Obama invokes Bush to push immigration overhaul

US President Barack Obama on Thursday enlisted George W. Bush in his drive for an immigration overhaul, saying the Republican's failed effort to tackle the issue had paved the way for reform.

The fast-shifting politics of today intruded on misty rememberances of yesteryear when Obama introduced the current debate over bringing 11 million illegal immigrants out of the shadows at Bush's library dedication.

"Seven years ago, President Bush restarted an important conversation by speaking with the American people about our history as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants," Obama said.

"And even though comprehensive immigration reform has taken a little longer than any of us expected, I am hopeful that this year ... we bring it home."

"If we do that, it will be in large part thanks to the hard work of president George W. Bush," said Obama at the ceremony marking the opening of Bush's library, policy center and museum in Dallas, Texas.

Bush sank huge second-term political capital into an effort to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, but failed as opponents whipped up claims he was pushing "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.

Obama's thumping victory among Hispanic voters in his November re-election race has convinced some Republicans that the time is ripe to try again to reform US immigration laws, though the issue remains a delicate one.

Bush, who dealt with immigration as governor of Texas, realized early in his big time political career that Republicans needed to engage better with the Hispanic community, a fast growing segment of the US electorate.

Obama is now in Bush's former position, seeking to build support for immigration reform, as a bipartisan group of senators tests the political winds with comprehensive legislation soon to come to the floor.