Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush went on a Sunday talk show offensive this week to try to clarify his position on immigration reform, but he only managed to create more confusion.
Bush last week drew the ire of Republicans and Democrats alike when a leaked copy of his new book revealed that he considered it “absolutely vital” to deny citizenship to undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. The outrage prompted him to contradict himself and say that he is, in fact, for a pathway to citizenship.
But on Sunday, Bush — who, it is widely expected, will throw his hat in the race for the 2016 presidential election — tried to have it both ways, saying that he is both for and against a path for the undocumented to become citizens. On Fox News Sunday, Bush told host Chris Wallace that he supports a type of second-class citizenship for unauthorized people currently in the country:
BUSH: People can stay here. Sixty of the people that were granted a process of legalization and citizenship in 1987 did not apply for citizenship. They stayed, as legal residents of the country. And so it is much different than to say, you know, you have the ability to be able to have a chance to come out from the shadows.
Just minutes later, Bush again reversed his position, saying that he backs the efforts of a bipartisan group of senators who are pushing a path to citizenship:
BUSH: Now, I also think a path to citizenship, so long as the ability of someone to come legally, is easier, and less costly than coming illegally, that the path to citizenship is appropriate and I applaud the work of the senators and others in the congress, that are working to try to craft a consensus and a compromise on the issue.
Bush has attempted to defend the contradictions between his book and his speech by point out that it was “written last year in a certain environment. The goal was to persuade people against immigration reform to be for it.” But with a possible presidential bid up his sleeve, it’s likely that he is trying to strike the balance between appealing to Latino voters — a constituency his party has outwardly claimed it is trying to court — and keeping with the anti-immigration reform Republican base.