Former President George W. Bush has stepped into the US debate on immigration, saying migrants are "a force for good" and arguing for a gradual process to allow undocumented immigrants to earn legal status.
Bush, a past governor of Texas -a border state heavily impacted by migration- made his points in an op-ed article in the Washington Post previewing his new book featuring portraits of immigrants done by Bush himself.
The book of the former US president is named "Out of Many, One: Portraits of America's Immigrants."
Bush, 74, self-deprecatingly says he knows his paintings "may not set the art world stirring," but by sharing the portraits of immigrants, each with "a remarkable story," he hoped "to humanize the debate on immigration and reform."
From Florent Groberg, a young French man who won the US Medal of Honor for his service in Afghanistan-- to the much better-known stories of two migrants, Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger, the portraits drawn by Bush reflect diversity in immigrants' careers.
"New Americans are just as much a force for good now, with their energy, idealism, and love of country, as they have always been," Bush writes.
His book comes as President Joe Biden, who had promised to ease Donald Trump's severe immigration crackdown, has struggled with an uncontrolled surge of migrants, the biggest in 15 years, coming through the country's southern borders.
"The help and respect historically accorded to new arrivals is one reason so many people still aspire and wait to become Americans. So how is it that in a country more generous to new arrivals than any other, immigration policy is the source of so much rancor and ill will?" Bush asked in his op-ed.
While offering no specific policy prescriptions, Bush advocates several steps including a path to citizenship for those brought to the US as children and known as "dreamers"; greater securing of the southern border; a modernized asylum system; and increased legal immigration to allow "talented people to bring their ideas and aspirations here."
As for the millions of undocumented migrants living in the US, Bush says that a grant of amnesty would be "fundamentally unfair" to those trying to come legally, but he adds that "undocumented immigrants should be brought out of the shadows through a gradual process in which legal residency and citizenship must be earned."
Applicants should have to pay a fine and back taxes, document their work history, demonstrate English proficiency and knowledge of US history and civics, and provide a clean background check.