George W. Bush Weighs In on Immigration Debate

PHOTO: Former President George W. Bush gives opening remarks at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas for a conference titled "Immigration and 4% Growth: How Immigrants grow the U.S. Economy," Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, in Dallas, Texas.

Former President George W. Bush on Wednesday expressed hope that the immigration debate in Congress produces a "positive" result.

Bush backed an unsuccessful comprehensive immigration reform bill as president in 2007. He refrained from weighing in on political or policy specifics today, but said that Congress should act to fix the nation's immigration laws.

"I do hope there is a positive resolution to the debate," he said during a naturalization ceremony for new immigrants at his presidential center in Dallas. "I hope during the debate, we keep a benevolent spirit in mind and we understand the contributions immigrants make to our country."

Bush's words come as House Republicans weigh their path forward on immigration reform, following the Senate's passage of a bipartisan bill that bolsters border security and opens a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

House Republicans are meeting Wednesday afternoon in a "special conference" to decide stance on the issue.

But thus far, many GOP congressmen remain unmoved by those in their own party who have urged them to pass a similar product.

Republican opponents of immigration reform frequently argue that undocumented immigrants shouldn't be able to become citizens, at least not until after a massive buildup of border security is undertaken.

Bush said that it's possible to believe in the rule of law and adopt a "welcoming" stance toward immigrants.

"We're a nation of immigrants. And we must uphold that tradition, that has strengthened our country in so many ways. We're a nation of laws. And we must enforce our laws," he said. "America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time."

The 43rd president built a sense of urgency around addressing the immigration issue, saying it's crucial for the country's economy and character.

"The laws governing the immigration system aren't working," Bush said. "Our generation must ensure America remains a beacon of liberty."

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