Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, the most prominent Republican advocate of immigration reform, warned his party in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Friday not to demand border security first.

"In some conservative circles, the word 'comprehensive' in the context of immigration reform is an epithet — a code word for amnesty. People who oppose such reform declare that securing the United States border must come before moving toward broader reform," he and co-author Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute write. "Such an approach is shortsighted and self-defeating."

Instead of focusing on border security, they say, they should work on a total overhaul: "The best way to prevent illegal immigration is to make sure that we have a fair and workable system of legal immigration. The current immigration system is neither."

Bush and Bolick also argue against "piecemeal" reforms such as increasing visas for skilled workers or granting amnesty to immigrants brought to the United States as children. They reassure conservatives that they do not support amnesty, but at the same time argue that "we must recognize that children who were brought here illegally have committed no crime and in most instances know no other country."

President Obama has promised a vigorous push for comprehensive immigration reform — including a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants — early in his second term. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has been working on his own immigration reform proposal.