Nathan Burchfiel | Staff Writer | Wednesday, January 24, 2007
While Bush reported that he is doubling the size of the Border Patrol to monitor the U.S. border with Mexico and pledged to enforce immigration laws at the workplace, his temporary worker proposals are still a touchy subject for his conservative base.
"We should establish a legal and orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country to work on a temporary basis," Bush said in his seventh State of the Union address Tuesday evening. "As a result, they won't have to sneak in, and that will leave Border Agents free to chase down drug smugglers and criminals and terrorists."
Bush added: "We need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country without animosity and without amnesty."
But some conservative immigration groups argue that Bush's policy amounts to amnesty.
"With the change in congressional leadership, President Bush is hopeful that 2007 will be the year he finally succeeds in passing a guest worker amnesty plan that has been consistently rejected by the American public and the majority of his own party," the Federal for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) said in a release.
FAIR President Dan Stein said Bush's "radical immigration agenda ...is designed to satisfy business's demands for an endless supply of low wage labor" and argued that it will hurt "Americans who work for a living, who pay taxes, send their kids to public schools, care about the environment or who believe that a nation is more than just a random collection of people who happen to share a piece of geography."
U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), a longtime critic of Bush's position on immigration, also slammed the president's State of the Union remarks in a statement released Tuesday.
Suggesting that Bush tried to "guarantee a Congress sympathetic to his 'amnesty for all' plan" during the 2006 elections, Tancredo said the new Democrat-controlled Congress "seem[s] hell-bent on cramming this mass amnesty down the throats of the American people whether they want it or not."
Tancredo also questioned Bush's pledge for increased enforcement of immigration laws, saying that "one or two high-profile raids are not proof of a commitment." He was referring to the recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids on six meat-packing plants that resulted in more than 1,200 arrests and 148 charges related to identity theft.
"What we are looking for from the administration is the same degree of energy expended in the enforcement of our immigration laws as they used to seek out a drug dealer in Mexico, so he could be brought back to testify against border patrol agents who were trying to do their job," Tancredo added, referring to two border patrol agents now in prison for shooting a Mexican drug smuggler.
While conservatives are angered with Bush's stance on immigration, proponents of a guest worker program are cautiously optimistic that Bush and the Democratic Congress will work together to pass legislation enacting it.
"Immigrant communities have learned to appreciate the speeches," the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) said in a statement, "but we have become sorely disappointed in the follow-through."
"For immigrant communities, actions speak louder than words: Human and comprehensive immigration reform can begin to heal the breach," FIRM said. "While President Bush and congressional leaders have expressed sincere intentions for this year, immigrant communities are taking nothing for granted. We are preparing to work harder than ever to ensure that President Bush lives up to his promise and that the new Congress performs differently from the old one."
See Related Stories:
Bush Slammed as Border Patrol Agents Begin Prison Terms (Jan. 17, 2007)
Justice Department Charges 148 Illegal Aliens With Identity Theft (Jan. 16, 2007)
Bush 'Detached' From Union, Anti-War Activists Say (Jan. 24, 2007)
Environmentalists 'Abandon Hope' After Bush Speech (Jan. 24, 2007)
State of the Union Address 2007 (Jan. 24, 2007)
Democratic Response to 2007 State of the Union Address (Jan. 24, 2007)
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