Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sees ‘new energy’ behind push for comprehensive immigration reform

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday said there is more energy behind the push for immigration reform now than there was during the 2007 reform attempt under the Bush administration.

During a conference call detailing the formation of the Bipartisan Policy Center Immigration Task Force — set to be co-chaired by Rice, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry G. Cisneros, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell — Rice suggested the 2007 reform effort failed in part because there was no gas left in the White House’s tank.

“First of all, it was closing in on the end of the administration,” she said. “Frankly, it had been a long seven years at that point. … I think the environment is better now. I think it was getting very late in the administration, and I think now we have some new energy behind the issue.”

Rice stressed the need to educate the American people on the issue, emphasizing that 24-hour news cycles often don’t tell the full story.

“I believe this issue goes to the heart of who we are as Americans,” she said. (RELATED: Department of Homeland Security gives immigration welcome materials a makeover)

As a member of the Stanford faculty, Rice said she has seen firsthand how foreign students can succeed in the classroom, only to end up taking their knowledge back to their home countries.

“I know that the issues of immigration are hard, and that people of good faith and integrity disagree about the specifics of immigration, but I hope that as a country we can come to a place where we acknowledge how important immigration and immigrants have been to who we are as Americans, to why we have led in economic revolution after economic revolution,” she added.

Rice noted that the comprehensive immigration reform could help secure the border.

“I think there is a tendency to think that the border security problem has to be completely and totally solved first,” she said. “You’re not going to get there. But if you have sound immigration policies, it is actually easier to have border enforcement, I am a fan of doing both together, but I wouldn’t want it to be thought that comprehensive immigration reform is actually going to make the border security problem harder. I think it’s the other way around.”