Former President George W. Bush, Who Previously Oversaw the Creation of ICE, is Releasing a Book of Immigrant Portraits

"Out of Many, One" coincides with a show of the 43 works.

"Out of Many, One: Portraits of America's Immigrants" by George W. Bush. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

A little more than a year ago, President-turned-painter George W. Bush set out to make a series of portraits about American immigrants. Well, mission accomplished.

Last week, Bush announced a new book collecting 43 of these portraits, each of which will be accompanied by a small essay he’s written on the given artwork’s subject. 

The book, Out of Many, One—the translation of “E pluribus unum”—is set to be released March 2, coinciding with a 10-month-long exhibition of the works at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. 

“While I recognize that immigration can be an emotional issue, I reject the premise that it is a partisan issue. It is perhaps the most American of issues, and it should be one that unites us,” the former president said in a statement included in the book’s announcement. “My hope is that this book will help focus our collective attention on the positive impacts that immigrants are making on our country.”

Bush first opened up about his painting practice in 2013, after images of his work leaked online. Since then, he’s exhibited his paintings on numerous occasions, completed a much-publicized series depicting world leaders, and published a best-selling book of military veteran portraits

The latter project proved to be particularly controversial. Critics were quick to note Bush’s deployment of thousands of troops to the Middle East for a series of open-ended wars that, according to a study by Brown University’s Costs of War Project, led to more than 800,000 deaths and cost the country $6.4 trillon. 

Indeed, the very first US casualty of the war, 22-year-old Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez, was an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala.

Like its predecessors, Out of Many, One was also met with criticism on social media for being hypocritical, with users pointing out that the scandalplagued Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, was created under the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which Bush signed into law.

Toward the end of his two terms, immigration reform became an increasingly central issue for Bush’s administration. In 2007, he put forth an act that aimed to overhaul American immigration policy, allowing some 12 million undocumented individuals to remain in the country under a new kind of visa. The bill also called for a dramatic increase of funding to border protection, despite his administration already having more than doubled the budget for border security and increased the number of border patrol agents by over 60 percent. 

After being met with criticism on both sides of the aisle, the bill was killed in the senate before it could be put to a vote. 

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