His new book may argue against a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers, but activists aren't worried that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has abandoned their cause, chalking up his apparent flip-flop on the issue to being a "rusty" politician who will fall back to his original stance on the issue by the week's end.
"I was very surprised at the comments by Governor Bush," said Eliseo Medina, the secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, on a press call with reporters Tuesday. "He's always been a strong supporter of immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship."
Bush writes in the book, published Tuesday, that he would support legislation that allows for a "permanent legal residency," while preserving what he calls "the cherished fruits of citizenship."
But the book — titled Immigration Wars, and co-written by the conservative immigration lawyer, Clint Bolick — was met with fierce criticism Monday by immigration activists who pointed out that the governor has previously supported exactly what he denounces in the new release.
In an interview with CBS News last summer, Bush 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 residency of some kind."
Bush's aside about the beliefs of "mainstream" conservative movement gestures toward what Frank Sharry, executive director of the America's Voice Education Fund, claims is the primary reason for the governor's new position.
"It was aimed at paving the way for a run for president," Sharry said. "He decides to shoot out what he thought would be the middle of the debate, and a somewhat progressive position."
"It just speaks to how fast the politics have changed," he added.
According to data released Tuesday by the polling firm, Latino Decisions, Hispanic voters now view citizenship as the mark of truly comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Forty-four percent of Latino voters — a plurality — said they would be more likely to support Republican candidates if their party would take a leadership role in passing a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship.
"This is terrible timing on a book coming out when times are changing at lightening speed," said Clarissa Martinez de Castro, a director at the National Council of La Raza.
"It just seems to me that Jeb Bush is rusty," said Sharry. "He is going to be an outspoken proponent again by the end of the week."
Already Tuesday morning, in an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Bush softened on the position backed by Immigration Wars, saying he would support a pathway to citizenship after all "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."
Ruby Cramer is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Ruby Cramer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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