- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2001

Senior Democratic senators said yesterday they want to see President Bush's proposal for amnesty for illegal Mexican immigrants in the United States expanded to include immigrants from other countries.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and a handful of other senators, Republicans and Democrats, called a news conference to urge Mr. Bush to go forward with the plan, even as the president has backed away from that proposal since it was first reported this weekend.
"We're just simply urging today that the president proceed, but not only limit it to Mexican immigrants but broaden it to other countries as well," said Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. He said a fair program would recognize "Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Nicaraguans, Hondurans, Haitians and other immigrants in similar situations."
Mr. Bush is already downplaying the amnesty part of his plan, which is still in the formative stages. Instead he has focused on another part, which would offer legal recognition for seasonal workers who go back and forth across the border and who often help at harvest time on U.S. farms.
Both the amnesty and seasonal workers plan — called the "guest-worker program" — are sought by Mexican President Vicente Fox. Speaking in Milwaukee this week, Mr. Fox said many of the Mexicans illegally north of the border should be granted legal status. Mexican officials estimate there are about 3 million undocumented Mexicans living in the United States. Mr. Bush has a September meeting scheduled with Mr. Fox.
But the amnesty idea has already provoked opponents of illegal immigration, who say amnesty would reward those who broke the law to enter the country.
In the face of sentiments like that, coming particularly from fellow Republicans, Mr. Bush has sought to de-emphasize the amnesty proposal and highlight the guest-worker program.
The senators yesterday, though, urged him to stay the course.
"We know that there are many forces pressuring President Bush to reconsider his support for fair treatment of immigrant residents. We hope the president will resist that pressure," Mr. Daschle said. "It is time to bring the hardworking immigrant residents out of the shadows. Not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it's the smart thing to do."
He was joined by two Republicans, Sens. Sam Brownback of Kansas and John Ensign of Nevada, and Democratic Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Harry Reid of Nevada. They argued that it's unfair to force some of these longtime residents to go back home — often separating families — before letting them apply for residency.
Mr. Ensign also said illegal immigrants are critical to the economy of the Southwest.
Amnesty was last granted in 1986, when immigrants living in the United States since 1972 qualified for legal residency.
Mr. Daschle and Mr. Kennedy said they will look at Mr. Bush's guest-worker proposal, but they said it will have to include protections for the workers and provisions to let them form unions.
For now the president's plan remains in the outline stages, though Mr. Kennedy said he expects the president will deliver a plan to Congress before his meeting with Mr. Fox.
The Senate Judiciary Committee tried to sound out James Ziglar, the president's nominee to be commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, on the issue during a confirmation hearing yesterday. But Mr. Ziglar, currently the Senate sergeant at arms, said he doesn't know enough about the details to take a stand.
"I don't want to make news on something when I'm not involved in it yet," he said.

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