A top Jeb Bush ally said that Jeb Bush will not back down on his support for comprehensive amnesty legislation and is willing to win or lose the GOP nomination based on the issue.
On Thursday, Clint Bolick, who co-wrote Immigration Wars with the former Florida governor, said Bush “is either going to win or lose with a mandate on immigration.”
“He’s not going to shift his position on this,”Bolick told MSNBC’s Jose Diaz Balart. “He believes in this with his absolute heart and soul.”
NPR Washington editor and Bush biographer S.V. Date also observed last year that “immigration, if anything, is less negotiable for Jeb” than Common Core because “while education standards are a matter of principle, immigration is personal.”
Bush continued to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform in Chicago on Wednesday, two days after a federal judge issued an injunction against President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty. He, as in previous speeches, contrasted America’s diversity to Europe’s multiculturalism.
“Immigration reform for our country is so hugely important. Race is not a national identifier in this country. We’re 34 flavors. We’re as diverse as diverse can get,” Bush said on Wednesday. “And that is a huge strength looking over the horizon right now, where multiculturalism kind of creates pockets of despair in Europe in many cases.”
Bush has made a calculation that voters value authenticity and he has more to lose than gain if he lurched right on immigration in the primary before scrambling back to the middle in the general election. His pro-amnesty views may cost him the nomination, but Bush believes he will ultimately be in a stronger general election position if he can emerge from the primary without having lost his authenticity on the issue.
Bolick said that Bush believes the “current immigration system is an absolute disaster because it focuses on family reunification rather than the jobs and skills we need.”
Even though Gallup polling has found that illegal immigration is one of the top concerns among Republicans and a recent Saint Anselm College New Hampshire poll found that 41% of the more moderate GOP primary electorate in the Granite State viewed Bush’s views on immigration as a “deal-killer,” Bolick predicted that most Republicans would “like” Bush’s immigration plan.
He said Bush would “vigorously enforce the border” and allow illegal immigrants to pursue a path to legal status but not to “automatic” citizenship because there has to be consequences for entering the country illegally.
Diaz Balart, whose brother Mario is reportedly trying to craft a broad comprehensive amnesty bill in the House, then pressed Bolick on whether illegal immigrants who “have a history here” would be able to “fit within the existing pathways” to eventually get citizenship under Bush’s plan.
“Oh, sure,” Bolick, who also has claimed that Bush is against “amnesty,” responded. “Absolutely.”
Bolick said illegal immigrants would not have a “special pathway to citizenship,” under Bush’s plan, but those who have paid their taxes and fines would have a “path to permanent legal residency and, in terms of citizenship, you’d have to wait in line with everyone else.”
As Breitbart News noted, in”2012, before his immigration book was published, Bush told Charlie Rose that he was for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.”
“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 said.
But when Bush and Bolick wrote in their book that permanent residency “should not lead to citizenship,” Bush was accused of flip-flopping and started to clean up the mess in interviews, expressing support for both a pathway to legalization and citizenship:
On Morning Joe, Bush said: “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, I’m for it. I don’t have a problem with that.”
In an appearance on CNN, he said: “I have supported both–both a path to legalization or a path to citizenship–with the underlying principle being that there should be no incentive for people to come illegally at the expense of coming legally.”
And Bush, along with Bolick, urged House Republicans to vote for the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” comprehensive immigration bill, which included a pathway to citizenship for nearly all of the country’s illegal immigrants, in the very pages of the Wall Street Journal.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) almost lost the nomination in 2008 after spearheading the McCain-Kennedy comprehensive amnesty bill that Jeb’s brother President George. W. Bush championed and Mitt Romney may have only won the nomination in 2012 because he moved to the right on immigration while Texas Gov. Perry’s candidacy was torpedoed when Perry declared that opponents for in-state tuition for illegal immigrants did not have “a heart.” But Bolick alleged that the “big secret” is that Bush’s views on immigration are “not toxic.” He claimed that “the vast majority of Americans–both Republcians and Democrats–believe the system should be fixed” and immigration is only toxic if a candidate lurches to the right on the issue.
“He needs to be a statesman and that’s exactly what he’s being,” Bolick said of Bush.