(USA Features) Former Republican President George W. Bush had hard words for his own party Monday, chastising the GOP as different than the party he once led.
“I would describe it as isolationist, protectionist and to a certain extent nativist,” Bush told the “Today” show Tuesday.
“It is not exactly my vision, but I am just an old guy they put out to pasture — just a simple painter,” he added.
The 43rd president also acknowledged the growing crisis along the southwest border which he says has worsened due to a lack of manpower and the demonization of illegal migrants for political purposes.
He went on to claim that the nation’s immigration system should be “reformed and fixed” and that the best way forward is via the lens of “border enforcement with a compassionate touch.”
“Two things I think will help alleviate that: one is an asylum process that is more robust. In other words, the border is being overwhelmed right now, and there needs to be more judges and more courts so people can have a fair hearing,” he said.
“Secondly, we need to change the work visas,” he said. “There are a lot of jobs that are empty, and there are a lot of jobs that need to be filled. I think a combination of those two would help alleviate some of the border.”
Bush added that he would like to “elevate” the conversation through a new book, “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants,” featuring portraits of immigrants he has come to know throughout his life.
He went on to say he would like to see political leaders on both sides of the aisle tone down the immigration rhetoric.
“It is a beautiful country we have, and yet it’s not beautiful when we condemn and call people names and scare people about immigration,” he said. “It is an easy issue to frighten some of the electorate, and I am trying to have a different kind of voice.”
The 2024 GOP presidential nominee who has the best chance, Bush said, is someone who can embrace a different immigration vision that includes a pathway to citizenship.
“It depends upon the emphasis,” he said. “I think if the emphasis is integrity and decency and trying to work to get problems solved, I think the person has a shot.”
During his tenure, Bush was generally pro-immigration enforcement, signing legislation in 2006 that called for the construction of new border fencing.