The 43rd president, who said his own efforts at reform died more than a decade ago, told nearly 50 new U.S. citizens Monday new immigration policy is needed in the United States more than ever.
Bush's failed 2007 effort aimed to tie stronger border security with a path to citizenship for 12 million migrants. Monday, he suggested current U.S. immigration law is obsolete.
"Borders are not arbitrary and they need to be respected along with the fine men and women of the immigration services and border patrol," Bush said at the ceremony. "Immigration statutes, likewise, reflect the will of the people and the Congress and must be enforced.
"When the laws are outdated and ineffective, they must be rewritten. I hope those in Washington can dial down the rhetoric, put politics aside and modernize our immigration laws soon."
"Generations of new arrivals left their mark on our national character. Traits that friends abroad still recognize as distinctly American. Our optimism, our independence and openness to the new, our sense of life as an adventure." - President George W. Bush #NationofImmigrants pic.twitter.com/pQJN6BPDM8- George W. Bush Presidential Center (@TheBushCenter) March 18, 2019
Bush said emotions can cloud the highly complex issue and praised migrants for adding "critical contributions" to "our prosperity and our way of life."
Bush joked that the 47 new citizens at Monday's ceremony aren't just Americans -- they're Texans.
"If you walk out of here with a little extra attitude in your step, it shows the culture has taken hold," he joked.
Former first lady Laura Bush said the Lone Star State holds a special place for migrants.
"Texas has been a land of immigrants," she said. "Our state is a place where people come year after year to build a better life. We're a state that thrives due to the prosperity, ingenuity, transformation and generosity of immigrants."