George W Bush speaks out in favour of immigration
The former president George W Bush has stepped into the immigration debate in the US. He has told a Washington event focussed on economic growth that immigrants can help America 'build a better tomorrow'.
Mr Bush, who was the 43rd president of the US, was in the White House between 2000 and 2008. He was a Republican. Since President Obama, a Democrat, became President in 2009, Mr Bush's Republican Party has obstructed any move to reform the US immigration system and is widely seen as having moved to the right on immigration.
Mitt Romney, who was the Republican Party contender for the presidency in November 2012, said that he supported the policy of 'self-deportation' which involves making the lives of people who have settled in the US illegally so difficult that they choose to leave the country. He also said that, if he became president and Congress passed legislation that would grant US citizenship to some people who had come to the country illegally, he would veto it and prevent it from becoming law.
Pollsters say that this anti-immigration stance seems to have played well with some right-wing, white, Republicans but to have offended many ethnic minority voters. While a majority of white men voted for Mr Romney, 91% of African Americans voted Democrat as did 73% of Asian Americans and 71% of Hispanic Americans. Together these last three minorities make up 34% of the US population.
It is for this reason that some Republican strategists believe that the party must change its message on immigration. 'We're just not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term,' said Republican Senator Lindsay Graham before the election. Senator Graham, who is from South Carolina, has since co-sponsored an immigration reform bill with New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer.
Mr Bush's intervention will be seen as an attempt to direct his party back towards the centre ground. Speaking at the George W Bush Institute, the former president said 'immigrants come with new skills and ideas. They fill a critical part in our labour market. They work hard for a better life.'
Mr Bush said, 'America is a nation of immigrants. Immigration can help us build a better tomorrow.' He said that he hoped that the US would consider the future of immigration 'with a benevolent spirit.'
Mr Bush polled considerably better with Hispanic voters than did Mr Romney. Mr Bush speaks Spanish. His younger brother John Ellis 'Jeb' Bush, who many consider to be a likely presidential candidate for the Republicans in 2016, is a former governor of Florida, a state with a high proportion of Hispanic voters. Jeb Bush's wife, Columba was Mexican at birth. Some more cynical commentators are bound to say that Mr Bush is preparing the way for his brother's candidacy.
Mr Bush, told his audience, 'Not only do immigrants help build our economy, they help invigorate our soul.'
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