George W. Bush calls the country “divided” under Trump and pushes for immigration reforms

Former President George W. Bush, who has largely remained on the political sidelines after the White House, has once again been criticized for his Republican successor as he advocates for a much different immigration policy than former President Donald Trump.

“The problem with the immigration debate is that, one of them, it can cause a lot of fear. ‘They’re coming after you,” Mr. Bush said during a recent interview with CBS News at his 1,600 acre ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Bush, whose painting book “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants” is published by Crown, hopes his vote can make the debate less terrifying after four years of Trump’s policies. Proceeds from his book will go to charities that help immigrants resettle.

“The country was very divided at that time. And you know, as a result he was not reelected,” Mr. Bush said of Mr. Trump.

Although he is Mr. Trump of dividing the land, Mr. Bush did not go so far as to blame the January 6 riot at the Capitol, which he called a “terrible moment in our history.”

‘That made me sick. I could not believe it. Neither do you. Most Americans sit there saying, ‘What the hell is going on? Bush said. “Trying to guess the motives of haunted people – history will judge the blame as time passes.”

More than two decades ago, Mr. Bush acted as a compassionate conservative seeking to push through comprehensive immigration reform. That he didn’t, he said, is one of his biggest regrets and part of the reason he is back in the debate.

It was Ken Mehlman, his former campaign manager, who urged him to speak out about immigration reform about four years ago, Bush said.

“I said,” I don’t want to lose my voice in the immigration debate. I’m a quiet guy. I’ve made my deal. I’m not going to criticize my successors. ” He said, “Why don’t you paint portraits of immigrants?” And I said, “Wow, that’s a good idea” – and started. And now I’m involved in the immigration discussion, “Mr. Bush said.

Former President George W. Bush talks to CBS Evening News anchor and editor Norah O’Donnell in his studio on his Texas ranch.

Adam Verdugo / CBS News

The last president to sign an immigration reform bill was President Ronald Reagan in 1986, who essentially granted amnesty to 2.7 million undocumented immigrants. Bush said he does not believe granting immediate amnesty to migrants “would work in this day and age,” but he supports the path to citizenship.

However, I do believe that people who have been here, who [followed] the law and tax payments must be given a chance… a path to citizenship, ”he said. If they pay their taxes and turn out to be good citizens. And stay out of jail. But don’t jump ahead of those who have been here and live by the rules. ”

Bush said he would lobby the Republican Party to support it, if that’s President Joe Biden’s proposal.

“Whether my own party listens to me is another question,” he said.

Mr. Bush also said he disagrees with the argument that immigrants are taking jobs away from US citizens.

“I think it helps to grow the number of jobs available. And there are a lot of jobs that aren’t being filled right now. You’re coming to Dallas here in August and not many people volunteer to put roof tiles on roofs.” , he says. said.

The former president employs eight immigrants who work on his 90-acre tree nursery. They are in the US with work visas, he said.

“They are incredibly good workers. But more importantly, they are here to support their families. And they send money home,” Bush said, adding that he believes the current work visa system should be expanded.

“The problem with the visa program is that they have to apply for a re-admission every year. As a result, as a small business owner, we don’t know if the workforce trained to work at the tree nursery will come back. resolved, ”he said.

On the cover of Mr. Bush stands Carlos Rovelo, who came to the US because of a civil war in El Salvador. If he had stayed there, said Rovelo, now a father of four, he doesn’t think he’d be alive. His father was tortured, his family had to pay a ransom for his father’s release, and his grandmother witnessed the murder of an archbishop near their home.

Former President George W. Bush painted a portrait of Carlos Rovelo, who grew up in El Salvador and became a US citizen in 1987 after escaping civil war.

Adam Verdugo / CBS News

He became a United States citizen in 1987 and is now a professor at a community college, where he teaches federal and Texas government, Mexican American studies, and art history.

‘Only in America. And that’s what this country is all about. Never say never, ”Rovelo said of the cover.

Bush, who got to know Rovelo through his art instructor, hopes the tone of the immigration debate will change by sharing the story of Rovelo and others.

“Well, that’s the thing that pisses me off about this debate. I really don’t want to get involved in politics. But you know, the tone of the debate was just so disrespectful to people like Carlos,” he said. “Dream big and work hard.”