House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said the president admitted yesterday that he has not been clear enough on his solution to immigration problems and that he needs to do a better job.
“He admitted he hasn’t done a very good job in being clear to the American people where he’s coming from, and he’s going to try to do better,” Mr. DeLay, Texas Republican, told reporters after returning from a meeting on the summer agenda with President Bush at the White House.
Mr. DeLay said that although no final decision has been made among House leaders, he does not support proceeding with a broad immigration overhaul, including a guest-worker bill, until Congress acts on more immigration security and enforcement measures.
“I think if you do a big comprehensive bill, it confuses things and you get into debates you really shouldn’t be having,” Mr. DeLay said. “This is an issue that’s so important to the American people that we have to be clear about where we’re headed, very clear about protecting our borders, enforcing our laws, before we start talking about immigration.”
He added that the president agreed with that framework.
“What I just said mirrors exactly what the president said, without any prompting. It was part of his agenda that he wanted to talk about,” Mr. DeLay said.
White House spokeswoman Erin Healy said Mr. Bush told the lawmakers that he is committed to working with them to build on what they have done to protect the border.
“Border security is one of the president’s highest priorities,” she said. “The president recognizes that we need to be placing as much emphasis on communicating our ongoing efforts to strengthen border security as we are on immigration reform.”
Mr. DeLay has said he favors a guest-worker program, but only if it does not give an advantage to illegal aliens in the United States.
Congress attached one immigration security measure to the emergency war-spending bill Mr. Bush signed this year. Those provisions tighten rules on gaining asylum, waive laws to allow completion of a section of the U.S.-Mexico border fence near San Diego and create a standard for the use of driver’s licenses as federal identification.
Now, Congress is focusing on work-force enforcement and ways to move more quickly on detention and removal of illegal aliens.
Mr. DeLay yesterday endorsed a proposal by Rep. David Dreier, California Republican, to create a secure Social Security card that would be required for all job applicants. He called it “a wonderful idea.”
Several broad bills already are in the works, including one from Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, that creates a multistep path to citizenship for those here illegally and increases annual immigration by 400,000 through a guest-worker program that allows the workers to remain when their time expires.
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, and Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, are working on another guest-worker proposal that would require new workers to return home, but the two senators have not said how they will handle current illegal aliens.