In the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s special exhibit, “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants,” President George W. Bush traced the journeys of 45 extraordinary immigrants and showed how our country has been strengthened by those who have come here from other lands in search of a better life.
“It says something about our country that people all around the world are willing to leave their homes and leave their families and risk everything to come to our country. Their talent and hard work and love of freedom have helped us become the leader of the world.”
— President George W. Bush
On display at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas until Jan. 3, 2022, the exhibit includes portraits of Dallas Mavericks basketball legend Dirk Nowitzki, Chobani yogurt founder Hamdi Ulukava, former Secretary of State and Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Kissinger, and Annika Sörenstam, one of the best female golfers in history.
The portraits, painted by President Bush, and the inspiring stories behind them remind us of the countless ways that immigrants enrich and add to the unity of the Nation when they integrate and advance in our society and achieve their own dreams.
The exhibit also highlights the many contributions that our Nation would have missed out on without these enormously gifted immigrants. To ensure our country’s future prosperity, vitality, and security, the United States must act now to comprehensively reform its immigration system. The George W. Bush Institute — the policy arm of the Bush Center — has issued a series of recommended policy changes.
We should start by allowing Dreamers to apply for citizenship. These are adults who were brought to the United States as children and grew up as Americans. They didn’t make the choice to come here, but this is their home. They just need a pathway to make it official.
We must also uphold America’s longstanding tradition of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers. America is still a beacon of freedom and opportunity around the world. When the U.S. leads on humanitarian migration, the rest of the world opens its doors to refugees, too.
Additionally, our immigration system should meet the needs of our 21st century economy.
The United States issues around 1.1 million green cards each year, but fewer than 10% are for immigrants coming to here to work. American employers can’t fill all the jobs they have available with U.S. workers, and the country is losing out on the skills of talented immigrants who choose to go elsewhere. Each job given to an immigrant in the United States on an employment visa known as an H-1B creates almost two additional jobs, studies show.
Our economic well-being also requires us to create a more efficient temporary foreign worker entry program for industries like agriculture, construction, landscaping and hospitality. It would be better for American businesses — and the workers themselves — if these short-term visas were made portable so that screened and authorized workers could go where the jobs are. Increasing legal access to these visas would also decrease pressures at the border and the number of unauthorized workers in the U.S.
Finally, the United States needs a rigorous, fair process for the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in here now to get right with the law. Deporting them all would take up to 20 years and cost somewhere in the range of $100 billion to $300 billion. This would remove 6% of our labor force and reduce GDP by over $1 trillion.
Since America’s founding, immigration has been a vital part of our Nation’s story. As President Bush has so powerfully illustrated through his art, America continues to be strengthened by those who choose to make this country their own.