Jeb Bush completed a whirlwind one-week journey on immigration on Sunday, praising a Senate proposal to grant eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants after attacking the idea in a newly released book he co-authored that was itself a reversal of his past position.
Bush’s experimental turn as a border hawk was so quick you could blink and miss it. Here’s a quick timeline of how the flip-flop-flip went down.
June 12, 2012
In an interview with Charlie Rose, Jeb Bush explains his support for eventual citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
“You have to deal with this issue. You can’t ignore it,” Bush said. “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, which now hopefully will become — I would accept that in a heartbeat as well if that’s the path to get us to where we need to be which is on a positive basis using immigration to create sustained growth.”
March 4, 2013
In a shocking reversal, Jeb Bush gives an interview to Matt Lauer to preview his book “Immigration Wars: Forging An American Solution,” in which he reveals he no longer supports a path to citizenship, instead favoring permanent legal status for the undocumented. He warns “if we’re not going to apply the law fairly and consistently then we’re going to have another wave of illegal immigrants coming in the country.”
His position puts him solidly to the right of a bipartisan Senate plan backed by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), among other major Republicans. Immigration activists who long considered Bush a leader on reform are stunned.
March 5, 2013
Bush’s book hits stores outlining his new immigration plan. The book goes further than merely suggesting legal status as a necessary compromise — it rips into the idea of citizenship as a dangerous magnet for 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 laws can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship,” he writes.
But even on the same day of his book launch, Bush already starts to back away from his own idea. He tells MSNBC he might be open to a path to citizenship if he thinks it’s part of a well-crafted bill.
The same day, Rubio — who only recently embraced a path to citizenship himself — predicts Bush can be brought around. Graham is less optimistic.
“I just think this proposal caught me off guard and it undercuts what we’re trying to do,” Graham tells reporters. “I mean I can assure you the Hispanic community has always assumed that for the tradeoffs I’m seeking there will be a pathway to citizenship.”
March 7, 2013
Bush suggests that the book’s conservative lean may have been a function of its timing: he drafted his proposal while Mitt Romney was still running for president on an ultra-hardline immigration position built around mass “self-deportation.”
“The book was written last year in a certain environment,” he tells the Washington Post’s Michael Gerson. “The goal was to persuade people against immigration reform to be for it. Since that time, eight of 100 senators have moved, and not much in the House. . . . When we were working on this, Marco Rubio wasn’t for a path to citizenship.”
March 10, 2013
Appearing on every major Sunday show, Bush all but completely disavows his position. He praises the Senate bipartisan group’s plan and says he called up Graham personally to tell him they were “in sync” and “on the same path” to reform.
“The basic premise needs to be that coming to the country legally should be easier with less cost than coming to the country illegally. And if you can create a system like that — as is being discussed in the Senate and in the House — through a path to citizenship, that’s fine,” Bush tells ABC’s George Stephanopolous.
In an interview with Fox News, Bush says “There’s not much light between what we’re suggesting in the book and what is being worked on right now, which is very encouraging.”
On CBS’ “Face The Nation,” Bush downplays the inconsistency between his book’s tough criticism of a path to citizenship and his apparent support for a Senate plan that includes exactly that.
“Well first of all, I haven’t changed,” Bush says. “The book was written to try to create a blueprint for conservatives that were reluctant to embrace comprehensive reform, to give them perhaps a set of views that they could embrace. 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.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.