Bush says GOP becoming 'nativist' party but slams 'open borders' immigration in rare interview

President said current state of GOP us 'not exactly my vision'

Former President George W. Bush on Tuesday criticized both Republicans and Democrats for their approaches to immigration, warning against demonizing immigrants but also against open borders policies. 

Bush made the comments in a rare post-presidential interview with NBC's "Today," amid an ongoing fight between Republicans in Congress and President Biden's White House over how bad the situation on the southern borders is, who's at fault and how to fix it. 

Bush's interview was part of a promotional effort for his new book titled "Out of Many, One," which includes portraits of prominent immigrants who contributed to the United States.

"There's been a lot of devastation in Central America, political upheaval, earthquakes and gangs ... the people are totally intimidated. And so they're streaming to our border," Bush said of the root causes of the migrant surge on the southern border. 

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He proposed "an asylum process that is more robust" with "more judges and more courts, so people can have a fair hearing," as well as changes to the work visa system and more "manpower" for the agencies tasked with patrolling the border. 

Bush was asked about Republicans' approach to the immigration issue. He responded that they see "you can score political points with the issue...  it's an easy issue to frighten some of the electorate."

Bush further described the modern GOP as "isolationist, protectionist and to a certain extent nativist." He said the current state of the party is "not exactly my vision" but that he is "just an old guy they put out to pasture."

But the former president also criticized Democrats over how they've handled the immigration issue through the years and emphasized the importance of a secure border. 

"Some of the Democrat colleagues weren't listening when I was president," Bush said. 

FILE- In this Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 file photo, former U.S. President George W. Bush speaks at a forum sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute in New York. Bush Tuesday criticized the current GOP as "nativist." 

FILE- In this Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 file photo, former U.S. President George W. Bush speaks at a forum sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute in New York. Bush Tuesday criticized the current GOP as "nativist."  (AP)

Describing the kind of policy he is for, Bush said he wants "border enforcement with a compassionate touch."

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"Pro-immigration basically means, 'let's just open up the borders' and nobody's really for that," Bush said. "And you can't have a country that has open borders." 

Bush in his interview also spoke about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, saying it made him "ill," and asked people to have faith that a fair trial is being conducted in the Derek Chauvin case. 

He also said he is worried about Biden's decision to remove all American troops from Afghanistan this year. 

"A lot of gains have been made, and so I'm deeply concerned about the plight of women and girls in that country," Bush said. "I think the administration hopes that the girls are going be OK through diplomacy. We'll find out. All I know is the Taliban, when they had the run of the place, they were brutal."