- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 23, 2005

President Bush’s claim that his guest-worker program will facilitate his goal of expelling “every single” illegal alien from the U.S. wound up pleasing neither side in the immigration debate.

Immigrant-rights advocates were angered this week by the stance that the aliens will have to go home within six years. But those seeking a crackdown on illegals weren’t happy either and said the administration ignored employer sanctions.

The New York Immigration Coalition announced that it will fight Mr. Bush’s plan, which the group called an “insult” to aliens willing to take low-paying jobs.

“Far from being compassionate, it crushes the dreams of millions of immigrants,” said Chung-Wha Hong, the group’s executive director.

Immigration advocates had hoped Mr. Bush would endorse an approach such as that of Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, which would legalize the estimated 11 million unauthorized aliens and create a system for 400,000 foreign workers a year to come to the U.S. legally, in the hope of deterring future illegal aliens.

Instead, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told Congress on Tuesday that he will work to deport illegal aliens and boost border security, and Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao said Mr. Bush’s guest-worker plan would require workers, including current illegal aliens who join, to go home after a maximum of six years.

“I felt like jumping up and saying, ‘What about these blended families?’” said Deborah Notkin, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. The proposal is unrealistic because families with children who are U.S. citizens won’t want to be separated or go home, she said.

Both she and those on the other side of the debate said the new position contradicts what Mr. Bush said in January 2004 on announcing his program.

Mr. Bush had said, “Some temporary workers will make the decision to pursue American citizenship,” and during his State of the Union address a few weeks later, he said his “temporary-worker program will preserve the citizenship path for those who respect the law.”

“It appears that the administration has changed its policy,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican. “If so, I am sure that they will want to clarify it soon.”

But Erin Healy, a spokeswoman for the White House, said Mrs. Chao’s remarks were consistent with Mr. Bush’s earlier statements.

“The temporary-worker program is not amnesty. That’s what he’s saying there, and there’s no conflict between that and what Secretary Chao said,” the spokeswoman said.

Mr. Smith and other House Republicans said that just as important is what Mr. Bush left out when speaking Tuesday as he signed the Homeland Security spending bill. He addressed border and interior law enforcement, but said nothing about targeting employers who hire illegal aliens.

“The real test for many of us in Congress is whether employer sanctions are going to be enforced,” Mr. Smith said.

Ms. Notkin said that at this point, there are three positions in the immigration debate: those who support the McCain-Kennedy bill, those like Mr. Smith who want strict enforcement and then an evaluation of whether a guest-worker program is necessary, and those who favor the White House position, best embodied in the bill by Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona.

That bill would boost enforcement, give illegal aliens five years to leave and create a new program to allow foreign workers to stay for up to six years.

“What I’m hoping is there’ll be a dialogue, and the administration and Senators Kyl and Cornyn have a chance to look at their bill and the unworkability of it,” Ms. Notkin said.

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