, since he says that might encourage more illegal immigration.
"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," writes Bush in Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution.
"To do otherwise would signal once again that people who circumvent the system can still obtain the full benefits of American citizenship."
This message is at odds with the less conservative side of the Republican Party, which has been more vocal since the election. A bipartisan group of senators, including Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida has proposed a bill that would offer citizenship to undocumented immigrants, provided that they jump through legal hoops and pay monetary penalties first.
"A grant of citizenship is an undeserving reward for conduct that we cannot afford to encourage," writes Bush. "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."
The Senate bill does not require them to return to their countries of origin first and then apply for citizenship, a process many immigrants say would be too arduous, or even dangerous, depending on the situation in their native country.
However, Bush does agree that young undocumented immigrants brought to this country as minors should be allowed to pursue citizenship. Even that position was too progressive for the Republican platform last year.
This is an odd switch for Bush, especially considering he has not ruled out a run for president in 2016. At this rate, there's no way he can best his fellow Floridian Rubio in a race for the Republican nomination, not with the party's leadership trying out a kinder, gentler approach to immigration.