Former President George W. Bush regrets not passing immigration reform and now he is willing to jump into the debate, unveiling paintings of the migrant faces "to humanize the debate on immigration and reform."
"We should never forget that the desire to live in the United States — a worldwide and as powerful an aspiration as ever — is an affirmation of our country and what we stand for," Bush wrote in The Washington Post. "Over the years, our instincts have always tended toward fairness and generosity. The reward has been generations of grateful, hard-working, self-reliant, patriotic Americans who came here by choice.
"If we trust those instincts in the current debate, then bipartisan reform is possible. And we will again see immigration for what it is: not a problem and source of discord, but a great and defining asset of the United States."
Bush's advocacy includes support for DACA dreamers, securing the border, working with neighboring countries where migrants are fleeing from, codifying and modernizing the asylum system, and merit-based immigration.
"Increased legal immigration, focused on employment and skills, is also a choice that both parties should be able to get behind," Brush wrote, although it runs against the grain of the Biden administration's equity and humanitarian priorities.
"The United States is better off when talented people bring their ideas and aspirations here. We could also improve our temporary entry program, so that seasonal and other short-term jobs can more readily be filled by guest workers who help our economy, support their families and then return home."
Bush added an admission amnesty is "fundamentally unfair" to those who have long sought to legally immigrate.
"As for the millions of undocumented men and women currently living in the United States, a grant of amnesty would be fundamentally unfair to those who came legally or are still waiting their turn to become citizens," Bush's missive read. "But undocumented immigrants should be brought out of the shadows through a gradual process in which legal residency and citizenship must be earned, as for anyone else applying for the privilege.
"Requirements should include proof of work history, payment of a fine and back taxes, English proficiency and knowledge of U.S. history and civics, and a clean background check."
Bush, post presidency, has used paintings to share the stories of soldiers who have served in his Afghanistan War that began after 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now, he is using them to spread awareness to the boiling immigration debates.
"I set out to accomplish two things: to share some portraits of immigrants, each with a remarkable story I try to tell, and to humanize the debate on immigration and reform," Bush wrote in the Post.
"I hope that these faces, and the stories that accompany them, serve as a reminder that immigration isn't just a part of our heritage. New Americans are just as much a force for good now, with their energy, idealism and love of country, as they have always been."
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