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The chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus says he opposes a new push by the White House to extend amnesty to thousands of illegal immigrants and is urging the administration to abandon the plan.
Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., criticized what he called President Bush’s “newest effort” to offer amnesty, noting that it would “reward” bad behavior and worsen U.S. vulnerability to terrorism.
“We’re increasing our own vulnerability to terrorism, while simultaneously rewarding people for violating our laws. This is all because of the president’s friendship with [Mexican President Vincente] Fox and his hope that this will increase support from minority groups in the U.S.,” Tancredo said in a statement Friday. “Fox has been begging the president to push this amnesty proposal, which he believes will help prop up his sagging support from the Mexican Congress.”
The Colorado Republican said Bush consulted with House leaders last week to place new legislation on the “consent calendar” for Tuesday, “before the president completes his state visit with” Fox.
“We are a country founded on the rule of law. We must choose laws that protect our people and maintain a civil society. I cannot in good conscience support this measure, and I strongly encourage my colleagues to oppose it. It’s clearly an open invitation to break the law,” Tancredo said.
Specifically, Bush’s proposal seeks to extend Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, “which permits illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. without receiving a State Department background check from their home country,” Tancredo, in his statement, said.
Also, the proposal would allow illegal immigrants to receive legal permanent residency or a valid green card, by filing a declaration with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Lara Kennedy, a spokeswoman for Tancredo, said the amnesty proposal is attached to H.R. 3525, The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act. That act, which is widely supported by lawmakers, is set to be voted on today.
“The White House is trying to make this a quick and easy passage,” she told WorldNetDaily. “They tried this in December, but Congressman Tancredo was successful in getting that provision removed.”
Kennedy said research indicates that “around 2 million” illegal immigrants could be affected by the bill.
The amnesty bill would also:
Allow hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens to stay permanently without going through face-to-face interviews in our embassies abroad, conducted in their native languages;
Permit immigrants to remain here for up to 30 years in some cases with a status just above an illegal immigrant, until their name comes up on a waiting list for green cards;
And, Tancredo says, entice “millions more foreign nationals to enter the country without screening to be illegal immigrants in hopes that they, too, will be rewarded for their lawbreaking.”
Concern over unchecked immigration has struck a chord with lawmakers. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the immigration caucus has grown from 15 members to 62, Kennedy said.
Also, she said most polls show that legal immigrants from Mexico and other Hispanic countries do not favor Bush’s amnesty program – or any generalized amnesty program.
The White House did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Bush is scheduled to be in Monterrey, Mexico, March 22 to discuss immigration issues with Fox.
“I am astounded Congress would even consider legislation that promotes illegal behavior in our immigration policy and, more importantly, leaves our nation vulnerable to potential terrorist attacks,” said Tancredo. “No threat to American security can be taken lightly any longer.”
Other groups are also opposed to Bush’s amnesty.
“Since Sept. 11, President Bush has made clear that his administration’s top priority is the security of Americans. Homeland defense is now a national imperative, demanding the full support and cooperation of Congress and the administration,” said an action alert published by the Federation of American Immigration Reform. “However, these efforts may be severely undercut if the White House is successful in persuading Congress to pass this loophole.”
The group says it smells politics.
“The very same White House officials who have, rightly, put national security at the top of their agenda, are in the same breath stealthily pushing a measure that will jeopardize the safety of all Americans in an effort to attract Hispanic votes in the 2004 election,” said the alert.
The group says mass immigration is also a health threat to Americans, causes increased environmental damage, is anti-labor and a drain on taxpayers.
Census Bureau figures show there are 28.4 million immigrants living in the U.S., according to 2000 statistics. That’s the largest number of immigrants in U.S. history, and those figures represent a 43 percent increase over 1990 figures, the bureau said.