Bush: I support immigration policy 'that's welcoming and that upholds the law'

Former President George W. Bush said Monday he is in favor of an immigration policy that is "welcoming" and follows the law.

Bush made the remarks during an interview that aired Monday on NBC's "Today" show.

The former president, who pressed Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform while he was in office, was asked about whether he was in support of or against President Trump's order barring refugees and people from seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the U.S. 

Bush didn't give a direct answer, though his words suggested he is not entirely in line with the Trump policy.

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"I am for an immigration policy that's welcoming and that upholds the law," Bush said.

Bush also offered comments about the importance of accepting all religions, remarks that echoed his comments after the September 11, 2001 attacks that the United States was not at war with Islam.

He said it's important to recognize that one of this country's great strengths is for "people to be able to worship the way they want to or not worship at all."

"A bedrock of our freedom is the right to worship freely," he said during the interview.

"And I understood right off the bat that this was an ideological conflict and people who murder the innocent are not religious people. They want to advance an ideology."

Bush added he thinks it's hard to fight the war on terrorism if "we're in retreat."

"I think we learned that lesson, that if the United States decides to pull our before a free society emerges, it's going to be hard to defeat them," he said.

"The enemy is very good about exploiting weakness. It's going to be very important, if that's the goal, to defeat ISIS, which I believe it should be, that we project strength."

Bush also noted it's hard to bring a divided country together.

"I think you have to take the man for his word that he wants to unify the country," he said, referring to Trump. "And we'll see whether he's able to do so."

Trump's travel ban has been put in limbo by federal courts. A federal judge in Seattle temporarily blocked the order, a decision held up by a San Francisco-based appeals court.

The Trump administration has said it plans to release a revised immigration ban.