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As book is published, Jeb Bush wavers on immigration proposal

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Byron York

Jeb Bush’s new book, Immigration Wars, is out today.  But already the former Florida governor appears to be wavering on the book’s most newsworthy proposal.

In the book, Bush argues against a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants now in the United States illegally.  “It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences,” Bush and co-author Clint Bolick write, “in this case, that those who violated the laws can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship.”

But now, even as the book is being placed on store shelves, Bush says he would support a path to citizenship for those who are here illegally — under certain conditions.  “If you can craft that in law, where you can have a path to citizenship where there isn’t an incentive for people to come illegally, I’m for it,” Bush told MSNBC Tuesday morning.  “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 really complex law.”

In the book, Bush argues that he opposes to a path to citizenship because lawbreaking should not be rewarded with citizenship. Now, he says he might support a path to citizenship if it did not create an incentive for more illegal immigration.  One argument is based on principle; the other on pragmatism.

In the MSNBC interview, Bush suggested, but did not say outright, that he might write Immigration Wars differently if he were writing it today, rather than in 2012, during the heat of the presidential campaign.  “We wrote this book last year, not this year,” Bush told MSNBC.  At the time, Bush was appalled by Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” position on immigration and staked out a position to the left of Romney’s that still seemed tough on illegal immigrants.  Now, however, after Romney’s defeat, with the Republican Party desperate to build support among Hispanic voters, Bush might have written differently.  Which leads to the question: What does Jeb Bush actually believe should be done about the nation’s immigration problem?

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Byron York

Chief Political Correspondent
The Washington Examiner