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Story highlights

Add Jeb Bush to the list of critics of Ted Cruz's immigration position

Cruz vehemently denies that he ever favored legalization

(CNN) —  

Add Jeb Bush to the list of Ted Cruz critics on immigration.

The former Florida governor pounced on new questions about whether Cruz flip-flopped from supporting a path of legalization to now opposing it.

Holding his fourth and final town hall in New Hampshire on Saturday, Bush spelled out his position favoring legal status for undocumented immigrants after they pay a fine and meet a wide array of criteria.

“By the way, that view, Ted Cruz had until he went into the witness protection program,” Bush said.

Cruz vehemently denies that he ever favored legalization. He introduced an amendment to the 2013 comprehensive immigration bill that would strip the law of providing a pathway to citizenship but still allow a path to legalization.

The senator from Texas argues that it was a legislative trick to try to reveal that Democrats wanted citizenship in order to increase likely Democratic voters. But another GOP White House rival, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, is aggressively accusing Cruz of changing positions.

Bush, meanwhile, has suggested that most of his GOP rivals have changed positions on immigration in recent years – including Rubio. Bush accused GOP opponents of “doing the curly shuffle” and “spinning on the top of the needle with this trying to contort themselves into views that they didn’t have in the recent past.”

“You have to ask them if they’re sincerely changing their views or doing it for political purposes,” he said.

Bush boasts of holding a consistent view on immigration for four years, though he doesn’t mention that he previously favored a pathway to citizenship. He now only favors legal status because he says it’s the only way to accomplish immigration reform in a divided Congress. (He still favors citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants who were brought here illegally.)

Immigration isn’t the only issue on which Bush hit Cruz by name.

He also said that Cruz’s call to “carpet bomb” ISIS was “pretty breathtaking,” because a year ago Cruz was on the record saying, “We have no dog in the fight of the Syrian civil war.”

The Cruz campaign argues that he hasn’t changed his position, but was referring to the Syrian civil war, not the fight against ISIS. He believes the U.S. can wage war against the Caliphate without getting mixed up in the Syrian unrest between the Assad regime and rebel fighters.

But Bush wasn’t parsing words.

“It’s a slight different view in a relatively short period of time,” Bush said with sarcasm. “We’re gonna carpet bomb Mosul? A city of 800,000 people? That’s just not realistic, that’s just not grounded in reality.”