Bush spoke virtually at the South by Southwest festival Thursday, in a conversation with the Texas Tribune.
He said he was “deeply concerned with the rhetoric around immigration,” and it was a “political pipe dream” to send away the over 11 million unauthorized immigrants in this country.
“There needs to be an overhaul, which means that we need to get politics out of the system and get sober-minded people focusing on a) what’s best for our economy and b) what’s best for our country,” the 43rd president said.
“Rather than ignore the situation, we’ve got to address it, and I do believe there should be a path to citizenship,” he said. “[But] I think Congress is going to have to be mindful that those who are undocumented don’t get to jump ahead of the line of those who are documented and have played by the rules.”
Bush added that immigration had become “overly politicized.” The former president was also pushing his new book, “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants.”
While in office, Bush supported the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, which would have provided a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants but also heavily increase border enforcement. The bill never made it through the Senate.
The House is voting on two immigration bills Thursday — one to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrant youth, also known as “Dreamers,” and a second to provide legal status to certain migrant agriculture workers.
The DREAM Act, the bill for minors, passed the House 228-197, with nine GOP votes.
The bill is unlikely to pass the Senate, where it would need to garner GOP votes to break the 60-vote filibuster. Some Republicans, fired up by the surge in migrants at the southern border, are vehemently opposed to the bills.
Bush also said he was “optimistic” the populist movement of today would die out.
“History and the United States has shown these populist movements begin to fritter over time, and so I’m optimistic about democracy,” Bush said.
The Texas Republican seemed pleased at Biden’s job in office. “He’s off to a good start it looks like,” Bush said. “Hopefully, this anger will work its way out of the system.”