White House punts on Jeb Bush’s no-citizenship immigration proposal

The White House declined to condemn former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s proposal to withhold citizenship from illegal immigrants who get legal status under the draft immigration rewrite being developed in the Congress.

The March 5 signal came when White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked if President Barack Obama would “sign a comprehensive bill that did not include a path to citizenship?”

Carney punted, without condemning Bush’s proposal.

“The president has made very clear that he believes a path to citizenship is a vital component of immigration reform,” Carney said.

When pressed for an answer, he contradicted himself, according to the official transcript.

“MR. CARNEY:  Well, I’m not going to speculate.  I think the answer is pretty clear.  He believes that a path —

Q    The answer is no?

MR. CARNEY:  — a pathway to citizenship is vital to a comprehensive immigration package, so, yes.”

Some immigration reformers fear that Carney’s signal will split the GOP’s broad opposition to immigration reform, and reveals that the White House wants a reform bill at almost any cost.

By withholding citizenship, some GOP legislators might be willing to support the pending immigration bill because it would appear to prevent Democratic-skewed immigrants from voting, or sponsoring residency for their foreign relatives.

However, the no-citizenship offer could not survive long, said Steve Camarota, a research analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies.

That law would leave the GOP open to charges that it supports a very unpopular two-tier “Jim Crow” legal system, said Camarota, whose center wants immigration law to be reformed to halve the inflow of roughly 1 million immigrants per year.

That provision would give the Democrats a powerful club for the 2014 and 2016 elections, and would quickly be killed when GOP legislators realized the unpopularity of the idea, he said.

Bush has already backed off the plan, which was revealed March 4 when a copy of his forthcoming book was leaked to the press.

On March 5, he said the idea was developed prior to the 2012 election, and that he would support some plans that would provide pardoned immigrants with a “path to citizenship.”

The law would also do nothing for the Americans looking for a job or a wage increase, said Camarota, because it would allow 11 million illegals to compete for low-wage jobs during an extended period of high unemployment. If the GOP is hindering Americans’ ability to get jobs or wage increases, they won’t get Americans’ votes, he said.

Progressive groups have vociferously denounced Bush’s proposal.

But they will accept the temporary setback if it gets them passage of an immigration rewrite, Camarato predicted.

Carney declined to discuss the political impact of Bush’s two-tier proposal.

“I would leave it to you and others to asses the political dynamics,” he said.

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