Former president George W. Bush had a message for Congress Sunday: Be more “respectful” of immigrants.
“I do want to say to Congress: ‘Please put aside all the harsh rhetoric about immigration. Please put aside tryin’ to score political points on either side,” Bush told Norah O’Donnell on “CBS Sunday Morning.”
“I hope I can help set a tone that is more respectful about the immigrant, which may lead to reform of the system,” added Bush, who said one of his biggest disappointments in office was not overhauling the immigration system as he had hoped.
During his time in office, the former president introduced an immigration reform bill that sought to give citizenship to 12 million undocumented immigrants, which failed in the Senate in 2007.
Bush’s interview included a tour of his Texas ranch and art studio, where he has painted a series of portraits featured in his new book “Out of Many, One: Portraits of Immigrants in America.”
The former president recognized how lawmakers can manipulate the immigration issue to whip up fear.
“The problem with the immigration debate is that one can create a lot of fear,” he explained. ”’You know, ‘They’re coming after you.’”
He emphasized that 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,” he declared.
In another segment of the interview airing Tuesday, Bush conceded that with an “angry society, it’s hard to punch through with compassion.” He also insisted that there “absolutely” are still compassionate conservatives, adding: “I’m one of them.”
Bush supports creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who pay back taxes and pass background checks. Asked by O’Donnell if he would lobby for such a program out of the Biden administration, he responded: “I am right now. Whether my own party listens to me or not’s another question.”
Bush also took a shot at Donald Trump, saying that during Trump’s time in office, “absolutely … we were short on humility,” which he believes is critical for “effective” leadership.
Check out the interview in the video up top.