Will Jeb Bush's Immigration Flip-Flop Hurt Him?

The Republican former governor of Florida now opposes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

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Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks to reporters in Little Rock, Ark., on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013

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Former Republican governor of Florida Jeb Bush no longer supports a path to citizenship as a part of immigration reform, reversing his previous position on the issue. Bush, in a new book out Tuesday, outlines a plan that would stop short of allowing the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States to become legal citizens.

Bush stressed the need to differentiate the legal statuses available to those who enter the United States legally versus those who enter illegally. He said giving those already in the United States without documentation amnesty will only incentivize more immigrants to cut in line:

It's just a matter of common sense and a matter of the rule of law. If we're not going to apply the law fairly and consistently, then we're going to have another wave of illegal immigrants coming into the country.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on immigration.]

This position reverses Bush's previous comments that he would support a path to citizenship even if it clashes with the views of many in the Republican Party. In 2012, he said:

You have to deal with this issue. You can't ignore it … 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.

Bush's new position also conflicts with the plan released by a bipartisan group of senators in January. The gang of eight advocates a "tough but fair path to citizenship" for the undocumented currently present in the country if candidates meet a certain set of criteria, like the absence of a criminal record, and pay a fine and back taxes. Previously to the left of the Republican Party when he announced his support for amnesty, Bush now finds himself to the right of the gang of eight, including a potential 2016 presidential rival, Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

[ Read the U.S. News Debate: Is the Senate's Immigration Deal a Good Plan?]

Immigration groups argue that denying undocumented immigrants citizenship but allowing them permanent residency, as Bush's plan proposes, will diminish the group to second class citizens. America's Voice released a statement saying Bush's "flip-flop" on the issue is a grave miscalculation for the politician:

By endorsing the failed concept of a permanent underclass for a mostly Latino group of workers, Bush will put a ceiling on potential Latino voter support. Let's hope he clarifies his position in the coming hours to show that he will be a proponent of reform with citizenship in 2013 and not an obstacle.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

The Republican Party has warmed to the possibility of passing comprehensive immigration reform after staggering losses amongst Latinos in last year's elections. Bush, the son and brother of former presidents, and  a Spanish-speaking former governor of a heavily Latino state, is considered a possible GOP candidate for president in 2016.

What do you think? Will Jeb Bush's immigration flip-flop hurt him? Take the poll and comment below.

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