Since President George W. Bush left office, there has been a shift in his demeanor from politics to policy.
Tuesday in Dallas, President Bush and the newly-formed political think tank the Bush Institute brought experts together to further a discussion about economic growth. Specifically, the role immigration can play in strengthening the economy.
"Not only do immigrants help build our economy, but they invigorate our soul," President Bush said.
The conference was held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, which is fitting because apart from monitoring the banking system, the location has full-time economists who study how changes affect the markets.
The focus of their research is economic growth, a point of emphasis the Bush Institute called “the 4 percent growth project.”
"America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time,” the former president said. “As our nation debates the proper course of action relating to immigration, I hope we can do so with a benevolent spirit and keep in mind the contribution of immigrants."
According to Bush Institute numbers from 2011, immigrants accounted for 16 percent of the labor force, while representing only 13 percent of the population.
"We have economists working on every angle of economic growth, and of course the labor market is a huge aspect of economic growth and immigrants are a huge part of growth in the labor market," Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas Senior Economist Pia Orrenius said.
Tuesday’s speech comes four months before the opening of the Bush Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University, which will also serve as the 43rd president’s library.
"One of the powers that former presidents have is to convene to call people together to moderate, basically," Amity Shlaes with The Bush Center said.
Unlike other presidential centers, organizers say this center will house a policy institute.
While Bush only spoke briefly at the conference, an economist on the panel told YNN the president sat down with the panelists privately before the meeting for about an hour. The economist said the president told him he wished he could have done more with immigration reform during his tenure.