President Bush in 2004 introducing his proposal for a temporary guest worker program
Opponents of the controversial immigration deal forged by the White House and a bipartisan group of senators in private meetings “don’t want to do what’s right for America,” President Bush said in a speech today.
“The fundamental question is, will elected officials have the courage necessary to put a comprehensive immigration plan in place,” Bush told students and instructors at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga.
The president argued the proposal, which offers a path to citizenship for the more than 12 million illegal immigrants, will make “it more likely we can enforce our border?and at the same time uphold the great immigrant tradition of the United States of America.”
The plan, which was quickly sent to the Senate floor without public hearings, has been dismissed as “amnesty” by opponents. But Bush emphasized the bill requires a number of security and enforcement measures be carried out before those features can be implemented.
They include barriers on the Mexican border, hiring more Border Patrol agents and an identification system for employees.
The bill would allow illegal immigrants to come forward and obtain a “Z visa” that puts them on a track for permanent residency within eight to 13 years. Fees and a fine of $5,000 are required and heads of household first must return to their home countries.
The illegals, however, would be able to obtain a probationary card right away to live and work in the U.S.
The plan also would create a guest worker program, allowing foreigners to come to the U.S. on a temporary basis with no guarantee of eventually gaining citizenship.
Bush acknowledged many Americans “are skeptical about immigration reform, primarily because they don’t think the government can fix the problems.”
“And my answer to the skeptics is: Give us a chance to fix the problems in a comprehensive way that enforces our border and treats people with decency and respect,” the president said. “Give us a chance to fix this problem. Don’t try to kill this bill before it gets moving.”
Bush said opponents “determined to find fault with this bill” will always be able to pick out something in it they don’t like.
“If you want to kill the bill, if you don’t want to do what’s right for America, you can pick one little aspect out of it,” he said.
“You can use it to frighten people, or you can show leadership and solve this problem once and for all.”
The Senate, now in recess, will continue debate on the bill next week.
The public is most passionate about enforcement, the survey indicated. About 72 percent of voters said it’s “very important” for “the government to improve its enforcement of the borders and reduce illegal immigration.”