In the Shadow of Anti-Muslim Mass Shooting, Bush Calls New Citizens 'a Blessing and a Strength'

"We are a much richer state for all the cultures that have settled on our land," Laura Bush said Monday in welcoming new United States citizens at a naturalization ceremony in Texas


At a Monday naturalization ceremony for new United States citizens hosted by George W. Bush, the former president spoke of the need for immigration reform and how immigration is both “a blessing and a strength.”

The event for 47 immigrants from more than 20 countries took place at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.

“So many of us can draw a line somewhere back to a man or woman who had the idea that life could be better — and that hope led them here,” said Bush, accompanied by his wife, former First Lady Laura Bush.

“Generations of new arrivals left their mark on our national character,” he said, “in traits that friends abroad still recognize as distinctly American: our optimism, our independence and openness to the new, our willingness to strive and to risk, our sense of life as an adventure, dignified by personal freedom and personal responsibility.”

“Such qualities don’t come out of nowhere,” the 43rd president continued. “A spirit of self-reliance runs deep in our immigrant heritage, along with the humility and kindness to look at someone less fortunate and see yourself.”

Bush, 72, also said that while comprehensive immigration reform and a respect for our borders is needed, so too is respect for the nation’s history of welcoming immigrants. It was a soft rebuke of the prevailing anti-immigrant position of some members of the Republican Party, including President Donald Trump.

“America’s elected representatives have a duty to regulate who comes in and when,” he said. “In meeting this responsibility, it helps to remember that America’s immigrant history made us who we are.”

Mrs. Bush, 72, spoke before her husband, about how “Texas has been a land of immigrants” where people have come “to build a better life.”

“We are a much richer state for all the cultures that have settled on our land,” she said.

In an unintentional but resonant parallel, the ceremony where the Bushes spoke was held only days after a mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques killed 50 people — the suspected work of a 28-year-old man who apparently circulated a rabidly anti-Muslim and white supremacist manifesto online.

Former President George W. Bush. The Bush Center
George W. and Laura Bush (center) attend a naturalizatoin ceremony for new United States citizens on Monday.

The Bushes’ words come amid more than two years of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, which have included banning people from some predominantly Muslim countries; threatening to end the constitutional right of birthright citizenship; separating children from their parents illegally entering the U.S from Mexico; and a fight to build a wall along the southern border which resulted in a historic shutdown of the federal government.

Trump’s White House has also drastically drawn down the number of Syrian refugees accepted in America, according to news reports.

In 2017, Trump moved to end a program known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) created under President Barack Obama to allow young immigrants to remain in the U.S. if they were first brought here illegally as children.

The Bush Center’s immigration policy recommendations, released in November, calls for a long-sought political middle ground: immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally should have a path to citizenship and Congress should “enhance the enforcement of immigration laws.”

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