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Spokesman: Jeb Bush Supports "Legal Status," But Could Support Pathway To Citizenship "(Depending) On The Details"

Bush's spokesperson told BuzzFeed News on Twitter that the former Florida governor's preferred position is earned legal status, not a pathway to citizenship.

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On Twitter Sunday, I noted that Jeb Bush's position on immigration seems to change every time he talks about it:

I feel like Jeb's immigration reform position is slightly different every time he talks about it.

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Bush wrote in his 2013 book, Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution, that permanent residency should not lead to citizenship as it would reward illegal immigration:

Permanent residency in this context, however, should not lead to citizenship. 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. ... A grant of citizenship is an undeserving reward for conduct that we cannot afford to encourage.

The Wall Street Journal noted in March, however, that Bush said he could "be supportive" of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants:

Later, during a brief exchange with reporters, Mr. Bush said he could also be supportive of a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally – as he did at one time – but said there currently isn't sufficient political support for it.

"If you could get a consensus done, where you could have a bill done and it was 15 years [to achieve citizenship] as the Senate Gang of Eight did, I'd be supportive of that," Mr. Bush said, referring to the comprehensive immigration legislation the Senate passed in 2013.

Bush's spokesman, Tim Miller, said I was wrong and that his position today is consistent with what Bush wrote in his 2013 book:

@BuzzFeedAndrew you feel wrong. He wrote a book on it. His position is what's in the book.

But Bush's position on immigration in recent years has been tough to pin down, seemingly reversing himself at times on a pathway citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Here's what he told Charlie Rose in 2012:

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 residency of some kind.

In 2013, Bush called for an "accelerated path to citizenship" for DREAMers.

"I've never felt like the sins of the parents should be ascribed to the children, you know," Bush said in 2013. "If your children always have to pay the price for adults decisions they make — how fair is that? For people who have no country to go back to — which are many of the DREAMers — it's ridiculous to think that there shouldn't be some accelerated path to citizenship."

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In April, however, Bush told a crowd the best way is "not earned citizenship, but earned legal status."

"Deal with the folks who are here illegally in a rational, thoughtful way," Bush said. "My suggestion is earned legal status. Not earned citizenship, but earned legal status. You don't create a system where people cut in line in front of those who have been patiently waiting. But you get a provisional work permit, you work, you pay taxes, you pay a fine, you learn English, you don't commit crimes, and you earn — over an extended period of time — legal status."

I pointed out that Bush said on Morning Joe in 2013 that he could support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants if it didn't incentive further undocumented immigration:

Bush's spokesman said this was merely hypothetical and his position is always earned legal status:

@BuzzFeedAndrew yes His position is earned legal status. Says every time. He's engaging in hypothetical there about what he could support

As noted by Politifact, Bush told the Miami Herald when he was a candidate for Florida governor in 1994 that we need to "start deporting people."

Start deporting people," he answered. "We have an asylum process . . . . It shouldn't take five years. We need to reform our system. ... I don't blame them for wanting to come to our country, but I don't believe it's necessarily our responsibility to allow them to come in."

Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Andrew Kaczynski at andrew.kaczynski@buzzfeed.com.

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