Former President George W. Bush trekked from Preston Hollow to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas yesterday to urge the country’s leaders to debate immigration reform with a “benevolent spirit.”
Bush, who has rarely waded into the policy arena during his post-presidency, gave a speech that was light on specifics, but contained a warm message that was far from Mitt Romney’s comments on “self-deportation,” and which stressed the economic contributions immigrants make to a society.
“Immigrants come with new skills and new ideas. They fill a critical gap in our labor market. They work hard for a chance for a better life,” Bush said at the conference of his eponymous institute. “Not only do immigrants help build our economy, they invigorate our soul. America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time.”
What helped shape his views on immigration? His Texan roots, he said: “Growing up here in Texas, like many in this room, I had the honor and privilege of meeting the newly arrived,” Bush said. “Those who I’ve met love their families. They see education as a bright future for their children. Some willingly defend the flag.”
The Texas Tribune’s Julián Aguilar wrote that Bush’s remarks “appeared to set the tone for the panelists, whose focus was more on reform and its potential boon to the economy and less on law enforcement and border security.”
Tom Benning of the Dallas Morning News noted that this speech had echoes of an Oval Office address that Bush gave in 2007, in which he advocated overhauling the nation’s immigration policies by creating a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally and a guest worker program. So what happened? Well, as Benning reminds readers, “[t]hose efforts were stymied in Congress—partly because of resistance from some of his fellow Republicans, who accused him of pursuing amnesty. Bush has since said one of his regrets was first pushing Social Security reform, rather than immigration reform, after the 2004 election.”
For more specifics on Bush’s current views on immigration reform, the Huffington Post’s Elise Foley pointed towards The 4 Percent Solution, a book on economic growth published by the Bush Institute in July that contained a portion on immigration reform. As Foley wrote, “Bush Institute executive