- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2004

A leading Republican senator yesterday said President Bush needs to do a better job of explaining his proposed guest-worker program to a public overwhelmingly opposed to the legalization of millions of illegal aliens in this country.

Sen. Jon Kyl, chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on terrorism, technology and homeland security, and a member of the subcommittee on immigration, border security and citizenship, said the Bush proposal was “subject to misinterpretation” and, as a result, “needed further clarification.”

“Immigration brings out strong feelings, and the White House may be taking unnecessary heat because of the way the proposal was laid out,” the Arizona Republican told editors and reporters at The Washington Times. “Some people wish it would go further, while others believe it goes too far.

“The president needs to tell the public more specifically what he has in mind. He needs to be the one who clarifies this proposal,” Mr. Kyl said.

Under the Bush proposal, announced Jan. 7 as a set of principles and not as specific legislation, millions of illegal aliens in the United States could remain as guest workers for two three-year periods if they can prove to federal officials that they have jobs. The aliens eventually could apply for permanent legal residence and citizenship.

Eight million to 12 million illegal aliens, mostly Mexican nationals, are estimated to be in the United States.

Mr. Bush introduced his guest-worker proposal just days before meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox. Some have suggested it was an election-year bid for Hispanic votes.

Mr. Kyl, who steadfastly has argued that the government lacks both the will and the ability to enforce existing immigration laws, said it is “unlikely” that the millions of illegal aliens in the United States ever will be deported, but the sheer size of the illegal immigrant population means they have to be recognized in some way.

He said the Bush team needs to clear up its proposal on three major issues:

• Whether the government is willing to increase significantly the number of available green cards, which guarantee permanent residence — a move Mr. Kyl opposes.

• Whether the millions eligible for Mr. Bush’s guest-worker program must return home before applying for permanent legal residence. Mr. Kyl said they are not likely to return home, which would be unfair to legal immigrants, who wait as long as 13 years to come to America.

• Whether to create a separate category of immigrant workers, perhaps receiving blue cards that would grant aliens working in the United States perpetually renewable legal status, but not residency.

“One could argue that granting blue cards for legal residency is amnesty, but it would be hard to argue that it is blanket amnesty,” he said, adding that the other perks of legal permanent residency — such as eventual eligibility for citizenship and the right to bring family members to the United States — would not be allowed.

Mr. Kyl also said the president needs to address the possibility of developing new biometric cards for foreign nationals, who would be required to present them when entering or exiting the United States to prove who they are.

He and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, have proposed legislation creating a tamperproof biometric card that could identify a person through fingerprints or retinal or face scans and a centralized “look-out” database to give authorities the information they need to monitor, track and be alert to U.S. visitors who might be capable of doing harm.

Eventually, he said, the White House and Congress will have to consider biometric identification cards for U.S. citizens to help guarantee better security at the nation’s borders.

“Immigration enforcement has been a charade, has undermined the rule of law. The people know what’s happening, and they really don’t like it,” Mr. Kyl said. “The time has come to enforce the laws, and the technology is there to do it.

“No program will work without them,” he said.

Meanwhile, members of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus have applauded the union that represents all 9,000 of the Border Patrol’s nonsupervisory agents for challenging Mr. Bush’s guest-worker proposal as a “slap in the face.”

“By definition, this is an amnesty program, and we oppose it,” Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, said in a letter last week to National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) President T.J. Bondurant. “Past amnesty programs have not reduced illegal immigration; rather, they have increased illegal immigration.

“Amnesty rewards those who broke our laws, and thus encourages others to do the same,” Mr. Smith said. “Our immigration policies should do the opposite — discourage lawbreakers by sending the message that illegal entry into the United States will not be rewarded.”

The letter was signed by 17 of 70 members in the caucus.

Last month, NBPC Vice President John Frecker told the agents in a letter the Bush proposal “implies that the country really wasn’t serious about” immigration enforcement in the first place. He said the Bush plan, if approved, would result in increased illegal immigration at the nation’s borders.

“While you’re out there trying to do your jobs, which the country isn’t too serious about, you’ll have to deal with the expected increase in attempted [illegal aliens], who are trying to get here to take advantage of the proposed amnesty — oops, earned legality,” Mr. Frecker said.

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