Former President Bush Calls for Immigration Reform at Dallas Conference

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Former President George W. Bush made a rare reentry into politics by addressing a conference on immigration and economic growth held in Dallas and cosponsored by the George W. Bush Institute and the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank.

Bush calls for immigration reform to foster economic growth

In his speech, which kicked off the conference, Bush made the case for comprehensive immigration reform, linking it to fostering economic growth, according to the Dallas Morning News. The theory is that immigrants bring with them much needed skills and ideas. Bush also offered the opinion that immigrants "invigorate the soul" of the United States by adding a work ethic and a desire for self-improvement to American culture. He did not offer any specific immigration reform measure, however.

Bush had pushed for immigration reform during his second term

During his second term, Bush pushed for an immigration reform measure that would have provided a long, convoluted path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country and would have stepped up border security, which he articulated in a speech in 2007. He denied that this constituted "amnesty," a term that opponents of immigration reform use to describe any measure that does not include the deportation of the some 12 million illegal immigrants estimated to be in the country. He suggested that deporting that number of people would be impossible as a practical matter.

Bush immigration reform rejected by Congress

According to Reuters, the United States Senate killed Bush's immigration reform bill. Thirty-three Democrats, 12 Republicans, and one independent voted in favor of the bill. Fifteen Democrats, 37 Republicans, and one independent voted against. Even though the bill contained money to build a border fence, it failed to win support over the question of whether or not it provided amnesty to illegal immigrants who, by definition, are lawbreakers.

Immigration reform and the 2012 campaign

While Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was an advocate of immigration reform, he failed to win the presidency in 2008. In the 2012 election, the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, took a hard line against illegal immigration, according to the Dallas Morning News story, suggesting that he would enact policies that would cause them to "self-deport." Romney lost the Hispanic vote heavily, an instance that some blame on his hardline anti-illegal immigration stance. Some Republican politicians, such as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a potential presidential candidate for 2016, have called for a reevaluation of Republican immigration policy, something now echoed by former President Bush.

Texas resident Mark Whittington writes about state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

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