- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Two of President Bush’s most loyal supporters in Congress yesterday asked him to request that more than $3.5 billion in “emergency” funding be spent immediately on securing the border — rejecting the White House’s assertion that enough is being done along the border.

Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona — who have long shared Mr. Bush’s view that immigration reform should include a guest-worker program as well as increased border security — said “comprehensive” legislation is dead this year unless the federal government proves that it is serious about enforcing current immigration laws by spending billions along the border.

“What we are offering today is what I believe is the last best hope for a comprehensive immigration reform to pass before the end of the year,” Mr. Cornyn told reporters yesterday.

Although Mr. Bush did not directly address the calls for immediate new spending, he pressed yesterday for a guest-worker program at a naturalization ceremony for three immigrant soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, saying “all elements of the problem must be addressed together, or none of them will be solved at all.”

They were the president’s first extensive comments since House Republicans began hearings last month to push the enforcement-only approach contained in the bill they approved last year.

Mr. Bush yesterday urged Republicans in the House to broaden their border-security bill and send him legislation that — as in the Senate bill — deals with current illegal aliens and creates a foreign-worker program.

But Mr. Cornyn — one of Mr. Bush’s most ardent supporters on Capitol Hill — told reporters yesterday that there is “no real hope in sight” that Mr. Bush will get such a bill this year. He said the federal government has lost all credibility on the issue and won’t gain it back until the border is secure.

Mr. Kyl, who is up for re-election this year in a border state, said everyone he meets wants to talk about immigration.

And, he said, they all have the same question about the comprehensive immigration legislation that he and Mr. Cornyn have lobbied for for years: “Why should we believe that you’re going to enforce a new law when the government is not enforcing the current law?”

White House spokesman Tony Snow said that the administration’s plan to use National Guard troops to assist the U.S. Border Patrol means border security is already under way and that Congress can turn its attention to the rest of the immigration debate.

But Mr. Kyl and Mr. Cornyn said yesterday that the administration still has more to do.

They said the Department of Homeland Security still releases 600 illegal alien Salvadorans each week, has slacked off on punishing employers who hire illegal aliens and is still short of the number of detention beds and Border Patrol agents that Mr. Bush agreed to in 2004.

Earlier this month, however, Mr. Cornyn and Mr. Kyl were among the overwhelming majorities of senators who rejected efforts to pay for additional fencing and new Border Patrol agents as part of the Homeland Security Appropriations bill approved two weeks ago.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said they had just received the senators’ letter yesterday evening and would review it, but she said Mr. Bush’s commitment to border security “is as clear as day.”

She pointed to the $1.9 billion in funding that Mr. Bush signed into law last month to pay for the National Guard troops and for more technology for the Border Patrol.

She also said the administration sees progress in the congressional debate.

“The president continues to be encouraged by the active and ongoing discussions about passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill,” Mrs. Perino said.

Mr. Bush yesterday repeated his assessment that the government cannot deport all illegal aliens, so instead most should be put on a multistep path to citizenship.

“We shouldn’t be granting people automatic citizenship, nor is it possible to kick people out of the country,” he said.

Jim Manley, spokesman for Minority Leader Harry Reid, dismissed the effort by Mr. Cornyn and Mr. Kyl.

“This is just another attempt to stall and delay efforts to pass comprehensive immigration that includes strong border security provisions,” he said.

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