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President George W. Bush: Lawmakers Should Debate Immigration With a "Benevolent Spirit" and "Keep in Mind the Contributions of Immigrants"

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Since the election last month, when Mitt Romney lost the Latino vote to President Obama by more than a 3-1 margin, Republicans who acknowledge that the party must do better with immigration and Latino voters have mainly fallen into two camps.

There is the camp of the token proposal, which has pushed out legislation like Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)’s STEM Jobs bill, which—in the words of President Obama—does not meet “long-term objectives with respect to comprehensive immigration reform.”  And then there is the camp led by members of the Bush family, which supports the kind of immigration legislation pushed by President Bush in 2006-2007, which would create a path to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring citizens here without papers.

It was the latter kind of idea that former President George W. Bush himself advocated this morning, in a short Dallas speech that marked one of his first public appearances since leaving office nearly four years ago.  In the past, the former President has said that not being able to pass immigration reform was one of his greatest regrets about his term in office.

“America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time,” Bush said today, according to the Dallas Morning News.  “They invigorate our soul.”

He continued:

Immigrants come with new skills and new ideas.  They fill a critical gap in our labor markets.  And they work hard for a chance at a better life…

Growing up here in Texas, like many in this room, I had the honor and privilege of meeting the newly arrived. Those who I’ve met love their families. They see education as a bright future for their children. Some willingly defend the flag…

As our nation debates the proper course of action related to immigration. I hope do so with a benevolent spirit and keep in mind the contributions of immigrants.

We hope so, too.