- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2007

President Bush today promoted the current plan for immigration reform by stumping in Georgia for the much-debated proposal, in a speech aimed at both reassuring and rebuking critics.

“The immigration system is in desperate need for comprehensive reform, and Congress has a historic window to act,” Mr. Bush said. “It takes a lot of courage in the face of some of the criticism in the political world to do what’s right, not what’s comfortable. And what’s right is to fix this system now before it’s too late.”

Mr. Bush, speaking at a training facility in Glynco, Ga., for border patrol agents and other immigration enforcement officers, emphasized that the immigration reform plan focuses on border security first.

The plan was hammered out by White House officials and a bipartisan group of legislators, and will head to the Senate next week when Congress returns from their 10-day Memorial Day recess.

“We’re working hard to enforce the border, and we’re stepping up enforcement inside the country,” Mr. Bush said.

But most of the president’s speech sought to confront voices in the immigration debate who are “out there hollerin’ and saying kick ‘em out,” Mr. Bush said.

“That is simply unrealistic. It won’t work,” said Mr. Bush, who also denied that the plan gives amnesty to illegal aliens.

“Amnesty is forgiveness for being here without any penalties … This bill is not an amnesty bill. If you want to scare the American people, what you say is, ‘The bill’s an amnesty bill,’” Mr. Bush said. “That’s empty political rhetoric trying to frighten our fellow citizens.”

Mr. Bush explained the plan, which would require all of the estimated 12 to 20 million illegal aliens living in the U.S. to come forward and register with the government, pay a “meaningful fine,” pay any back taxes, and then either enroll in a guest-worker program or return to their home country and apply for citizenship.

The guest-worker program would allow immigrants to work for two years in the U.S., but then spend a year living in their home country. Guest workers could repeat that three-year cycle up to two more times, but would not be on the path to citizenship.

The path to citizenship, the president said, would require paying a fine and any back taxes, then would require illegal aliens to “touch base home to apply for a green card, and then you take your place behind those who have played by the rules and have been waiting in line patiently to become a citizen.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide