DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - As President, George W. Bush championed comprehensive immigration reform, but his legislation failed in Congress.
At a conference on immigration and the economy by the George W. Bush Institute and the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas, the former President once again spoke on the importance of immigrants to a thriving economy.
Mr. Bush said, "Immigrants come with skills and new ideas. They fill a critical gap in our labor market. They work hard for a chance for a better life. America is a nation of immigrants. Immigrants have helped build the country we have become and immigrants can help build a dynamic tomorrow."
Among the speakers, Nina Vaca, who was born in Ecuador and moved to the U.S. with her parents.
She started her own company, Pinnacle Technical Resources Inc., and made it big.
Ms. Vaca said, "At a very young age, I started a company. Like a good entrepreneur, I found a need, and filled it. It was in the information technology space, looking for high end I.T. talent to the Fortune 500. I started in 1996, and I made my first million before I turned 30."
Another speaker, Clint Bolick, the VP of litigation at the Goldwater Institute, told the crowd that the nation's economy could grow at a faster rate, if there are big changes to the nation's immigration laws. "Our immigration policy now is 60 years old. The 1952 law has been patched so many times, it's simply so incoherent. We've got to have stem to stern immigration reform."
In an unscripted moment, during the question and answer session, Bo Pilgrim, the former owner of Pilgrim's Pride, the nation's largest chicken producer walked on stage to talk about the consequences of illegal immigration.
He said, "I was in business 63 and a half years. I had 55,000 employees. 40 percent were aliens."
In 2008, ICE agents raided his East Texas plant and arrested hundreds of employees on identity theft, document fraud, and immigration violations. Pilgrim told those attending, "We did what the government told us to do in employing these aliens, and I ended up with an ICE fine of $12 million. This system is broken."
By the time he spoke, the former President had already left the conference.
While immigration reform is one of the most controversial topics these days, as is customary, former President Bush didn't talk about the politics of it.
But he says his Institute is working in a non-partisan way to take part in the conversation.
Mr. Bush 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 contributions of immigrants."
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