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Immigration Activists Slam Jeb Bush for Opposing Path to US Citizenship

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush talks with the media following his address on education to the Texas Business Leadership Council in Austin, Texas.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush talks with the media following his address on education to the Texas Business Leadership Council in Austin, Texas.
Immigrant advocacy groups are lashing out at the brother of former U.S. President George W. Bush for writing in a new book that foreign nationals living illegally in the United States should not be given a path to citizenship.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution, says undocumented immigrants should be allowed to pursue legal residency, but not citizenship. It also proposes that undocumented immigrants could apply for U.S. citizenship, once they go back to their home country.

United We Dream, the largest immigrant-youth led network in the U.S., criticized Bush on Tuesday for relegating the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country to what it called a “second-class.”

“Jeb Bush seems to think my parents, and millions of other hardworking immigrants, should be blocked from ever realizing their dream of becoming citizens, relegating them to a life stuck in second-class status,” said Cristina Jimenez, the group’s managing director.

Bush’s book, released this week, surprised members of the immigration reform movement because the politician had long been a rare Republican Party proponent of citizenship. Bush changed that stance as he was writing his book with Clint Bolick last year during the 2012 presidential campaign in which conservative candidates were taking a much tougher line on illegal immigration, with some advocating self-deportation.

Ali Noorani, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, suggested Bush may now be alone with his proposal, since a bipartisan group of senators working on immigration reform in Congress have included citizenship in their plans.

“Republicans and Democrats alike are following the lead of the American people, who recognize that hardworking immigrants should have a roadmap to citizenship so they can become fully participating Americans,” Noorani said.

Republicans lost the Hispanic vote in the 2012 election, prompting the party to revise its stance toward citizenship for undocumented immigrants, many of whom are Hispanic.

Bush stood by his own proposed reform Tuesday during an appearance on the U.S. television program Morning Joe.

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“If you don’t have a difference between a path to citizenship, or a path to legalization, you’re going to create a magnet going forward for more illegal immigrants,” Bush said, adding that he would support a path to citizenship only if the law governing it didn’t include an incentive for people to come to the U.S. illegally.

“I don’t see how you do it, but I’m not smart enough to figure out every aspect of a really complex law,” he said.

Members of Congress are hoping to present their reform bill to the public later this month, in a move that could deepen the already tense national debate about how to secure the U.S. borders, stimulate the economy, and address the millions of undocumented immigrants who live and work here.

Bush, whose brother and father were both presidents, is rumored to have presidential ambitions of own. The politician has not said whether he will run in 2016, but is carrying his message across the country through media appearances and book signings.