What is Jeb Bush saying on pathway to citizenship?

Jeb Bush caught the attention of the media and immigration advocates for promoting a pathway to legalization which did not automatically include full U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrant adults currently in the U.S. Appearing on NBC’s Today Show promoting his book “Immigration Wars,” which outlines his immigration reform proposal, Bush said:

”Our proposal is a proposal that looks forward,…And if we want to create an immigration policy that’s going to work, we can’t continue to make illegal immigration an easier path than legal immigration. There’s a natural friction between our immigrant heritage and the rule of law. This is the right place to be in that sense.”

His statements caused a whirlwind of chatter.  Today, Bush went on Morning Joe to clarify the issue, saying he has supported various pathways to legalization and does not rule out support for pathway to citizenship.


The clarification comes as Jeb Bush tries to relieve the heart burn of many immigration activists nervous on how his remarks will impact the delicate balance being struck on the immigration bill. In a post yesterday I explained the various forms of legislation being circulated on Capitol Hill. Bi-partisan groups of legislators in both chambers have been meeting for months to figure out what can and will get through Congress.

One of the concern by many conservative and liberal immigration advocates is a pathway to legalization that does not include some form of eventual path to citizenship would create a second class of Americans who would pay taxes but never be eligible to vote. This form of “pathway” is a non-starter for Democrats. For many immigration advocates, any path to legalization must include an eventual path to citizenship, even if it’s not automatic, includes various caveats (pay all back taxes, fines, learn English, etc) or even if its in the very distant future, but it needs to be an option.

Not too long ago, Jeb Bush and his book co-author, Clint Bolick, articulated in a Wall Street Journal OpEd in January of 2013, a pathway to citizenship, saying:

The only alternatives to increased immigration are mounting debts or reduced social services. A practicable system of work-based immigration for both high-skilled and low-skilled immigrants—a system that will include a path to citizenship—will help us meet workforce needs, prevent exportation of jobs to foreign countries and protect against the exploitation of workers…

Immigrants replenish the American spirit. Most immigrants come here to secure a better life for themselves and their families. They cherish the values of hard work, faith, family, enterprise and patriotism that have made this country great. Meanwhile, many who were lucky enough to have been born here have grown complacent or even disdainful of these values. America’s immigration system should provide opportunities for people who share the country’s core values to become citizens, thereby strengthening the nation as have countless immigrants have before them.

I personally think that the media is reading way too much into Bush’s recent statements. Jeb Bush has always been a major supporter of comprehensive immigration reform and that will not change. He is committed to a comprehensive bill, which addresses the 11 million illegal immigrants living in the country, and open to various forms in which legislators can come to a compromise.

In “Immigration Wars,” (which comes out today) Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick write:

“[T]o restore sustained, economy growth going forward, we need a new immigration strategy that opens our doors to young, aspirational people from all around the world … This will require public leadership. It will require breaking out of the gridlock … It will require new thinking.”

The media pundits speculate on Bush’s intentions – read here and here. For me it is just a friendly reminder that immigration is not a simple issue and we won’t find a simple solution. This is just an indicator to all those interested on this issue – buckle up, its going to be a bumpy ride.


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