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Former President George W. Bush (R) told "CBS Sunday Morning" that he wants the nation's immigration debate to be "more respectful about the immigrant."

Why it matters:  The Republican party has veered sharply to the right on the issue of immigration. Former President Trump built his campaign on the promise of building a new U.S.-Mexico border wall and issued strict policies for returning families and unaccompanied children.

On getting involved in the immigration debate: "I do want to say to Congress: 'Please put aside all the harsh rhetoric about immigration. Please put aside tryin' to score political points on either side.­' I hope I can help set a tone that is more respectful about the immigrant, which may lead to reform of the system."

Norah O'Donnell: "You gave an Oval Office address on immigration ... It's been 15 years. ... Still nothing's been done. ... Is it one of the biggest disappointments of your presidency?"

  • George W. Bush: "Yes. It really is. ... The problem with the immigration debate is that ... one can create a lot of fear. 'They're comin' after you.' ... [A] nation that is willing to accept the refugee or the harmed or the frightened, to me is a great nation. And we are a great nation."

Bush supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who pass a background check and pay taxes.

  • O'Donnell: "And if that were the proposal by President Biden, would you lobby your own party to support that?"
  • Bush: "Well, I am right now. ... Whether my own party listens to me or not's another question."

Bush, who's out Tuesday with a new book of his oil paintings, "Out of Many, One: Portraits of America's Immigrants," said he hopes his portraits, will create "a better understanding about the role of immigrants in our society. Mine is just a small voice in what I hope is a chorus of people saying: 'Let's see if we can't solve the problem.'"

Go deeper: Watch the 8-min. segment.

Go deeper

Updated Apr 15, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on immigration policy

On Thursday, April 15 Axios justice & race reporter Russell Contreras hosted a conversation on immigration policy, featuring Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and president of The LIBRE Initiative Daniel Garza.

Rep. Castro discussed the crisis at the border, the legacy of immigration in America, and his concerns about Title 42 being used as a means to expel refugees rightfully seeking asylum.

  • On congressional delegations making trips to the U.S.-Mexico border: "[These visits] have affirmed that our system for how we handle asylum-seekers...is broken. Our immigration system is broken."
  • On immigrants being used as scapegoats by politicians: "There's a history in our country, an ugly history of people using groups of people to scare others for political gain."

Daniel Garza discussed the goals of the LIBRE Initiative, a libertarian approach to immigration, and the need for a bipartisan approach to immigration.

  • On the long history and vital importance of immigration to the U.S.: "Throughout the arc of history, America has been strengthened because of immigrants that have come to America and we need to honor that legacy."
  • On Democratic and Republican consensus on immigration issues: "One party doesn't get to define what immigration reform is. They both have to come together and reach a consensus. And America is made stronger when the voices on both sides can come together and strike a balance between security and entry."

Axios Vice President of Growth Mia Vallo hosted a View from the Top Segment with Head of U.S. Local Media Relations at Bank of America Carla Molina, who discussed the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the Latino community. She unpacked Bank of America's multi-pronged approach to addressing systemic inequities focusing on health, small businesses, homeownership, and education.

  • "It's important to note that this commitment is really grounded in a long history ...Given everything that we saw [with the pandemic], it was important for us to really double down our efforts."

Thank you Bank of America for sponsoring this event.

Biden defends not immediately raising refugee cap

President Biden speaking with reporters after leaving his cart following his first round of golf as president at Wilmington Country Club in Wilmington, Delaware, on Saturday. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Saturday sought to explain why he didn't immediately lift the Trump administration's historically low refugee cap.

Driving the news: Several Democrats accused Biden Friday of not fulfilling his pledge to raise the limit after it was announced he'd keep the cap. The White House said later it would be raised by May 15. Biden told reporters Saturday, "We're going to increase the number."

"Disgraceful": Ilhan Omar, AOC, other Dems slam Biden's decision on refugee cap

Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty Images

Several Democrats on Friday slammed President Biden's decision to not raise the cap on refugees allowed to enter the U.S. this year, calling it "disgraceful" and "utterly unacceptable."

Why it matters: Biden campaigned on the promise to increase the limit, which was set to a historically low figure under the Trump administration.

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