This is a reflection of the failure of a grass roots conservative movement to do for amnesty what it did for nationalized health care.
The Tea Party took a policy that had deep roots within the Republican establishment and made it so toxic that Romney ran on opposition to a policy that he had signed into law. The second wind for the Tea Party could have happened on amnesty but conservatives have yet to make enough people understand that illegal immigration will have an even worse impact on their lives than nationalized health care.
And until that happens, the cheap labor/cheap votes lobby is going to have its way. So here we are. There are two positions on amnesty being held by Republican candidates.
1. Straight amnesty - This means a path to citizenship. It's the most common position and held by GOP "centrists" like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.
2. Guest worker amnesty - This is the compromise position that would provide illegals with the right to work, but no path to citizenship. Obviously the problem with it is that it rewards illegals and temporary legal status is a half-step to permanent legal status. It may be better than full amnesty or it may be worse, because full amnesty may not be able to get through the House even under Jeb Bush, but half-amnesty seems like a reasonable compromise and could end up becoming law.
Now no candidate embraces the term "amnesty". Even Obama doesn't use the term. That's why every Republican will deny that he supports amnesty.
The denial is completely meaningless because the term amnesty wavers a lot. And so we have a debate over what amnesty is, whether Scott Walker or Ted Cruz support it.
Ted Cruz is currently the closest to an anti-amnesty candidate in the race. He has made it very clear that he opposes a path to citizenship. There's a Texas Tribune story that is problematic on his position on guest worker status for illegals, but it doesn't contain a single unambiguous and decisive quote.
The amnesty for guest workers issue came up during Cruz's primary against Dewhurst.
"The Dewhurst amnesty," Cruz claimed, "would take every single illegal alien in the United States and give them a guest worker permit."
Cruz was clearly defining guest worker status for illegals as amnesty. It's an inescapable position.