On a trip to Tanzania last week, former President George W. Bush made news when he told ABC correspondent Jonathan Karl, "The reason to pass immigration reform is not to bolster a Republican Party, it's to fix a system that's broken. Good policy yields good politics, as far as I'm concerned." Mr. Bush chose his words carefully; he didn't endorse the specific immigration reform bill that the Senate recently sent to the House for consideration. But he made clear that he remains in favor of sweeping immigration reform, something he attempted to accomplish as president.
"I think it's very important to fix a broken system, to treat people with respect and have confidence in our capacity to assimilate people," he told ABC.
Mr. Bush's remarks are the more striking because he has used his post-presidency platform so sparingly, showing considerable dignity in his reluctance to lecture or criticize his successor.
He has, however, spoken out on immigration reform before. In December in Dallas, he said, "America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time. As our nation debates the proper course of action relating to immigration, I hope we do so with a benevolent spirit and keep in mind the contribution of immigrants." In the same vein, he is scheduled to speak Wednesday morning at a naturalization ceremony for 20 people from 12 countries at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.
A Bush center spokesman said the former president would not comment on legislation in his address, focusing instead on the important contributions immigrants make. But following the ceremony, the Bush center has scheduled panel discussions on the ways immigrants drive economic growth, particularly in Texas. The schedule notes: "A common misconception holds that immigrants are a drag on the economies of border states. Texas, however, proves the opposite is true."
Mr. Bush's remarks and his willingness to use his and his wife's new institute in this way offer a welcome reminder that sensible immigration reform is a national necessity, not a partisan cause.
We hope Republican leaders in the House will tune in.