Former President George W. Bush said Tuesday the Republican Party looks a lot different from when he left Washington.
“I would describe it as isolationist, protectionist and to a certain extent nativist,” Mr. Bush said on NBC News’ “Today.” “It is not exactly my vision, but I am just an old guy they put out to pasture — just a simple painter.”
The former president also said the challenges on the nation’s southern border have been exacerbated by a lack of manpower and a deterioration of the discourse that demonizes immigrants for political gain.
Mr. Bush said the immigration system needs to be “reformed and fixed” and said the best way to frame the issue is through the lens of “border enforcement with a compassionate touch.”
“Two things I think will help alleviate that: one is an asylum process that is more robust. In other words, the border is being overwhelmed right now, and there needs to be more judges and more courts so people can have a fair hearing,” Mr. Bush said.
“Secondly, we need to change the work visas,” he said. “There are a lot of jobs that are empty, and there are a lot of jobs that need to be filled. I think a combination of those two would help alleviate some of the border.”
The nation’s 43rd president said he is hoping to “elevate” the conversation through his new book, “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants,” which features portraits of immigrants he has come to know and has written their stories.
Mr. Bush said he wishes elected leaders would tone down the rhetoric on the issue.
“It is a beautiful country we have, and yet it’s not beautiful when we condemn and call people names and scare people about immigration,” he said. “It is an easy issue to frighten some of the electorate, and I am trying to have a different kind of voice.”
Mr. Bush said he thinks a strong 2024 GOP presidential contender could emerge who embraces a different vision, including a path for citizenship for illegal immigrants.
“It depends upon the emphasis,” he said. “I think if the emphasis is integrity and decency and trying to work to get problems solved, I think the person has a shot.”