Immigration reformers and some lawmakers yesterday criticized President Bush for his State of the Union Address over what they viewed as his lack of attention to a range of problems associated with border issues.

Bush’s use of the widely televised annual forum Tuesday to push his oft-touted “guest worker” program drew particular criticism, not only for its lack of detail but also because critics see it as a direct threat to the U.S. labor market, as well as a detriment to border security.

“The president continues to connect guest worker to reform and enforcement,” Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., head of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, told WorldNetDaily. “The two are mutually exclusive.”

In his speech, Bush said:

“Keeping America competitive requires an immigration system that upholds our laws, reflects our values and serves the interests of our economy. Our nation needs orderly and secure borders. To meet this goal, we must have stronger immigration enforcement and border protection. And we must have a rational, humane guest worker program that rejects amnesty, allows temporary jobs for people who seek them legally and reduces smuggling and crime at the border.”

Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said that while the president also repeatedly referred to “hope” in his address, “there is not much hope for Americans in blue-collar work being able to hold their jobs if the guest worker proposal is adopted.”

Bush defended immigrant labor, saying, “We hear claims that immigrants are somehow bad for the economy – even though this economy could not function without them.”

Stein disputed that assertion, however, saying Bush was making “the false argument that there are ‘jobs Americans won’t do,’ rather than wages Americans will not accept.”

In a statement, the organization said on the issues of immigration and border security, it had wanted the president to restore “respect for our immigration law by adopting strong enforcement measures that demonstrate a commitment to protecting our nation’s borders and protecting American workers.”

“President Bush may have talked a lot less about his immigration plan than he has in recent speeches, but what he did say is still not encouraging to millions of hard-working Americans who are struggling to maintain a foothold in the middle class,” Stein said.

In the 2004 State of the Union Address, Bush said:

“I ask Congress to reform our immigration laws so they reflect our values and benefit our economy. I propose a new temporary-worker program to match willing foreign workers with willing employers when no Americans can be found to fill the job. This reform will be good for our economy, because employers will find needed workers in an honest and orderly system. A temporary-worker program will help protect our homeland, allowing border patrol and law enforcement to focus on true threats to our national security.”

In 2005, he noted:

“America’s immigration system is also outdated – unsuited to the needs of our economy and to the values of our country. We should not be content with laws that punish hardworking people who want only to provide for their families, and deny businesses willing workers, and invite chaos at our border. It is time for an immigration policy that permits temporary guest workers to fill jobs Americans will not take, that rejects amnesty, that tells us who is entering and leaving our country, and that closes the border to drug dealers and terrorists.”

This year, it wasn’t what Bush did say, but what he didn’t say on the subject that rankled some.

Jim Kouri, fifth vice president of the National Association of Police Chiefs, said Bush’s immigration policy discussion was deficient.

“While tens of millions of Americans watched and listened to President George Bush’s much anticipated State of the Union speech, many were disappointed at the lack of emphasis on the biggest threat to national security today: unmitigated illegal immigration and porous U.S. borders,” he wrote in a column yesterday.

Though he mentioned border enforcement, the president avoided any discussion of recent armed incursions by Mexican military and police, which have resulted in stand-offs with American authorities.

Tancredo said Bush “missed yet another great opportunity to correct his course on immigration reform.”

“Border security is not an issue from which President Bush should run away. An overwhelming majority of Americans demand that their government secure the border now, and if we restore law and order, Republicans will be the political winners. As the president does in so many other areas, he must not retreat but lead,” he said.

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