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Story highlights

Bush boosted foreign aid when he was in the White House

Trump proposing $54 billion in cuts to large parts of the federal government

(CNN) —  

Former President George W. Bush is defending foreign aid at a time when President Donald Trump is proposing significant cuts on US spending abroad.

Bush told NPR in an interview published Thursday the US government should not have to choose between helping Americans in need and providing international aid.

“I would tell the person who’s out of work, hopefully there’s enough aid there to help you transition,” Bush said at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. “But, you know, the idea of turning our back on a pandemic that would’ve wiped out an entire generation of people, I don’t think is in the spirit of the United States.”

Trump unveiled his first budget blueprint last month, and to offset increases in defense spending, the President is proposing $54 billion in cuts to large parts of the federal government – including foreign aid.

Bush, however, contends that providing substantial foreign aid is a national security issue.

“When you have an entire generation of people being wiped out and the free world turns its back, it provides a convenient opportunity for people to spread extremism,” he said.

“I believe in this case that it’s in our national security interests as well as in our moral interest to continue funding this program,” Bush added.

Bush was particularly praised for his work with the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). He has traveled to Africa since his presidency to continue his work combating AIDS.

“I think the most meaningful moment for me was going to a maternity ward in Namibia,” he said. “Seeing a roomful of ladies, most of whom — if not all — had the AIDS virus, and every one of their babies was born without AIDS. Mother-to-child transmission efforts of PEPFAR have been unbelievably successful.”

Bush also said he is confident that the immigration plan he proposed while in office – which included legal status for some undocumented immigrants – will be adopted.

“I laid out what I thought was a comprehensive plan that would work in an Oval Office address when I was the President,” he said. “I still think that’s going to be the plan that ends up being adopted at some point in time.”

“There needs to be a way for somebody to be able to get in line to become a citizen so long as they met certain criteria,” Bush added.

While Trump has made headline for ongoing conflicts with Mexican politicians, the former Texas governor said it is important to maintain a positive relationship with America’s southern border.

“I think it’s very important for us to recognize the importance of Mexico and the relationship we have with Mexico,” Bush said. “We want Mexico to succeed. It’s in our national interest they succeed.”