Bush to speak on immigration but avoid politics

Bush to speak on immigration but avoid politics
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Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 9:01am

Former President George W. Bush speaks on Wednesday about immigration, but don't expect him to wade into the political battle over immigration reform.

Bush's comments at a naturalization ceremony at his presidential center in Dallas will come on the same day that House Republicans meet behind closed doors to discuss their next steps on immigration reform, following the passage late last month of a bipartisan bill in the Senate.

According to the George W. Bush Presidential Center, the former president will speak prior to the swearing in of 20 new American citizens.

"President Bush will deliver brief remarks welcoming them as his fellow citizens and noting the important contributions of immigrants to our society and economy," a Bush presidential center statement noted.

Following the naturalization ceremony, the center will hold a half-day event titled, "What Immigrants Contribute: A Special Event on Immigration, Texas and Economic Growth."

The former president has stayed out of domestic politics since leaving the White House in January 2009, and he's not expected to comment Wednesday on the current political battle over immigration reform.

"The president won't be specifically addressing a push for immigration reform or a push for specific legislation," Hannah Abney, spokeswoman for the Bush presidential center, told CNN.

The timing of Bush's speech and a meeting of House Republicans to discuss the issue appears to be a coincidence.

Abney told CNN that the Texas event had been planned for a couple of months.

The former Republican president tried but failed to pass immigration reform during his second term in the White House, due in part to opposition from Republican members of Congress.

In an interview with ABC News last week while in Africa, Bush noted the importance of fixing a "broken system" and he said immigration reform "has a chance to pass."

"It's a very difficult bill to pass because there are a lot of moving parts and the legislative process can be ugly. But it looks like they are making some progress," Bush told ABC.

Asked if it will hurt the GOP if Republicans fail to pass the bill, Bush told ABC that "the reason to pass immigration reform is not to bolster a Republican Party -- it's to fix a system that's broken."

The bill passed by the Senate late last month includes an eventual pathway to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. That provision is opposed by many House Republicans, who consider it "amnesty."

Bush's brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, last week urged the GOP-led House to pass the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform package with a few additional requirements.

Jeb Bush, who is considering a 2016 bid for the White House, made his comments in a opinion piece he co-wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

The former president spoke about immigration reform at a conference last December.

"America is a nation of immigrants. Immigrants have helped build the country that we have become, and immigrants can help build a dynamic tomorrow," he said.

"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," he added.

CNN's Dana Davidsen and Ashley Killough contributed to this report

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By Paul Steinhauser

CNN Political Editor 

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