updated 7/11/2013 1:17:58 PM ET 2013-07-11T17:17:58

House Republicans are in the midst of an internal battle over immigration reform.

Former President George W. Bush emerged in a rare appearance to address immigration Wednesday as the issue continued to dominate Washington.

Bush approached the topic gingerly at a naturalization ceremony at his presidential library in Texas: “I do hope there is a positive resolution to the debate and I hope during the debate that we keep a benevolent spirit in mind and we understand the contributions immigrants make to this country.”

Bush’s remarks come at a crucial time. House Republicans are in the midst of an internal battle over reform after the Senate successfully passed a broad immigration reform bill.

“[Republicans] should listen to his message, which is, ‘don’t commit political suicide over immigration reform,’ Chris Hayes said on Wednesday’s show. “But it seems, as expected, the House Republican caucus is intent on doing precisely that.”

After meeting Wednesday, House GOP leadership released a statement questioning the Democrat-led Senate and President Obama’s motives for reform.

[Americans] don’t trust a Democratic-controlled Washington, and they’re alarmed by the president’s ongoing insistence on enacting a single, massive, Obamacare-like bill rather than pursuing a step-by-step, common-sense approach to actually fix the problem.

“If we’re going to remain the most entrepreneurial innovative nation, have a strong economy, create a lot of jobs, we have to win this battle for talent,” said co-founder of AOL, Steve Case, during All In Wednesday. “And immigration is a key part. Some in Washington view immigration a problem we need to solve, I view it as an opportunity we need to seize. And now is the moment.”

Video: House GOP ignores George W. Bush

  1. Closed captioning of: House GOP ignores George W. Bush

    >>> good evening from new york, i'm chris hayes , tonight on "all in" the fear factor as the defense rests in the trial of george zimmerman, closing arguments set to begin tomorrow, already, bill o 'reilly and others are raising the racial spector. the oil train, what went wrong to cause this truly horrific crash? and the river of fire that's killed at least 20 people and absolutely devastated a small town in quebec.

    >>> plus, the tea party in georgia, is all for solar energy , and now they're going head to head with the koch brothers over it, this is reality trumping politics. i will have the national coordinator for the tea party patriots coming up.

    >>> we begin tonight with immigration reform on life suppo support. and the surgeon in the e.r. trying to save the day is george w. bush .

    >> it's my honor to introduce the 43rd president of the united states of america.

    >> in the 1790s , an immigrant from ireland designed the white house . in the 1990s , 200 years later an immigrant from russia helped create the internet search engine google.

    >> former president george w. bush is front and center today, weighing in on immigration reform .

    >> that's something the former president has strictly avoided for years, talking about a hot political issue.

    >> i don't intend to get involved in the politics, i do hope there is a positive resolution to the debate. i hope during the debate we keep a benevolent spirit in mind.

    >> top republicans on capitol hill now predict comprehensive immigration reform will die a slow month's long death in the house .

    >> they don't care what george bush has to say on this issue. most of them represent predominantly white districts. they're not thinking about the hispanic vote or minority vote.

    >> the senate bill is not going to pass in the house .

    >> we were betrayed by our colleagues in the senate.

    >> it's like a huge flood in the basement, you run down and start with a mop while the water's still pouring in?

    >> conservative organizations are running adds saying mr. bainer and republicans , why don't you do something about this.

    >> call congress and tell them to support the border surge.

    >> i guess i feel sorry for the speaker.

    >> we're going to have a discussion about this on july 10th . we're going to have a special conference and lay all of this out and listen to what the members have to say.

    >> what do you expect to hear at this meeting today?

    >> hopefully we're going to hear there won't be amnesty for illegal aliens.

    >> you can't separate the dream act kids from those who came across the border with a pack of contraband on their back.

    >> trusting barack obama is like trusting my daughter with bill clinton , we just don't trust him.

    >> now, you can have fun with george w. bush , the republican party on this, on immigration reform , they should listen to this guy. they should listen to his message, which is, do not commit political suicide over immigration reform . but it seems as expected, the house republican caucus is intent on doing precisely that. after today's meeting, republican house leadership reaffirmed that rather than take up the flawed legislation rushed through the senate, house committees will continue their work on a step by step common sense approach. not listening to george w. bush is a big mistake for republicans . you can say a lot of very bad things about him. i certainly have said most of them. the fact remains the man knows how to win a national election something the rest of his party hasn't quite figured out. he's the only republican to win a majority of the popular vote in any of the last six presidential elections . he did it once out of two tries, and he did it largely because of this number, which is how he performed on hispanic voters in 2004 . far higher than any other republican in the two elections before or since. george w. bush entering into the immigration debate on the day the house republican caucus discusses the topic. a base that is now in full and absolute open revolt. with 11 million lives hanging in the balance . joining me now is steve case , co-founder of aol, now chairman and ceo of revolution. he's backed companies like living social and zipcar. and steve, i want to get your reaction to the statement that came out of the house republican caucus meeting today. it was not -- well, it was kind of a passive aggressive document. maybe even openly aggressive. the american people want our borders secured our laws enforced. they don't trust a democratically controlled washington . we hate you. what was your response to that?

    >> i thought it was a decent statement. i think there's a lot -- i'm serious, i'm partially optimist optimistic immigration reform will pass, it will pass in the next couple months, there's a desire in the house of the people 's house to do it their own way and make sure different voices are heard and different issues are debated. the statement to me said they take the issue seriously, they're not trying to walk away from it, but they want to find their own path, find their own way. as long as they do that in a rapid kind of fashion, and fashion their own legislation, and then can conference that with the senate. i think we still can get comprehensive immigration reform passed.

    >> you have been very outspoken pushing for comprehensive immigration reform . you're part of a group of folks that think this is incredibly important. i don't see how you can square the democratic red line which,there has to be a path to citizenship for these people, with what seems to be a prevailing opinion in the republican caucus , there doesn't have to be a path to citizenship. where is the business community on this?

    >> i think of nelson mandela 's great quote, it's always impossible until it gets done, i think that's what the situation is. i bring a perspective to it. not just the texas community but the business community so broadly is supportive of this, we want to make sure we win the global battle. we're going to remain the most entrepreneurial economy. immigration is a key part. some in washington view immigration a problem we need to solve, i view it as an opportunity we need to seize and now is the moment.

    >> you go and talk to republicans about this, and i imagine you have, because you -- i know you've worked with eric cantor on a previous piece of legislation, the jobs act 37 when you talk to them, what do they say to you. is this message persuasive? it doesn't seem like it's reaching the house republican caucus .

    >> it is. i'm not talking about a specific conversation with specific people, in general, there is a lot of republican support for doing whatever they can to focus on the economy, focus on innovations, that is why the legislation that eric cantor championed with the support of president obama passed a year ago, with broad bipartisan support. i think they do understand the importance of talent, the issues get more complicated because of the other issues around border security , path to citizenship. some of the guest worker programs, i think there's broad agreement, the right way to look at immigration is not just through the prism of politics, obviously, that's a focus, or the prism of security, how do you secure the border or prism of morality, what's the right thing to do, the prism of economics, and the white house this morning released a report that i thought was veriful, laying the economy case for comprehensive immigration reform . tech communities is there, but also leaders in agricultural leaders, they all want to deal with this issue and recognize the law. they talk in washington for a decade about doing this. people in the community want action, and they want it now.

    >> there's a window for action, we're going do see how much influence the business community , it's going to be a test in the coming weeks and months. thanks very much.

    >> thank you.

    >>> joining me now is robert costas. washington editor for the international review. and a reporter who's as plugged in with the republican caucus as i know. what is your view on the statement by boehner and folks that were in the meeting.

    >> i just got here from the capital, i feel the press gets a case of steve king fever. there's a sense that because the right flank of the republican party is so vocal, they're dominating the debate, i tried to read between the lines . i heard this from speaker boehner . he wants to do this on immigration reform . and so i don't think they're ruling anything out. i don't think they're ruling out legalization. i think this is going to be a long process, but i won the say it's dead.

    >> that's interesting. steve just made the optimistic case, i've been making the case throughout. other people said i'm crazy. i have become less optimistic as i've seen boehner paint himself in a corner. i want you to look at this piece of tape from earlier today. raul, who is a republican, who is originally part of the group that was hammering out a house bill that was going to rival the senate. he walked from that bill. he is an exchange he had with my colleague, alex wagner, take a look.

    >> you have a bill that was put together by john mccain and lindsey graham and the u.s. chamber of commerce , and you're going to blame democrats?

    >> yeah, if chuck schumer does not accept a solution from the house , if he says that 80% is not good enough for him, because he wants 100%, then it is his fault.

    >> okay. do republicans actually believe that they can kill this or walk away from it, and actually blame the democrats? have they convinced themselves that they are not going to bear the brunt of the wrath of a lot of angry people in this country if this thing dies?

    >> there's a real political reason to pass immigration reform , you've mentioned the statistic of president bush 's 2004 margin, i think when you look at that exchange, with congressman labrador, you see republicans paralyzed by fear, that the administration and senate democrats are playing a political chess game , and this immigration reform package coming out of the senate, with 11 million people becoming new citizens is going to benefit the democrats long term. that really spooks a lot of republicans in the house , that's causing a lot of this undercurrent of descent.

    >> where is the pressure? you are well sourced with these men and women, if i wanted to pressure the house republican caucus to get something that looks like the senate bill . let's just say crosses the this remember hold for the path to citizenship.

    >> i think they're trying to test the senate and administration right now by slow walking immigration reform . i would almost try to play the house 's game. the house is trying to extend this process, see how far the administration has said democrats are willing to go, and get this to conference. the whole -- if you're really on the right or left, and you support immigration reform , if this can get to a conference committee , it has a chance, it has life, it has to get to that point.

    >> you get something out of that house , send it to conference and make them vote on that. thank you so much.

    >> thank you.

    >>> coming up, a good fox news audience is a fearful fox news audience, which must be why bill o 'reilly and others keep raising the awful spector of racial violence as the trial of george zimmerman


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