Jeb Bush: I'm Open to a Path to Citizenship

Bush says he is open to a path to citizenship, even though his book says no.

ByABC News
March 5, 2013, 10:35 AM

March 5, 2013— -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) said Tuesday that he would endorse a pathway to citizenship that does not incentivize illegal immigration. It's a stance that differs from the immigration reform plan that he laid out in his new book.

Bush, a well-known pro-immigration reform Republican, raised eyebrows on Monday when he said on the "Today" show and in his book that he opposes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, arguing that it would violate the rule of law and encourage future illegal immigration. In his new book, "Immigration Wars," Bush offers up a plan that would provide a pathway to legal status, but not full citizenship. for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

See Also: Jeb Bush's Book Rejects Path to Citizenship

Bush's comments stirred the pot not only because he had previously said he could back a path to citizenship, but also because of their precarious timing. The Senate is now considering a bipartisan immigration reform bill that would allow many of the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants to seek citizenship, which is backed by Bush's former protégé Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

"We wrote this book last year, not this year," Bush explained during an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"Thankfully now there is a consensus brewing among Democrats and Republicans that there needs to be a consensus," he added.

But in his book, which he co-authored with conservative attorney Clint Bolick, Bush specifically said that adult undocumented immigrants in the United States should not be allowed to pursue full citizenship, unless they first leave the U.S. and return to their country of origin.

"Permanent residency in this context, however, should not lead to citizenship. It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences -- in this case, that those who have violated the laws can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship," Bush writes.

Rubio stood by the Senate's plan on Monday.

"I just personally, ultimately concluded that to permanently say that you're going to have millions of people that can never apply for citizenship hasn't really worked well for other countries that have tried it," Rubio said, according to The Hill.

Bush likewise did not abandon the plan he outlined in his book, claiming that a special pathway to citizenship could, "create a magnet going forward for more illegal immigration." But he said if lawmakers could draft a bill that would shut off that so-called "magnet," he could support it.

"So going forward -- we wrote this last year -- going forward if there is a difference, if you can craft that in law if you can have a path to citizenship where there isn't an incentive for people to come illegally, I'm for it," he said. "I don't have a problem with that. I don't see how you do it, but I'm not smart enough to figure out every aspect of a complex law."