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Former President George W. Bush and CEO of the Texas Tribune Evan Smith sat down together at SXSW, talking immigration reform, Bush's love of painting and election integrity, during which Bush confirmed that he does not believe the recent presidential election was "stolen," as some falsely claim.


Bush came to the session promoting his new book, "Out of Many, One: Portraits of America's Immigrants," a compilation of 43 handpainted portraits of immigrants by the former president. He said his subjects because "they're all very compelling," and "they made enormous sacrifices to get here."

"They had to help in getting here and once here, they helped other people," Bush said. "That's a very important thing for people to understand: around our country the contributions people make oftentimes are not heralded but do make a difference in the communities in which they live."

Included in his book was a story about Paola Rendon, who worked for the Bush family as a housekeeper and "second mother" from 1959 until her death a few years ago. Bush said he watched her "work hard, save money" and eventually bring her children to the U.S. from Mexico.

Smith came prepared with tough questions for Bush, asking him why those crossing at the border have been used, by some, to make a case again against immigration.

"I used to say when I was governor, you probably forgot this memorable line, but family values don't stop at the Rio Grande River," Bush said. "People come across to work on jobs that need to be done to provide for their families, and Paola was one such person. Of course she didn't sneak in, she came on a work visa."

While a Democrat-controlled House gears up to vote on two bills that would give around 11 million immigrants legal status, Republicans have yet to challenge with a plan of their own. As the former Governor of Texas from 1995-2000 and being part of a longstanding Republican dynasty, Bush's views don't fit in with his party's current stance.

Rather than opposing immigration, Bush said he thinks there should be a clearer path to citizenship and work visas. While he agrees with his colleagues that the border needs to be enforced, he recognizes that immigration reform is a complicated task that needs a form-fitting answer.

"One of the things that will help enforce our borders is to have worker visas that match the needs of our economy so people don't have to sneak into work," Bush said. " I do believe there needs to be a path to citizenship. I think Congress is going to have to be mindful to make sure that those who are undocumented don't get to jump ahead of the line of those who are documented and have played by the rules, but nevertheless, I think it's in our nation's interest to bring people out of the shadows."

While speaking with Smith, Bush addressed the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, saying the event undermined the rule of law. "I was sick to my stomach, and then to see our nation's capitol being stormed by hostile forces," he said. "It really disturbed me."

One more thing that Bush disagrees with his party about: Joe Biden is the rightful president. The former president denied that there was election fraud and, when asked by Smith if the election was stolen, Bush said no.

"I think the results of this election were confirmed when Joe Biden got inaugurated as president," Bush said. "He surrounds himself with a good team, listens to them and makes decisions in a crisp way, and you know, he's an experienced guy."

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