- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 2, 2006

RICHMOND — Republican Sen. George Allen and Democratic challenger James H. Webb Jr., who generally find themselves on opposite sides of the political and social spectrum, agree on one thing: President Bush has fallen short on handling illegal immigration.

Both candidates, who are vying for the U.S. Senate in Virginia this fall, agree that Mr. Bush has not done enough to tighten the nation’s borders and stop illegal entry into the United States. But they have different ideas on how to help stop illegal immigration.

Mr. Allen, who is running for re-election, has called for more fences, more border personnel and more detention facilities. He also opposes any measure that offers a so-called “path to citizenship,” which he views as amnesty for illegals.

Mr. Webb, who served as Navy secretary under President Reagan, supports separating border-security talks from other immigration-related issues.

Mr. Webb said that once the border is secure, the United States should toughen sanctions on employers who hire illegal aliens, eliminate guest-worker programs and develop a program that provides a path to citizenship for illegals with deep roots in this country.

“By bringing in guest workers … we’re keeping Americans from doing the job because we’re driving down the wages and earnings of people who are already here,” he said in the first campaign debate last month.

In May, Mr. Allen opposed an immigration compromise offered by Sens. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

Mr. Bush supports the measure, which would implement guest-worker programs, increase border personnel and give many illegal aliens an avenue to gain citizenship.

Mr. Allen called the compromise “massive and convoluted.”

The Senate passed the measure on a vote of 62-36. The House must approve the measure before it becomes law.

Like Mr. Allen, most House Republicans oppose the so-called “path to citizenship.”

Mr. Webb said their approach is no solution.

“I think we need to restore the rule of law, and part of restoring the rule of law is to take the people who have long roots here and give them a way to move above the waterline, but take the others and have them go home,” Mr. Webb told The Washington Times yesterday.

House Republicans are holding a series of hearings in a dozen states where they plan to highlight what they see as shortcomings in the Senate proposal.

Last year, the House passed a reform bill that focuses almost entirely on border security and makes illegal immigration a felony.

Many think it is unlikely any immigration reform plan will pass both chambers of Congress before the Nov. 7 elections.

Mr. Allen has said he favors a tough approach to border security, using virtual and actual fences to stop the flow of illegals from Mexico.

“If we don’t secure the border, none of the reforms included in this bill will have any meaningful impact whatsoever,” Mr. Allen has said.

“We should not reward illegal behavior. If the U.S. government rewards illegal behavior with amnesty, we’ll get more illegal behavior.”

Yesterday, Mr. Allen voted to appropriate $1.8 billion for a border fence.

The Senate passed the measure, which just last month was overwhelmingly rejected.

Virginia is more conservative than other states on immigration-related issues.

In recent years, the General Assembly has approved measures to deny driver’s licenses to illegals and to require immigrants to provide proof of citizenship when applying for taxpayer-funded services such as welfare and Medicaid.

Last year, several Republicans called on Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, to declare a state of emergency related to illegal immigration, saying the number of aliens in Virginia was draining state coffers.

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