Five years after his last failed effort to push his party to legalize illegal immigrants as part of a broad reform bill, former President George W. Bush made a renewed appeal Tuesday for the GOP to embrace immigration reform as an issue.
Mr. Bush kicked off a new partnership between his George W. Bush Institute and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas designed to highlight the benefits of a more open immigration policy.
“As our nation debates the proper course of action related to immigration, I hope we do so with a benevolent spirit and keep in mind the contribution of immigrants,” Mr. Bush said.
The Republican president led major efforts in 2006 and 2007 to get Congress to pass bills legalizing illegal immigrants, bolstering enforcement and rewriting the rules for legal immigration. Both times, his efforts fell short — and he took severe fire from conservatives who said he was embracing a policy of “amnesty.”
Still, his appeal had a strong electoral effect, helping him win at least 40 percent of Hispanic voters in his bid for re-election in 2004.
After last month’s elections, when Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won just 27 percent of Hispanic support with a strict anti-illegal immigration message,en route to a second straight GOP loss, many in his party said the time has come to rethink their stance.
GOP House Speaker John A. Boehner has said his chamber will tackle all sides of the immigration debate, though they will take it piece by piece.
Meanwhile, other Republicans have said they’ll restart conversations on comprehensive measures like those considered in 2006 and 2007.