Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R) on Monday backed off his previous support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, saying it would send the wrong message to people who have tried to immigrate legally.

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Asked by NBC's Matt Lauer why his new book doesn't advocate a path to citizenship, Bush said it wouldn't be fair.

"Because our proposal is a proposal that looks forward," he said. "And if we want to create an immigration policy that's going to work, we can't continue to make illegal immigration an easier path than legal immigration. And so I think it's important that there is a natural friction between our immigrant heritage and the rule of law."

Bush added that rewarding illegal immigrants with a path to citizenship would lead to even more illegal immigration.

"I think there has to be some difference between people who come here legally and illegally," he said. "It is just a matter of common sense and a matter of the rule of law. If we're not going to apply the law fairly and consistently, then we're going to have another wave of illegal immigrants coming into this country."

Bush said as recently as June 2012 that he supports a path to citizenship as a part of comprehensive immigration reform.

“You have to deal with this issue," he told CBS News at the time. "You can’t ignore it, and so either a path to citizenship, which I would support -- and that does put me probably out of the mainstream of most conservatives -- or ... a path... to residency of some kind."

Over the weekend, Mitt Romney reiterated his opposition to a path to citizenship as well, even though his huge loss among Latino voters was seen as a big reason he lost overall.