President Bush today offered the promise of a future permanent ban on illegal aliens in the United States – if the U.S. Senate moves forward with a compromise “comprehensive” immigration reform package that was killed earlier.
“Right now, our laws are ineffective and insufficient. For example, crossing the border illegally carries weak penalties. In addition, participation in illegal gangs is not enough to bar admission into our country,” he said on his weekly radio address.
“And when we cannot get other countries to accept the return of their citizens who are dangerous criminals, in most cases our government can only detain these aliens for six months before releasing them into society,” he said.
“This is unacceptable. The bill before the Senate addresses these problems. Under this bill, those caught crossing illegally will be permanently barred from returning to the United States on a work or tourist visa.
“Under this bill, anyone known to have taken part in illegal gang activity can be denied admission to our country. And under the bill, we will be able to detain aliens who are dangerous criminals until another country accepts their return,” he said.
However, it also grants legal status to the estimated 12-20 million illegal aliens already within the United States, and that has generated considerable opposition among Republicans and even some Democrats.
As WND has reported, Bush has visited Capitol Hill in his efforts to revive the plan that died in the Senate when supporters could not muster the votes to put it on a fast-track.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., at the time criticized the proposal for unfairly burdening taxpayers, failing to secure the nation’s borders and guaranteeing amnesty for illegal aliens.
Even though the plan is being resurrected, the issue of amnesty still is generating a firestorm for the White House.
As WND reported, White House spokesman Tony Snow ran into a little more than he perhaps was expecting when he appeared on the Laura Ingraham show, as she relentlessly asked the American public’s No. 1 question: What is the U.S. government doing to stop the invasion from Mexico?
“Sixty-nine percent of Americans, 85 percent of the GOP, 55 percent of the Democrats want the border enforced,” said Ingraham. “Does that affect you guys, or do you guys just blow it off?”
Snow repeated, several times, the Bush administration’s talking points on the issue – how the failed comprehensive immigration reform bill would secure the borders, require illegal aliens to pay a fine and require them to “keep their noses clean,” and learn English.
But Ingraham, who worked as a speechwriter for two years in the Reagan administration and later served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas before launching “The Laura Ingraham Show” in 2001, wasn’t letting him off the hook.
“Eight-five of the GOP doesn’t like what the White House is doing on this,” she said. “You’re talking the base of this party.”
“Tony, why don’t people believe you?” she asked. “The majority of your party, people who voted for President Bush … They see the conservative coalition dissolving before their eyes.”
Bush said he understands there are concerns – especially about the federal government’s ability to secure the border.
“So this bill puts the enforcement tools in place first. And it means more Border Patrol agents, more fencing, more infrared cameras and other technologies at the border. It also requires an employee-verification system based on government-issued, tamper-proof identification cards that will help employers ensure that the workers they hire are legal,” he said.
He cited plans for $4.4 billion “for these border security and worksite enforcement efforts.”
But he also said it also will be necessary for the country to have “an orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country.”
But the concerns about amnesty were unlikely to be allayed as he continued: “Under this bill, these workers [already in the United States] will be given an opportunity to get right with the law. This is not amnesty. There will be penalties for those who come out of the shadows. If they pass a strict background check, pay a fine, hold a job, maintain a clean criminal record, and eventually learn English, they will qualify for and maintain a Z visa,” he said.
“The status quo is unacceptable,” he said. “We must summon the political courage to move forward with a comprehensive reform bill.”
The fragile compromise is due to be reviewed again in the Senate as early as next week.
When it failed earlier, Eagle Forum, a leading pro-family organization founded by Phyllis Schlafly, praised the “tireless efforts” of the American people in voicing their opposition and successfully defeating S. 1348, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007.
“It became obvious that the longer the Senate debated the so-called comprehensive immigration bill, the more the grass-roots opposition increased,” said Schlafly.
“The United States Senate finally listened to the overwhelming opposition to this amnesty bill,” said Eagle Forum Executive Director Jessica Echard. “With calls running hundreds to one opposed, there was no question that we don’t want new laws. We simply want our immigration laws, which already exist, enforced.”
Editor’s note: The current edition of WND’s monthly Whistleblower is 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.”