Former U.S. president George W. Bush said Tuesday that immigrants are critical to both the U.S. labor market and the economy. In a rare public policy speech after leaving office, Bush said at a symposium in Dallas, Texas that "America's a nation of immigrants, immigrants have helped build the country that we've become. Not only do immigrants help build the economy, they invigorate our souls."
"As our nation debates the proper course of action related to immigration, I hope we do so with a benevolent spirit and keep in mind the contribution of immigrants," Bush said at the symposium hosted by the George W. Bush Institute and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas on immigration and economic growth.
"They come with new skills and new ideas," Bush said. "They fill a critical gap in our labor market, they work hard for a chance for a better life."
Bush made this renewed appeal for the Republican Party to embrace immigration reform as an issue, five years after his failed effort to push for a broad reform bill that included ramped-up border security as well as pathway to citizenship for some illegal immigrants in the United States.
Some Republican leaders have spoken out about the need to reach out to Hispanics, the fastest-growing group in the United States that overwhelmingly supported President Barack Obama in the presidential election last month. Latino-Americans voted for Obama over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney 71 percent to 27 percent in the presidential race.
In polls, many Hispanics said they found the way Romney addressed immigration as hostile and anti-Hispanic. The view among Hispanics was seen as a key factor in their overwhelming support for Obama, according to media reports.
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