George W. Bush: Immigration debates should be "more respectful about the immigrant"

Former U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife Laura Bush arrive for the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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Axios
·2 min read
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Former President George W. Bush (R) told "CBS Sunday Morning" that he wants the nation's immigration debate to be "more respectful about the immigrant."

Why it matters: The Republican party has veered sharply to the right on the issue of immigration. Former President Trump built his campaign on the promise of building a new U.S.-Mexico border wall and issued strict policies for returning families and unaccompanied children.

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On getting involved in the immigration debate: "I do want to say to Congress: 'Please put aside all the harsh rhetoric about immigration. Please put aside tryin' to score political points on either side.­' I hope I can help set a tone that is more respectful about the immigrant, which may lead to reform of the system."

Norah O'Donnell: "You gave an Oval Office address on immigration ... It's been 15 years. ... Still nothing's been done. ... Is it one of the biggest disappointments of your presidency?"

  • George W. Bush: "Yes. It really is. ... The problem with the immigration debate is that ... one can create a lot of fear. 'They're comin' after you.' ... [A] nation that is willing to accept the refugee or the harmed or the frightened, to me is a great nation. And we are a great nation."

Bush supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who pass a background check and pay taxes. 

  • O'Donnell: "And if that were the proposal by President Biden, would you lobby your own party to support that?"

  • Bush: "Well, I am right now. ... Whether my own party listens to me or not's another question."

Bush, who's out Tuesday with a new book of his oil paintings, "Out of Many, One: Portraits of America's Immigrants," said he hopes his portraits, will create "a better understanding about the role of immigrants in our society. Mine is just a small voice in what I hope is a chorus of people saying: 'Let's see if we can't solve the problem.'"

Go deeper: Watch the 8-min. segment.

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