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Bush says US immigration system ‘broken’ but key to economy

Former US President George W Bush says it is important for US economy to make sure immigration system functions well

Abu Dhabi: Former US President George W. Bush on Thursday described the US immigration system as “broken” even as he discussed the importance of immigration to the American economy.

“Our system is broken, and we’ve got to fix it. I tried to, but unsuccessfully,” he said at a conference in Abu Dhabi. “When there’s a populist sentient, it makes it hard to get that kind of issue resolved, but it will be resolved at one point or another. It’s important for our economy … to make sure our immigration system functions well,”

Speaking at the Milken Institute Mena Summit in the capital, Bush said that the US needs to enforce its immigration laws, but stressed the benefits of immigration, saying that immigrants are willing to work in some sectors where Americans won’t. He said the US should have a system in place to foster that.

“A lot of Americans don’t want to pick cotton in 105-degree-[weather] but there are people who want to put food on their family’s table and are willing to do that, and we ought to say thank you and welcome them,” he said.

Current US president Donald Trump has long expressed his concerns about the dangers of immigration and foreign citizens arriving to America.

While Bush did not name Trump in his talk of immigration, he said it was important to remember that the US has had a history of assimilation and that it is a country that welcomes people “regardless of their religion or where they were born because we got confidence in what we stand for.” Bush described that confidence has having “diminished somewhat now.”

He also said that the US’ relationship with Mexico was a vital one for America’s economy and stability.

China’s Silk Road initiative

Further discussing China’s Silk Road initiative, Bush said it will only have short-term benefits. “Silk Road is interesting. The Chinese will come and build your highway but they use Chinese labour and they like raw material in exchange and they leave. In Tanzania, they [the Chinese] cut down a lot of timber and they left hurting the environment of the country for a long time,” he pointed out.

Bush also mentioned his father, former US president George H.W. Bush, who served from 1989 to 1993. “My father is 93 years old and I admire him a lot. My mother is 92 years old. My dad is teaching my brothers and sisters and me how to age joyfully. He is a joyful man.”

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