Former President George W. Bush said Sunday that he wants Congress to tone down its ” harsh rhetoric about immigration” and to pass comprehensive reforms to the system, which he bemoaned he could not get through while president.
“I don’t want to be prescriptive. I don’t want to, you know, tell Congress how to do this or that. 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,” Bush told “CBS Sunday Morning.”
“I hope I can help set a tone that is more respectful about the immigrant, which may lead to reform of the system,” he said.
Bush is at the beginning of a publicity tour for a new book of his oil paintings, “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants,” set for release Tuesday. In the interview, Bush lamented the inability to pass such immigration reform legislation when he last made a major push for it in 2006.
“I campaigned on immigration reform,” Bush said. “I made it abundantly clear to voters this is something I intended to do.”
“The problem with the immigration debate is that one can create a lot of fear,” he added. “‘They’re coming after you.’ … [A] nation that is willing to accept the refugee or the harmed or the frightened, that to me is a great nation. And we are a great nation.”
Bush is in favor of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who pay taxes and pass a background check. Should President Joe Biden’s administration advance such legislation, Bush was asked if he would lobby Republicans for their support.
“I am right now,” he responded. “Whether my own party listens to me or not’s another question.”
The position has Bush at odds with former President Donald Trump and many of the party’s immigration hardliners who are possible 2024 presidential contenders. Bush’s successors in Trump and former President Barack Obama relied heavily on employing executive actions to further their immigration agendas.
As for his portraits, Bush said he hopes they create “a better understanding about the role of immigrants in our society.”
He continued: “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.'”