When it comes to Republicans and immigration policy, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has generally been one of the more mainstream voices in his party. It was just five weeks ago that the former Republican governor co-wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed that called for, among other things, "a system that will include a path to citizenship." He endorsed the same policy over the summer, saying he supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigration, even if that puts him "probably out of the mainstream of most conservatives."
For reasons that remain unclear, Bush has changed his mind.
For those who can't watch clips online, Bush argued, "[I]f 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."
The Florida Republican added that, as far as he's concerned, "many" undocumented immigrants "don't want to be citizens of our country. They want to come here, they want to work hard, they want to provide for the families, some of them want to come home, not necessarily all of them want to stay as citizens."
Bush did not explain how or why he abandoned the position he held as recently as late January, but it's certainly not a helpful development for reform proponents. As we recently discussed, a pathway to citizenship isn't some luxury add-on element -- it's largely the point of working on reform in the first place. This provision is at the heart of the entire endeavor, which is why it's included in the bipartisan Senate plan, President Obama's plan, and even the Bush/Cheney plan that the far-right killed in 2007.
It means that Jeb Bush has now positioned himself to the right of his brother, his in-state protege Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the vast majority of America's Latino population, the majority of the public at large, and Jeb Bush from five weeks ago.
If Bush is supposed to be a GOP leader on this issue, there's a real threat the party may yet slide backwards.