Former President George W. Bush said Monday that the U.S. should not shy away from enforcing its borders — but he also called on Congress to set aside political acrimony and approve a broad legalization for illegal immigrants.
Mr. Bush, who himself led a massive round of wall-building beginning in 2006, did not specifically praise or attack President Trump, who is now engaged in another wall fight.
But the former president did say Congress should again attempt to tackle “comprehensive immigration reform.” That’s the name backers use for bills offering amnesty from deportation to millions of illegal immigrants.
Mr. Bush attempted to strike agreement on such a bill in 2006 and again in 2007, but failed both times, with his own party rebelling against him over border security, and some Democrats balking because they felt his plans would undermine American workers.
He spoke at a naturalization ceremony for new citizens, hosted at the Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.
Mr. Bush said immigrants are critical to strengthening and renewing America, while acknowledging that “public debate on the matter can get pretty sharp.”
He joked that the new citizens are now part of the “boisterous democracy” that hosts those kinds of debates.
The former president didn’t offer any specific way out of the immigration impasse, but said an agreement should be possible, and said his presidential center is working on a blueprint.
“That starts with recognizing a plain responsibility at the border — and, in an often chaotic situation, being willing to state the obvious: Borders are not arbitrary and they need to be respected — along with the fine men and women of immigration services and our Border Patrol,” he said.
But he added: “When the laws are outdated and ineffective, they must be rewritten. I hope those responsible in Washington can dial down the rhetoric, put politics aside, and modernize our immigration laws soon.”