- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The federal government must prove it can protect the nation’s borders before Congress can pass a guest-worker program, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday, vowing that the House will insist that the emergency war-spending bill contain the immigration security provisions that passed in the chamber.

“Ultimately, we need to enforce our laws. The American people need to see us protect our borders and enforce our laws,” Mr. DeLay said. “Then, they’ll be willing to talk about a guest-worker program.”

In an extensive interview with editors and reporters from The Washington Times in his office in the Capitol, the Texas Republican said the House will produce a broad immigration bill this Congress. He also defended his chamber’s record on spending and passing the Medicare prescription drug bill, said he is driving a project to “redesign” government around Republican principles and added that in the wake of the Terri Schiavo case he has asked the House Judiciary Committee to oversee judges.

“The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that’s nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn’t stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn’t stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn’t stop them,” he said. “We’re having to change a whole culture in this — a culture created by law schools.”

Mr. DeLay said the House will insist that the emergency supplemental spending bill for the war on terror restrict illegal immigrants’ ability to obtain driver’s licenses and limit asylum claims, despite calls by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, and Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, to drop those provisions from the bill.

“The House has stated its position, and the House is going to stand by its position,” Mr. DeLay said.

Mr. DeLay also disagreed with President Bush’s recent characterization of the Minutemen currently aiding the U.S. Border Patrol’s apprehension efforts in Arizona as “vigilantes.” The Minuteman Project calls itself a “citizens’ neighborhood watch along our border.”

“I’m not sure the president meant that. I think that they’re providing an excellent service,” Mr. DeLay said. “It’s no different than neighborhood-watch programs, and I appreciate them doing it, as long as they can do it safely and don’t get involved and do it the way they seem to be doing it, and that’s just identifying people for the Border Patrol to come pick up.”

He said that before a guest-worker program can pass Congress, the American public must be convinced that the government is serious about controlling illegal immigration.

“I personally think that we ought to use the eyes and ears of our military,” Mr. DeLay said, pointing to equipment such as remote-control Predator aircraft, which he said could set up a “seeing-eye wall” to police the border. But he said the effort shouldn’t include soldiers.

“Soldiers are trained to kill. They’re not trained as border patrol or police, and you cannot do that. But you can use their technology,” he said.

Mr. DeLay also said Congress must prove it wants to address the more than 10 million illegal aliens living in the United States — and that it is possible to get most of them to return home.

“If we’re enforcing the law, they will,” he said. “It puts a lot of pressure on them if they know that we’re not just looking the other way like we’re doing now.”

Mr. DeLay favors a guest-worker program that would require those already here illegally to return home before applying and that would not allow workers to bring their families here.

He said the president “thinks the country of origin is a good idea,” but that Mr. Bush is less enthusiastic about not bringing families.

Mr. DeLay acknowledged that Americans are conflicted about the issue. He recalled sitting next to a woman at a lunch in Texas who was “ranting and raving” about illegal immigrants.

“We got to talking. You know, she had a yard man, she had a maid, she had some illegals living across the street. I said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you what, I’ll call up right now and pick up your maid, your yard man and the people living across the street,’” Mr. DeLay recalled, adding that she responded, “Oh, don’t you do that. Don’t you do that. I want the ones that are up there in North Houston to be picked up.”

The Senate yesterday passed a nonbinding “sense of the Senate” resolution yesterday that called for the House immigration provisions to be dropped from the spending bill. The Senate also called for senators to forgo a broader discussion of amnesty and raising visa caps until later this year.

Mr. DeLay said the Senate risks legislative gridlock if it omits the House provisions. “We don’t need to drop it in the conference report. This is too important for the American people,” he said. “We need a national debate about this, and we’re going to have that national debate.”

On spending, Mr. DeLay said the House budget this year is the toughest since 1997, and that the chamber’s leaders have convinced the White House and Senate Republican leaders to examine mandatory spending.

He said he is committed to “throwing out this tax code and replacing it with a 21st-century tax code.”

He defended the 2003 Medicare bill that he led the fight for, despite objections by conservative groups. Mr. DeLay said that by inserting health savings accounts and other Republican values into the Medicare system, the party has fundamentally changed the system.

“If Medicare gets out of whack and is not going like we think it will go, and the cost curve will be bent because of what we’ve instituted, then we’ve got those institutions and we can dial them in and out and make them happen,” he said.

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