TODAY   |  July 10, 2013

George W. Bush to speak on immigration reform

The former president is hosting a naturalization ceremony for 20 new citizens today, during which he will speak about the value of immigration, though aides say he is not trying to inject himself into Congress’ current immigration debate. NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports.

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>>> former president george w. bush is front and center today weighing in on immigration reform . it's the latest in a string of public appearances. kelly o'donnell joins us now from dallas. good morning kelly .

>> reporter: good morning natalie. that's something the former president strictly avoided for years. talking about a hot political issue but immigration has always been important to him so here with the backdrop of his presidential library he'll be dealing with it today and hosting a naturalization ceremony for soon-to-be new american citizens. george w. bush is on a roll of high profile events. appearing with president obama in africa. hands on service projects with mrs. bush and making rare comments about an issue like immigration.

>> the reason to past immigration reform is not to bolster a republican party it's to fix a system that's broken.

>> reporter: aids to the former president insist he is not injecting himself into congress's current immigration debate . been there. done that.

>> we should establish a legal path for foreign workers to enter our country to work.

>> reporter: bush tried but failed to get comprehensive reform. including a guest worker program . these days opposing voices are keeping up with the political pressure . from conservative talk radio.

>> it's so bad that republicans that want it can't support it.

>> reporter: to frequent capitol hill demonstrations. whether he intends to influence the debate or not, former president bush 's visibility could give cover to some republicans.

>> it's a difficult bill to pass because there's a lot of moving parts and the legislative process is -- can ugly.

>> reporter: and the obama white house is pointing to president bush 's remarks today as an important step and they are also unveiling their own research about the economic benefits of immigration reform . natalie.

>>> kelly o'donnell in dallas. thanks