(CNN) – Former President George W. Bush, who presided over the last attempt to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2007, reiterated his belief Tuesday that immigrants are a beneficial and integral part of the American way of life.
"Immigrants come with new skills and new ideas. They fill a critical gap in our labor market. They work hard for a chance at a better life," Bush said in a short speech at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. He was speaking ahead of an event sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute spotlighting the positive economic impact of immigration.
In his remarks, Bush praised immigrants as helping "build the nation we have become," saying they will also help "build a dynamic tomorrow."
"Not only do immigrants help build our economy, they invigorate our soul," he said. "America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time."
Bush's remarks came nearly a month after the 2012 presidential election, which saw GOP nominee Mitt Romney receive only 27% of the Latino vote, compared to 71% who went for President Barack Obama. That's a dip in Latino support for the Republican candidate from 2008, when 31% of Latinos went for Sen. John McCain. It's a major drop from 2004, when 44% of Latinos supported Bush.
In his final term as president, Bush championed a comprehensive immigration reform measure that would have combined tighter border security rules with a temporary guest worker program. He was unable to garner enough support from members of his own party in the Senate, however, and the bill went down in defeat before making it to his desk.
Among the lawmakers who voted for the bill, which came after months of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, was then-Sen. Barack Obama – who as president has not made significant efforts to pass immigration reform legislation. He said during the presidential campaign that passing such a measure will be a goal of his second term, saying he was "confident" such legislation could pass.
"Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community," he continued.
Two senators – Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican Lindsey Graham – have said they plan to reignite bipartisan immigration reform talks on Capitol Hill, focusing on a measure first introduced in 2010. That effort, which Obama praised, drew fire from all sides and eventually stalled.
And two Republicans, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, introduced a bill last week that would give legal status to certain young immigrants brought to the United States by their parents.
In his remarks Tuesday, Bush said any push to reform the nation's immigration laws would need to maintain a sense of compassion for those affected by new rules.
"As our nation debates a proper course of action relating to immigration, I hope we do so with a benevolent spirit, and keep in mind the contribution of immigrants," Bush said.
well im sure he made a hit with his party, But good for him telling it like it should be.
Republicans should listen to their once fearless leader. He actually knows a thing about the aspirations of latino people being the governor of Texas. He wanted to be a "compassionate" conservative. Apparently, there is no compassion in the hearts of republicans in Congress.
am I the only one that misses George W Bushes honesty and plainess?
compared to Romney and McCain, at least Bush felt genuine... i don't miss Cheney, don't misuderstand
but Bush was never as hateful and partisan as the current Republicans =(
Former President Bush jumps back into immigration debate
"Jumps back"? Dubya just had his speaking passport returned to him by the GOP. The last time he had ANYTHING to say about anything was in 2008, and according to the article the last time he had anything of import to say about immigration was in 2007.
Are you trying to tell us that he lost his train of thought for almost 6 years and just now picked up the thread of the immigration national dialogue? Not that that would surprise us based on the few braincells this brain trust is working with.
I wonder shy he wasn't as rational as this with the rest of his policies as president.
We need W. to stay off the radar – he did enough damage.
And this is the readon Bush turned me to an independent. No amnesty for illegals...period
Americans welcome legal immigrants who come to America the right way ,not the illegal immigrants that sneak into America ,taking more than they ever give back.Our lawmakers seem to have a problem understanding the difference.Had they been more willing to enforce the laws already on the books such as making sure they could not be employed in America instead of turning a blind eye ,we would not have this mess.
Bush did some dumb things...his policy towards immigration was not one of them.
Go away. Go as far away as possible, and stay there. No one needs to hear from a Bush.
Just seeing this face dredges up horrible memories of what happened on his watch. He is one of worst presidents this country has ever seen. The damage he did to the GOP brand will tak years to repair.
Great Message. Terrible Messenger.
OK George, the election is over. You can come out of the basement now.
I never was a big fan of Bush jr but what he said was a far cry from what Romney said about latinos being a threat to the United States. Not just illegals. But all of them.
This is just a test , is it safe to go out and show my face ?
Go Mr. Bush tell them like I...S is is.
legal immigrants, yes... illegal immigrants, no...
Does anyone ever notice how once out of office [or independently wealthy] Former HIGH PROFILE Republican leaders can be intellectually HONEST and line up behind Democratic policies? Think George Bush, Colin Powell, Michael Bloomberg, Bob Dole. Even in the Punditsphere, former RNC Chairman Micheal Steele, has voice agreement with more moderate / centrist views put forth by the President.
What is it about being a "card-carrying" GOP`er that requires one to check their brain & civility at the front door?
I spent a year in Austin, TX 1998-1999 working with Hispanic immigrants – Bush is spot on, although I'm not a big fan of his, and neither were many Austinites.
I have a helluva lot more in common with people who want to immigrate to this country because they want to work than I do with people who already live in this country and would rather live off of the government.
Yeah right Dubya – You – Cheney and your former treasury secretary Henry paulson should be somewhere like in prison – for life -( Alcatraz would be a good start) paulson was nothing but a thief – and you say : ""Immigrants come with new skills and new ideas. They fill a critical gap in our labor market"" – that's why they are coming into houston by the boatload day after day . They are working here, and sending their earnings back to mexico – but your buddy perry, wants to keep the ones that ARE Legal, without any education, so they can continue to work those min wage jobs.
I never really cared for Bush, but I have to give him credit. I don't think Bush had a bit of malice in his heart. But Willard was pure EVIL. It's in the eyes. Bush has a sparkle in his eyes just like President Obama. Willard had eyes like Damian Thorne aka the Omen. Ann had the same eyes.
No one in the GOP is against immigration.....just do it legally!
Bill- Have you taken a good look at the current resident of the White House?
Hey, I remember this guy!!! Where you been hiding these past four years buddy?