WASHINGTON -- Former President George W. Bush stressed the importance of immigration on Tuesday at a speech in Dallas, throwing himself back in the ring as the debate over reform heats up in Washington.
"Immigrants come with new skills and new ideas. They fill a critical part in our labor market. They work hard for a better life," Bush said at the event, hosted by the George W. Bush Institute and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
His brief speech introduced the groups' conference, which focused on the need for immigration reform to bolster economic growth.
"Not only do immigrants help build our economy, they help invigorate our soul," he said later in the speech.
Bush pushed during his second term for comprehensive immigration reform, with the help of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). That bipartisan effort failed in 2007, and hasn't been taken up again since. But now, after former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney suffered a crushing loss among Latino voters in the November election, a comprehensive immigration reform push will be taken up again, possibly along the lines of Bush's framework.
Bush has mostly stayed out of the limelight and politics since his presidency ended in early 2009, but his new non-partisan institute may help him re-enter the fray on policy. In July the institute published The 4 Percent Solution, a book that focused on economic growth and partially touched on immigration reform.
Bush Institute executive director James K. Glassman said then that the book emphasizes the need for immigration policy that would "attract the smartest people from around the world."