- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2005

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday he will schedule a House vote for next week on a border security bill that also would limit illegal aliens’ ability to obtain driver’s licenses. But the Texas Republican said he doesn’t want to spark a full debate on guest-worker programs and broad immigration reform.

President Bush, during last week’s congressional Republican retreat in West Virginia, made another plea for Republicans to pass his guest-worker bill and Mr. DeLay said Congress will act on a broader immigration bill in the next two years.

But he said that must not distract from next week’s focus.

“That bill that will be up next week is a border security bill. It is a homeland security bill,” Mr. DeLay said.

“Immigration reform is a completely different subject which we will address in this Congress, and in fact we had an excellent debate on immigration reform and border security at the retreat,” he said. “Our members know that we have to do something about immigration, but we also have to do something about border security.”

Next week’s measure, sponsored by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, would prohibit federal agencies from accepting driver’s licenses as valid identification from states that allow illegal aliens to obtain licenses.

No state would have to change its own rules, but their licenses would not be valid identification for federal purposes.

The bill also closes a hole in the U.S.-Mexico border fence, allows for easier deportation of some people linked to terrorism, and makes it easier for a judge to deny an asylum claim.

Mr. Sensenbrenner’s supporters have said they fear opponents would try to kill the bill by offering amendments backing a broad guest-worker program — something that many Republicans, including Mr. Sensenbrenner, oppose.

One possibility is to restrict the number and types of amendments allowed during the debate next week, but Mr. DeLay said he thinks public awareness of the issue is a better idea.

“What we are trying to do is convince you and others that there are two significant differences,” he told reporters at his weekly briefing. “What we’re doing next week is not immigration reform. It’s border security and homeland security.”

Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican and a supporter of both Mr. Bush’s attempt to create a guest-worker program and Mr. Sensenbrenner’s bill, said he will not try to force the broader immigration debate next week.

“I don’t expect that we will on this side. The others on the other side may [try to amend it] to try to kill it, but I don’t think those of us who want comprehensive immigration reform want to slow this down,” he said, adding that he considers Mr. Sensenbrenner’s bill a border security measure and not an immigration bill.

Rep. J.D. Hayworth, an Arizona Republican who opposes a guest-worker program, said this is not the time for offering amendments in the immigration debate.

“I would not expect that. And I would most decidedly and respectfully offer advice not even to consider offering that at this point in time,” he said. “It would send another mixed message at a time when we need crystal clarity involving border security.”

Mr. Hayworth said Mr. Bush told Republicans at the retreat that immigration reform is a moral obligation.

“He brought forth his rallying cry that family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande,” Mr. Hayworth said, adding that he wished he had had the chance to respond: “I would hope that one value every family would respect is the rule of law.”

Mr. Flake said the president made it clear during the retreat that he is serious about his immigration proposal, and Mr. Flake said he thinks common ground can be found.

“My own view is that we aren’t that far off,” he said. “The media try to portray it as if there’s a wide gulf between the proposals, and there really aren’t. Once you get past the labels being thrown on amnesty, then we’re pretty darn close.”

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