- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 10, 2013

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, blanketing the Sunday talk shows, vigorously denied charges leveled at him in the past week that he’s shifted his views on immigration reform as other Republicans eyeing potential 2016 presidential bids jockey for position on the issue.

Mr. Bush said he still favors a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants and is on the same page with a bipartisan group of senators crafting such a bill after his new book outlining a “pathway to residency” for those in the country illegally drew fire from both the right and the left last week.

“I … think that a path to citizenship, so long as the ability of someone to come legally is easier and less costly than coming illegally, then a path to citizenship is appropriate, and I applaud the work of the senators and others in the Congress that are working to try to craft a consensus and a compromise on this issue,” Mr. Bush said on “Fox News Sunday.”


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But in his new book, “Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution,” Mr. Bush writes that he favors a path to residency, rather than citizenship, for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country, and that they should have to leave the country and reapply if they truly want to get U.S. citizenship.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and a member of the “Gang of Eight,” said last week that such a stance “undercuts” what the senators are trying to accomplish.

But Mr. Bush said he had talked with Mr. Graham and they are on the same page — and that his views on the issue have been consistent despite backing a pathway to citizenship earlier in his career.

“I haven’t changed,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “I support a path to legalization or citizenship so long as the path for people that have been waiting patiently is easier and costs less, the legal entrance to our country, than illegal entrance.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, disagreed.

“Let’s wait for a few minutes and see how Jeb Bush changes his mind, again,” Mr. Reid told reporters last week. “His opinion on immigration is not evolving; it’s devolving. He keeps going backwards.”

President Obama, who had pledged to pass comprehensive immigration reform in his first term, has made the issue one of his top priorities for his second.

But Republicans working on the issue have a tricky needle to thread between distancing themselves from the president and potentially alienating Latino voters. Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky immediately blasted a framework for immigration reform leaked by the White House last month that included a path to citizenship as part of the plan. Mr. Rubio has been widely viewed as a potential 2016 nominee, and Mr. Paul’s stock rose tremendously in that regard after waging a filibuster that lasted nearly 13 hours last week and ended up as a scathing critique of the White House’s policy on drone aircraft. Mr. Rubio, whose parents emigrated to the United States from Cuba, favors a pathway to citizenship for those currently in the country illegally, and Mr. Bush said his views “absolutely” coincide with those.

“I applaud what Senator Rubio’s doing, the other members of the so-called Gang of Eight — they’re making a major contribution,” Mr. Bush said on “Face the Nation.” “And there’s also efforts in the House of Representatives as well. This is a very encouraging time, because if we can get immigration right, imagine, there’s possibilities of cats and dogs living with one another in other policy areas as well.”

But Mr. Bush flatly dismissed the notion that the events of the past week or his book had anything to do with political maneuvering for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

“Yeah, see, that’s the Washington world, the world of everything has to have a personal political ambition, motive,” he said. “That’s not the case. The book was written last year at a time when the tenor of the debate on immigration was dramatically different than it is today.”