Still, they point out, the border needs strong law enforcement to stop the flow of drugs that have destabilized Mexico and Central America.
Perhaps the biggest contradiction is between the book’s call for a residency-path and what Bush says is his longstanding support for a more generous pathway to citizenship.
When they were writing the book last year, immigration reform seemed a more-impossible lift in Washington. So he compromised with his own principles.
“We were trying to get people from ‘no’ to maybe or from no to ‘yes.’ We wanted the book to play a constructive role,” he said.
Bush said a resident-path is an easier way to “delineate” those broke immigration law from those who patiently waited their turn, Bush said.
“We struggled with that. We didn’t know what that [pathway to citizenship] would look like,” Bush said.
Little did he realize that, by the time the book was printed, Sen. Rubio would help lead national Republicans to embrace a path to citizenship, which Rubio once opposed. Bush’s book dropped like military ordnance, it surprised Rubio and fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who told reporters that Bush was undermining their efforts.
Bush called to explain himself.
“We had a great talk. We’re totally in sync on a path forward. We’re on the same path,” Bush said.
In interviews throughout the week, Bush initially said he supported a citizenship-path but didn’t see how it could be done. By week’s end, after talking to Graham and Rubio, he said he was confident they were “on the right track.”
The reversals and nuanced pragmatic stance was a different side of the former governor who fashioned himself as a bold straight-talker.
Meantime, Republicans like Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz seemed to welcome Bush’s stance on legalization.
“A pathway to citizenship won’t pass [Congress],” Cruz said. He wouldn’t say whether he favored a residency-path, but when asked if he didn’t oppose it, Cruz was silent but nodded in assent.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said Bush made “a fool of himself” for flip flopping and “devolving” on the issue. Rubio called Reid a “partisan.”
When asked why immigration is such a minefield for Republicans, Rubio noted that Democrats had their struggles, pointing out unions have opposed a guest-worker program, which Bush and Rubio want.
The fact that Bush and Rubio, who might run for president in four years as well, have a slight disagreement on legalization set the Washington chattering class ablaze with speculation of fallout between the two friends. Both deny it.Aides say the two are closer to brothers than friends (their homes are less than 4 miles apart) and that if they disagree, no one would know outside of their tight circle.
“Jeb was writing a book. He wasn’t writing a bill,” Rubio said, echoing Bush and implicitly pointing out the latter is harder.
“Marco’s stepped up incredibly well. We’re close friends. This whole People Magazine-whatever-you-call it, it’s really kind of, you know, childish. It’s juvenile, untrue,” Bush said.
“There’s a lot of hair on fire right now,” Bush said of the political tenor in Washington. “Mine isn’t.”