WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. President George W. Bush said on Saturday that he opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants, and called for tighter security at the nation’s borders to keep out the undocumented.
“Those who enter the country illegally break the law,” Bush said Saturday in his weekly radio address, linking illegal immigration to smuggling and gangs “who bring crime to our neighborhoods.
“Faced with this serious challenge, our government’s responsibility is clear. We’re going to protect our borders,” he said.
In Arizona on Monday, the president provided more details of his plan to tackle illegal immigrations, a subject of fiery debate around the country that experts say will be a key to the legislative elections of 2006.
“The legislative elections put to the test the key issues in the presidential elections,” said Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the independent Cook Political Report who believes the issue of immigration will play a pivotal role in the November 2006 election.
In a poll by the Pew Research Center, 51% of respondents said curbing illegal immigration should be one of the government’s “top priorities.” In 1997, only
42% said so.
Yet only 39% of Republicans polled approved of Bush’s performance regarding immigration.
Most analysts agree there are between eight and 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. To keep the number from growing, Bush is proposing four key points.
The first entails deporting every undocumented immigrant caught at the border “with no exceptions.”
In the case of Mexico, Bush wants to return detainees to their hometowns, not the border, so as to make repeated attempts to cross “more difficult.”
The second point is to change “senseless rules that require us to release illegal immigrants if their home countries do not take them back in a set period of time,” he said.
The third is to step up police presence at the border and to build physical barriers to illegal entry.
The fourth proposal is the most controversial: a guest worker program.
“By creating a legal channel for willing employers to hire willing workers, we will reduce the number of workers trying to sneak across the border, and that would free up law enforcement officers to focus on criminals, drug dealers, terrorists, and others who mean us harm,” Bush said.
Workers already in the United States could sign up for the temporary visas, but would be forced to go home after six years at the most. The program would not create an automatic path to citizenship or constitute an amnesty, the President insisted.
Many observers say it would be difficult to believe millions of undocumented workers would sign up for a program that would lead to their eventual deportation.