Former President George W. Bush on Tuesday called on lawmakers to debate immigration reform "with a benevolent spirit" and bear in mind the contribution of immigrants in building the country.

Bush's comments came at the opening of a daylong conference on immigration and economic growth sponsored by his namesake George W. Bush Institute and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

"As our nation debates the proper course of action relating to immigration, I hope we will do so with a benevolent spirit and keep in mind the contribution of immigrants," he said.