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Former President George W. Bush, who failed in his quest for amnesty during his presidency – urged Congress to debate immigration reform with “a benevolent spirit” and to “keep in mind the contributions of immigrants.” The address was one of Bush’s first attempts to engage in the national political debate since leaving office.

The former president  gave the opening remarks at a conference hosted by the George W. Bush Institute that was designed to demonstrate a link between immigration and economic growth. He attempted to highlight the role immigrants play in the economy. “Immigrants come with new skills and new ideas,” he said. “They fill a critical gap in our labor market. And they work hard for a chance at a better life.”

Bush did not advocate for a specific immigration policy but emphasized that "America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time."

Bush first announced his support for amnesty in 2004. One version of an amnesty bill passed the Senate in 2006 after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was able to obtain cloture on the bill, but it was never taken up in the House. Reid tried again in 2007 but was unable to find enough votes for cloture.

After leaving office, Bush said that the failure to pass immigration reform during his two terms in the White House was one of his biggest disappointments.

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