- The Washington Times - Monday, April 9, 2007

2:39 p.m.

YUMA, Ariz. (AP) — President Bush visited the U.S.-Mexico border today to tout a guest worker program for immigrants, pursuing a key domestic policy goal despite chilly relations with Congress.

The trip, a bookend to the visit that Mr. Bush made to the same southwest desert city last May, comes as tension rises over a new immigration proposal tied to the White House. Mr. Bush’s team is privately working hard to rally votes for what Mr. Bush calls comprehensive reform - a mix of get-tough security with promises of fair treatment for undocumented residents.

Upon arriving in Yuma, Mr. Bush met Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. The two took a quick look at the “Predator,” an unmanned plane that border officials use to monitor the region.

Mr. Bush pointed to two new layers of fencing that have been erected at the border since he visited the same spot a year ago.

“It’s amazing the progress that’s been made,” Mr. Bush told border officials. “I was most impressed by your strategy, but more impressed by the fact that it’s now being implemented.”

Both Mr. Bush and the Democratic-run Congress are eager to show some accomplishment on a core issue like immigration. Yet, it’s a sticky subject, and the fault lines don’t necessarily fall along party lines. For Mr. Bush, opportunities to see through his domestic agenda are shrinking.

With up to 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., lawmakers haven’t agreed on how to uphold the law without disrupting lives, eroding the work force and risking political upheaval.

Mr. Bush is hopeful for a legislative compromise by August. He was making his case at a point along the Yuma Sector Border, a 125-mile stretch overlapping Arizona and California. Mr. Bush hoped to send a message - particularly to conservative critics from his own party - that the stepped-up border enforcement is working.

So far this budget year, apprehensions of people crossing illegally in the Yuma Sector is down 68 percent, according to the White House. Bush credits that to the power of deterrence.

The president’s relations with Congress these days have been soured by the war in Iraq. He is at odds with Democratic lawmakers over a bill to extend war funding in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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