WASHINGTON - The immigration-reform plan working its way through Congress "has a chance to pass," former President George W. Bush said.
"It's very important to fix a broken system, to treat people with respect, and have confidence in our capacity to assimilate people," Bush said in an interview on ABC's "This Week" that aired Sunday. "It's a very difficult bill to pass because there is a lot of moving parts, and the legislative process can be ugly. But it looks like they're making progress."
He added, "Good policy yields good politics, as far as I'm concerned."
The Senate last month passed immigration overhaul legislation on a 68-32 vote. The plan would create a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
House Republicans, who make up the majority in that chamber, are expected to meet Wednesday in Washington to discuss the topic after a week-long July Fourth holiday recess. Many of them oppose the Senate's citizenship provisions.
The Senate's immigration bill would cut illegal immigration by one-third to one-half over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Congress's nonpartisan scorekeeper. The measure, if enacted, would add 9.6 million residents to the U.S. by 2023. The bill also calls for $46.3 billion in border- security measures, including doubling the number of Border Patrol agents.
The Senate border-control measure "is not a responsible plan," said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Without a proposal that can attract bipartisan support, immigration-reform legislation will stall and instead become an issue in the 2014 congressional elections, he said in an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation" program.
"My concern is that the political backdrop is that the White House would like to see this fail" for its own political gain, he said.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said he won't allow debate on the bill unless it has the support of a majority of House Republicans. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Republicans must help pass the bill if they ever hope to win the presidency. President Obama secured 71 percent of the U.S. Latino vote last year in his re-election victory over Republican Mitt Romney.
The Republican party has to make sure it handles its immigration strategy correctly to avoid losing voters, Rep. Paul Labrador, R-Idaho, said on NBC's "Meet The Press" today.
"If we don't do it right politically, it's going to be the death of the Republican Party," he said. "If we do it right, I think it's going to be good for us."
Along with its citizenship and border-security provisions, the Senate bill would require all employers to check workers' legal status with an e-verify system, and a visa entry and exit system would be required at all airports and seaports. Those items would have to be in place before any undocumented immigrant could gain permanent legal status, known as a green card.
"What the Senate did is what the American people are wanting: Get it done," said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., on "Face the Nation," who urged Congress to pass a bill this year.
"Once you start in 2014, it's all politics," he said.