By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
MIAMI – Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush seems to be making some new friends.
“Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt” said Florida’s District 26 Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia. “Jeb Bush has been a great ally in defense of immigration in this country for more than a decade,” he added.
Bush caused a stir last week when promoting his new book book, “Immigration Wars,” which he co-authored with Clint Bolick. The book proposes a comprehensive immigration reform that would allow the legalization of undocumented immigrants living in United States, but block a pathway for their citizenship.
“Our proposal imposes two penalties for illegal entry, fines and or community services and ineligibility for citizenship,” states his book.
Such a proposal was strongly criticized by pro-immigrant groups like America’s Voice and lawmakers from his own party, including South Carolina U.S. Lindsey Graham, a Republican.
“I just think this proposal caught me off guard, and it undercuts what we’re trying to do,” Graham told reporters last week.
Graham is one of the eight members crafting a bipartisan immigration bill in the upper chamber. The group also includes John McCain, R-Ariz.; Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; and Robert Menendez, D-N.J.
Their group proposal includes securing the border and providing a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country.
The former governor’s office did not responded to requests for interviews.
On Sunday, during an interview with Jorge Ramos’ TV program, “Al Punto,” Bush said he was in “sync” with Graham on immigration reform, and had the same purpose as the “Group of Eight.”
“There was a hiccup but it corrected the way,” Garcia told Florida Watchdog on Friday after an event on immigration reform in which Texas U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro also participated.
But Bush did not specify if he has changed his position on the pathway for the citizenship issue.
“My position has not changed. We are proposing an agenda for the people in my party and others who have weathered having comprehensive immigration reform,” Bush said at the beginning of the interview.
Michael Hernandez, Hispanic communications director at Miami-Dade Democratic Party, said he was surprised by Bush’s ideas, but hinted at a possible future political strategy for a presidential bid.
“The rumor is that to win a Republican primary, if he launches a presidential campaign, has needs to be more ally with the right wing of GOP in terms of immigration,” Hernandez said. “But I was surprised. We cannot continue as we are because after all, these people came to the country to work and contribute. We should not have the Republican rhetoric of the 2012 primaries that suggest the auto deportation,” he said.
The Democratic Party, Hernandez said, believe that immigration reform must provide a legal path to citizenship, not just give illegal immigrants permanent-residence status, as proposed by Bush.
“The solution is to give them the opportunity to become citizens,” Hernandez said.
In the book, Bush and Bolick describe how to simplify the immigration system, especially visas, for people who have been waiting for years for a response from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration service.
The book notes that granting citizenship to illegal immigrants would encourage more illegal immigration. It says that “citizenship” should be a “reward” for those who enter legally.
“We want to make it easier coming legally instead illegally,” Bush said.
By contrast the pathway for the citizenship should be allowed for the children who came with their parents. In Immigration Wars, Bush says he supports the Dream Act, which proposes the legality of young undocumented students. It also proposes to make permanent the Deferred Action, adopted by Obama before the November general election.
The book highlights an failed campaign promise by President Obama, who said he would like to see immigration reform approved by Congress in the first 100 days of his first term.
But, Bush said both parties are responsible for failing to pass immigration reform.
“He needs to clarify what he really thinks because he can be a leader within his party,” Hernandez said.
With Republicans in control of the House of Representatives and Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate, Hernandez said bipartisan negotiations will be imperative if a reform measure is to be passed into law.
“I think, like many Democrats and Republicans, that part of this immigration reform must include a legalization of the undocumented and pathway for the citizenship” he said.
Contact Marianela Toledo at Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org.