SALT LAKE CITY — At a naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens Monday, former President George W. Bush praised immigration as “a blessing and a strength” and also spoke on the need for immigration reform.
The event was held at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas. According to The Washington Post, more than four dozen immigrants from 22 countries were sworn in during the ceremony, which Bush spoke at along with former first lady Laura Bush.
“So many of us can draw a line somewhere back to a man or woman who had the idea that life could be better — and that hope led them here,” said the former president.
“America’s elected representatives have a duty to regulate who comes in and when,” he added. “In meeting this responsibility, it helps to remember that America’s immigrant history made us who we are. Amid all the complications of policy, may we never forget that immigration is a blessing and a strength.”
George W. Bush said there is a need for comprehensive immigration reform, noting that citizens of the United States must recognize “a plain responsibility at the border.”
“Borders are not arbitrary, and they need to be respected along with the fine men and women of the immigration services and the border patrol,” he said.
He reinforced that respecting the nation’s history of welcoming immigrants is also important, according to People magazine.
“Generations of new arrivals left their mark on our national character,” George W. Bush said, “in traits that friends abroad still recognize as distinctly American: our optimism, our independence and openness to the new, our willingness to strive and to risk, our sense of life as an adventure, dignified by personal freedom and personal responsibility.”
Laura Bush, who spoke prior to her husband, talked about how “Texas has been a land of immigrants” where people have come and continue to come “to build a better life.”
“We are a much richer state for all the cultures that have settled on our land,” she said.
The couple’s words come three days after the terrorist attack at two Christchurch mosques in New Zealand that took the lives of 50 individuals. Bush's remarks also come amid anti-immigration rhetoric that has increased in recent months.
George W. Bush urged lawmakers in Washington to “dial down the rhetoric.”
He spoke about his administration’s own shortcomings with immigration, saying he regretted that their efforts to reform immigration policy “came up short.”
The George W. Bush Presidential Center released their recommendations for immigration reform last fall, emphasizing the need for Congress to “create a pathway to earned citizenship for undocumented immigrants” and “enhance the enforcement of immigration laws.”
“The United States of America is the most successful of nations,” George W. Bush said. “Historically, where immigration is concerned, we’re also the most welcoming of nations. And these two facts are related.”
View the rest of his speech here: