Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did not mince words on Tuesday when asked about former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's (R) stated opposition to a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
"Let's wait a few weeks and see how Jeb Bush changes his mind," Reid told reporters. "His opinion on immigration is not evolving, it's devolving. He keeps going backwards. I think he's frankly made a fool of himself."
Bush had previously said he supported allowing undocumented immigrants to become citizens, but wrote with coauthor Clint Bolick in a new book, Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution, that comprehensive immigration reform should instead allow only legal status. Reid supports a pathway to citizenship.
But the Nevada Democrat implied that Bush's opinions don't matter much anyway.
"Frankly, on this issue I don't think Jeb Bush is the Florida leader. I think Marco Rubio is," Reid said, referring to the Republican senator from Florida who supports a pathway to citizenship.
Although Bush has walked back his comments slightly, now saying he would support a plan but cannot think of one, his shift surprised immigration reform supporters, including from within his own party.
"He has been a great voice on immigration, he has been a good governor, understands the Hispanic community," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the bipartisan "gang of eight" working on immigration reform, told reporters earlier on Tuesday. "I just think this proposal caught me off guard, and it undercuts what we're trying to do."
"Gang Of Eight"
A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/28/immigration-reform-framework_n_2566494.html?1359387491">bipartisan group of senators</a> have come together to address the issue of immigration reform. The group consists of four members of each party -- Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado, plus Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, John McCain of Arizona and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Their framework was announced Monday.
Pathway To Citizenship
A <a href="http://www.docstoc.com/docs/142894316/Bipartisan-immigration-plan">"tough but fair" </a> road to citizenship is the main tenet of the bipartisan immigrant plan. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is the most significant supporter of this idea, giving hope to those who doubt Republicans will support the plan.
The New Process
The new process of obtaining citizenship would be just that -- a process. Probationary citizens would be required to pass an additional background check, learn English, pay taxes and show that they have a history of employment to apply for permanent residence and a green card. Undocumented immigrants will receive green cards after all probationary citizens have been processed, ensuring that documented immigrants are addressed first. Separate processes would be designed for young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children and agricultural workers.
Enforcement, Then Green Cards
The first goal, before any green cards are handed out, is to "demonstrate our commitment to securing our borders and combating visa overstays," the senators say in their framework.
Enhance Border Security And Drones
Emphasizing enforcement measures, the framework calls for increased boarder control, including more border agents and aerial surveillance and drones. A new system would be added to ensure visa stays are being adhered to, along with a commission of border lawmakers to aid legislation.
Increase Employment Verification
The senators have proposed to create an "effective employment verification system" that would help prevent identity theft while allowing employers to feel secure in hiring documented immigrants.
No Benefits For Probationary Immigrants
Immigrants who are in the probationary category would not be eligible for federal benefits in the senators' framework. This addresses the concern that public benefits, particularly health-related ones, are being spent on undocumented immigrants.
An Easier Path For 'The Best And Brightest'
The framework recognizes that a different sort of process would be needed for "the best and brightest," including highly-skilled workers and those with higher education. This has been previously addressed in the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/28/stem-act-white-house-immigration_n_2207279.html">STEM Act </a> which was ultimately vetoed by the White House.