Former US president George W Bush backs immigration reform

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 July, 2013, 3:22am


Former US president George W. Bush, who normally stays out of current political issues, waded briefly into America's immigration debate in an interview, urging Congress to pass legislation to overhaul the system.

"It's very important to fix a broken system, to treat people with respect and have confidence in our capacity to assimilate people," Bush said on This Week on ABC News.

"It's a very difficult bill to pass. The legislative process can be ugly. But it looks like they're making some progress."

Bush was a champion of immigration changes during his presidency, and his failure to pass such legislation was one of his biggest disappointments.

US President Barack Obama has effectively picked up the baton in pressing for a similar proposal to create a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants living in the country illegally, aided by newfound support among Republicans worried about the electoral implications of alienating a growing Latino vote.

Bush said politics should not be the primary motivation for reshaping immigration laws. "The reason to pass immigration reform is not to bolster a Republican Party," he said. "It's to fix a system that's broken. Good policy yields good politics."

The former president was interviewed during his trip last week to Africa, where he has been working to fight cervical cancer among women.

He dismissed assumptions that he spends so much time on Africa now to redeem mistakes in Iraq, calling such talk "absurd psychobabble".

While he offered thoughts on immigration, he declined to speak out on other urgent issues of the day, like same-sex marriage. He urged patience as Egypt goes through its tumult, saying that the Arab Spring in general was still "a good thing because people are demanding their rightful place".

Bush, who overlapped with Obama in Tanzania, declined to offer judgments about his successor.

Asked about Obama's decision to continue some of the counterterrorism programmes he inherited, Bush said: "I think the president got into the Oval Office and realised the dangers to the United States, and he's acted in ways he thinks are necessary to protect the country."