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Ex-President George W. Bush: Immigration Reform 'Done Right' Is Vital To The U.S.

Bill Zeeble

Former President George W. Bush made a rare public speaking appearance today to champion immigration reform done “with a benevolent spirit.” 

He spoke at Dallas’s Federal Reserve Bank, launching a Bush Institute conference on immigrants’ impact on the U.S. economy. Bush said immigration reform “done right” could help the economy grow by 4 percent a year, higher than the current rate.  

"Immigrants come with new skill and new ideas," he said. "They fill a critical gap in our labor market. They work hard for a chance for  a better life. Immigrants have helped build a country that we have become,  and immigrants can help build a dynamic tomorrow.  Not only do immigrants help build our economy , they invigorate our soul."

As President, Bush spoke out for bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform, but his attempt failed. In his presidential campaigns, Bush pulled a bigger share of immigrant votes - including those of Hispanics -  than Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney did last month.

Bush's speech comes a week after two retiring U.S. senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and John Kyl of Arizona, introduced legislation to give legal status to some children who were brought here illegally by their immigrant parents.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.