Former President George W. Bush says one of the best ways to stimulate the economy is through comprehensive immigration reform. Mr. Bush made a rare appearance Tuesday at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
Former President Bush opened a conference highlighting the positive impact of immigration on the U.S. economy. Sponsored by his Institute, Mr. Bush and the assembled group of economists, researchers and business people said the U.S. economy could grow four percent a year with the right policies toward foreign workers.
"Immigrants come with new skill and new ideas. They fill a critical gap in our labor market. They work hard for a chance for a better life. Not only do immigrants help build our economy, they invigorate our soul," Mr. Bush said.
Acknowledging many immigrants work here illegally, Mr. Bush added that America can be lawful and welcoming at the same time.
"As our nation debates the proper course of action relating to immigration, I hope we do so with a benevolent spirit, and keep in mind the contribution of immigrants."
Those contributions were outlined by every invited speaker, including Pia Orrenius, Senior Economist at the Dallas Federal Reserve.
She said "immigrants make the economy larger but they also change how we work. So we get a larger and more productive economy. How does it happen? The first thing that happens is they lower the cost of goods and services they are producing."
And Orrenius says immigrants often work where others will not, like Gary Indiana in the 1970's, after the severe, steel industry slowdown.
" My mother was an immigrant from Sweden and she’s a plastic surgeon but when she came to the United States it was difficult for her to find a job. Well she found a job in Gary Indiana. Why? No one else in their right mind wanted to work in Gary Indiana."
Clint Bolick, with the Goldwater Institute, says part of the Republican party has always praised the economic benefits of immigrants. But he acknowledges another part of the Party, vocal during the Presidential primary, highlighted the illegal status of many immigrants. Bolick says the current immigration policy is old, broken, incoherent and needs fixing.
"It appears that after the 2012 election we have that rare historical moment when Democrats and Republicans may be willing to come together not just to put another band aid on the issue but to fix it fundamentally."
Since election day, members of both parties have been expressing similar sentiments.