The chairman of a House International Relations subcommittee yesterday urged the Bush administration to drop its proposed temporary guest-worker program and not "reward Mexican nationals living and working illegally in the United States" with legal status.
"It is our hope that in future discussions with the Mexican government, you will encourage Mexico to do its part to address illegal immigration rather than encourage their citizens to illegally enter the U.S.," said Rep. Elton Gallegly, California Republican, who heads the subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation and human rights, in letters to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.
"Cooperation with our close neighbor Mexico is essential, but we also feel that Mexico must respect our sovereignty and our laws, and should encourage its citizens to do the same," Mr. Gallegly said in the letter, which was co-signed by 21 other members of Congress.
The letter was sent in response to recent trips to Mexico by Mr. Powell and Mr. Ridge to discuss amnesty proposals, according to Tom Pfeifer, Mr. Gallegly's spokesman.
In January, President Bush proposed a temporary guest-worker program for illegal aliens living and working in the United States. Offered as a set of principles and not as specific legislation, it would allow illegal aliens to remain if they have jobs and to apply as guest workers.
Under the proposal, the aliens could stay for an undetermined number of renewable three-year periods, after which they could seek permanent legal status.
"I have great respect for President Bush, Secretary Powell and Secretary Ridge," Mr. Gallegly said. "However, granting amnesty by legalizing illegal immigrants is detrimental to our national and economic security.
"Hospitals are closing across the country due to the burden of illegal immigration, college students find that summer jobs have dried up due to illegal immigration, and wages across the board are depressed by the overwhelming influx of cheap and illegal labor," he said.
Mr. Gallegly said amnesties "only encourage more people to cross the border illegally," which he said was proven by a twofold increase in illegal immigration after a 1986 amnesty offered during the Reagan administration.
"Today, national security also dictates that we gain control of our borders," he said. "As the September 11 commission and many security professionals have noted, terrorists can easily blend in with the thousands of Mexican nationals who attempt to -- and succeed in -- crossing our border surreptitiously every day.
"Our policies are providing cover for our enemies," he said.
In addition to Mr. Gallegly, others to sign the letter were Republican Reps. Lamar Smith, Sam Johnson and John Culberson of Texas, John Hostettler of Indiana, Charlie Norwood and Nathan Deal of Georgia, Ed Royce and Gary G. Miller and Dana Rohrabacher of California, and Tom Tancredo of Colorado.
Also, Reps. John J. "Jimmy" Duncan Jr. of Tennessee, Roscoe G. Bartlett of Maryland, Kevin Brady of Texas, Robert B. Aderholt of Alabama, Charles W. "Chip" Pickering Jr. of Mississippi, John Sullivan of Oklahoma, J. Gresham Barrett of South Carolina, Barbara Cubin of Wyoming, Sue Myrick and Walter B. Jones of North Carolina and Steve King of Iowa.