WASHINGTON – President Bush held discussions on immigration with clergy in Washington Thursday and said he’s looking forward to working with both Democrats and Republicans to get a comprehensive immigration bill done this year.
“Immigration helps renew our soul. It helps redefine our spirit in a positive way,” he said during the meeting on immigration and assimilation at Asamblea de Iglesias Cristianas (the Assembly of Christian Churches) in Washington.
Reiterating a comment he made recently at Miami Dade College in Florida, Bush said the 11 or 12 million illegal immigrants who are already in the United States need to be treated with amnesty, and not with animosity.
“So [comprehensive immigration reform has] got to be a rational way forward,” he added.
The president has been pressing lawmakers in Congress to propose reforms that will address concerns about the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States.
Last year, members of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives blocked efforts to vote a comprehensive reform bill. Instead, lawmakers approved a measure that extended border barriers and increased other security measures.
On Saturday, Bush had urged lawmakers to come together on the complex and emotional issue of immigration, calling it "a critical challenge" now before the nation.
"We need a system where our laws are respected. We need a system that meets the legitimate needs of our economy. And we need a system that treats people with dignity and helps newcomers assimilate into our society," he said in his weekly radio address. "We must address all elements of this problem together, or none of them will be solved at all."
During Thursday’s meeting, the president thanked church workers who are reaching out in their communities to help people learn the benefits of the English Language and vowed to continue his efforts to get Congress to “do the hard work necessary to make sure a system that is not working is reformed in a way that meets our national needs and listens to our national heart.”
“After all,” Bush said, “America is a land of immigrants.”