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Jeb Bush says he’s ‘in sync’ with Graham on immigration reform

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Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) on Sunday said he was “in sync” with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on immigration reform.

Graham, who is part of a bipartisan Senate group crafting an immigration overhaul, had criticized Bush earlier this week after Bush said he did not support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants and expressed that stance in a new book. Bush subsequently reversed that stance, saying his views on the issue had evolved since his book was written.

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On Sunday, Bush sought to downplay differences with the Senate group’s efforts, which include support for allowing illegal immigrants to seek citizenship.

“Sen. Graham and I talked.  He was responding to concerns that were expressed before the book was actually published,” said Bush on ABC’s “This Week.” “I told him that I support his efforts and I applaud what he’s doing.  And he concluded, after he heard what the thesis of the book is that we’re in sync. We’re on the same — on the same path.

Bush, who acknowledged this week that he was considering a bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, invited criticism from both Republicans and Democrats with his stumble over immigration reform. 

“I just think this proposal caught me off-guard, and it undercuts what we’re trying to do,” Sen. Graham said last week. A pathway to citizenship is a key element of the bipartisan proposal being forged by senators on immigration. 

Democratic senators, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) accused Bush of flip-flopping on this issue.

Bush on Sunday said he was concerned with insuring that reform efforts not continue to incentivize illegal immigration. 

“The basic premise needs to be that coming to the country legally should be easier with less cost than coming to the country illegally.  And if you can create a system like that as is being discussed in the Senate and in the House– through a path to citizenship, that’s fine,” he said. “My guess is that will take a long, long time to achieve. In the interim, it’s important to take people out from the shadows to allow them to have– the dignity of being– having legal status.”

Bush said he was “very encouraged” by the work of the Senate group and the possibility Congress could pass immigration reform this session.

“There are some big sticking points about how do you deal with making sure that there’s enough seasonal workers, temporary worker programs that have been quite successful in the past,” he said. “There’s a lot of work being done, really good work, courageous work, ’cause this is complex and may not be popular, but I think it’s– it is possible that comprehensive reform can be done.”

In an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation," Bush said that the prospects of a deal on immigration could inspire lawmakers to work together on other issues.

"This is a very encouraging time because, if we can get immigration right, imagine -- there's possibilities of -- of cats and dogs living with one another in other policy areas as well," said Bush.

Ben Geman contributed.

This story was updated at 2:00 p.m.