The Evolution Of Jeb Bush's Immigration Position

In the past, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush favored a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but in a new book, he modifies that position to call for requiring illegal immigrants to leave the U.S. and re-apply to enter if they want to pursue citizenship.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, the words of Jeb Bush carry a lot of weight in the Republican Party, son and brother of presidents, popular ex-governor in his own right; by default, a presidential contender.

So let's talk a little more here with NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson, who's on the line. Mara, good morning.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: How significant is it the Jeb Bush is saying now that he would not favor a special path to citizenship for people in the country illegally?

LIASSON: Well, it's quite a change because it was just June where he was on the "Charlie Rose Show" where he said, quote, "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 legalization, a path the residency of some kind. I'd support that in a heartbeat."

So it sounds like he's trying to put himself back into the mainstream of conservatives. He's now to the right of senators like Marco Rubio, his protege from Florida. But to the left of some Republicans in the House who consider any type of legalization to be amnesty. However, it does probably put him more in line with Republican primary voters and that's where he needs to be, if he's going to run for president in several years.

INSKEEP: OK, let's just mentioned that Governor Bush's office sent us a statement saying that he hasn't really changed his position.

But let me just ask where the Republican Party is going here on this, Mara Liasson? Is there a consensus within the Republican Party that a deal has to be made with Democrats on immigration?

LIASSON: There's definitely consensus that a deal has to be made. The question is where do you draw the line? Do you go all the way to an eventual path to citizenship, like Marco Rubio and the members of the Gang of Eight in the Senate have decided? Or do you plant your flag somewhere short of citizenship, like some people in the House have done and now Jeb Bush has done?

INSKEEP: Thanks very much, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson here on this Tuesday morning.

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