Former President George W. Bush recently released a new book featuring his own oil paintings titled “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants” in an effort to promote lawmakers establishing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and other immigration reform efforts.
The 43rd president told CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell that while he doesn’t want to be involved in policymaking, he hopes his art, particularly his portraits of immigrants, will encourage Congress to put aside their differences in the interest of improving the immigration system.
“Yeah, I do [want to be involved in the immigration discussion] in a way, in a way,” Mr. Bush said. “I don’t want to be prescriptive. I don’t want to, you know, tell Congress how to do this or that. I do want to say to Congress, ‘Please put aside all the harsh rhetoric about immigration. Please put aside trying to score political points on either side.’ I hope I can help set a tone that is more respectful about the immigrant, which may lead to reform of the system.”
While the former president has made it a point to avoid opining on his successors, he has criticized the lack of immigration reform coming out of Congress.
“[There have been] a lot of executive orders, but all that means is that Congress isn’t doing its job,” Bush said.
The Texas Republican went on say that the biggest disappointment of his own presidency was his failure to pass immigration reform.
“Yes, it really is,” Mr. Bush said. “I campaigned on immigration reform. I made it abundantly clear to voters this is something I intended to do.”
In 2006, then-President Bush gave an Oval Office address in which he said the United States can be both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.
“We are a nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws. We are also a nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways. These are not contradictory goals – America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time.”
Now, Bush said he supports creating a path to citizens for illegal immigrants if they pass a background check and pay back taxes.
Mr. Bush said, “The problem with the immigration debate is that one can create a lot of fear: They’re comin’ after you. But it’s a nation that is willing to accept the refugee or the harmed or the frightened, that to me is a great nation. And we are a great nation.”
The former president later added, “[The portraits are] a part of hopefully creating a better understanding about the role of immigrants in our society. Mine is just a small voice in what I hope is a chorus of people saying, ‘Let’s see if we can’t solve the problem.'”