U.S. President Barack Obama (L) stands alongside (L-R) former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter as they attend the dedication ceremony for the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas Thursday. (Photo : Reuters)
President Obama spoke at a dedication of The George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas Thursday to not only speak about the legacy of former President Bush, but to push for an issue that both men targeted as a major goal of their second term--immigration reform.
In the backdrop of arguments beginning anew on Capitol Hill at the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the proposed immigration bill submitted by the bipartisan U.S. Senate panel known as the "Gang of Eight," President Obama called for the passage of the bill as a necessary step forward for the nation.
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"Seven years ago, President Bush restarted an important conversation by speaking with the American people about our history as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, and even though comprehensive immigration reform has taken a little longer than any of us expected, I am hopeful that this year -- with the help of Speaker Boehner and some of the senators and members of Congress who are here today -- that we bring it home for our families, for our economy, for our security and for this incredible country that we love," Obama said at the dedication, as Politico reported.
"And if we do that, it will be in large part thanks to the hard work of President George W. Bush," he continued.
During the Dallas event, which marked the first time in four years that all of the living presidents were together at one event, former President Clinton also praised Bush for his efforts to pass immigration.
"I hope the Congress will follow President Obama's efforts to follow the precedent you set," Clinton said, as noted by The Hill.com.
During his second term, Bush had pushed for an immigration reform bill that would have created a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living illegally in the U.S., but the Republican-controlled Senate of the time struck down the bill in 2007.
However, since the November election, during which a record number of Latino voters cast their ballots for President Obama in the presidential election, Republicans have been forced to re-examine their policies on immigration in order to keep the party relevant among a growing immigrant populace.
The eight-member panel of Republican and Democratic senators have since put together a compromise bill that offers both a pathway to citizenship while strengthening the border and requiring businesses to check the immigration status of workers. While the bill has gained support steadily, the recent Boston Marathon bombings-where authorities have uncovered that the suspects accused in the bombing were Chechen immigrants-have caused some legislators on the right to ask that the bill be delayed, prompting strong arguments from both sides.
President Obama's public remarks on immigration reform Thursday weren't anything new to him, as he has publicly campaigned since January for Congress to pass a bill on immigration reform, which he is hoping to get passed by the summer.