The comprehensive immigration reform plan to legalize the estimated 12-20 million illegal aliens in the U.S. is dead for now, but a prominent senator who supported the compromise crafted by President Bush, Democrats and key Republicans says the problem remains and must be addressed.

“I think the bill we had on the Senate floor is dead,” Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., told Hugh Hewitt’s radio show on KRLA radio. “[But] it doesn’t mean there won’t be some effort to work on the problem.”

“The problem still exists,” Kyl said. “But I’m not sure the political will is there to do anything.”

The recent procedural vote doomed the compromise, coming up 14 votes short of the 60 needed to invoke cloture and cut off debate.

That would have led to a final vote requiring a simple majority.

President Bush then called the failure in Congress “a disappointment,” and said “American people understand the status quo is unacceptable.”

In the debate prior to the vote, Republican opponents had noted the widespread opposition expressed by citizens. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina said his phone was “ringing off the hook.”

“What part of ‘no’ don’t we understand?” he asked. “We need to stop this process that is alienating the American people and enforce the laws on the books.”

Kyl said that would have to be the focus on anything that would be addressed now.

“I’m going to try to find some things on enforcement that might aid our ability to control the border,” he said. “And see if my colleagues are willing to pass something along those lines.”

Kyl said the previous plan failed because of the public’s widespread dissatisfaction.

“On the right it failed because of the significant media attention from conservative talk radio and television and the reaction of many members of Congress who were obviously influenced by that,” Kyl said. “On the left, the business community and a lot of people on the left were never excited about it. As a result they never really pushed it.”

He said he never had seen anything that even “came close” to the furor created on blogs and on talk radio about the proposal.

“There have been conservative reactions to issues in the past, but nothing quite like that,” he said. “There’s no question that blogs and conservative talk radio and television have enhanced the ability to get the message out.”

He said also part of the reaction was the feeling that the government “can’t do anything right” right now, from the war in Iraq to border control.

“People are loathe to put any additional trust in it [the government],” he said.

But on the war and border control, those are two things only the federal government can do well. “It does need to do them well,” he said.

Kyl had disappointed advocates of tough border enforcement by supporting the comprehensive plan, but said it now is time “for us to return to the rule of law,” even though “some of our laws are unenforceable.”

Meanwhile, activists who helped defeat the immigration plan say they will return to Washington to lobby for a criminal investigation into the government’s failure to enforce existing immigration laws.

“We plan to return to Washington in the next week or two, and light up the phone lines again,” said William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration-PAC, a key partner in the grass-roots campaign to defeat the Senate immigration plan.

“We’re going to put pressure on Congress, not to stop a bill, but to demand that Congress launch an immediate investigation into the White House to determine what criminal prosecutions may be warranted relating to not enforcing our existing laws,” he said.

“It’s not for the president to decide what laws to obey or enforce. That’s not what presidents do. That’s what kings do,” he said.

Editor’s note: WND’s monthly Whistleblower offiers a cutting-edge look at the federal government’s immigration policies – and how the nation’s most vexing problem can be solved. It’s titled “NATIONAL SUICIDE: How the government’s immigration policies are destroying America.”

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