May 25th, 2007 08:14 EST
Immigration Reform Plan, Bush Says Bring It On
Washington -- President Bush is urging support for comprehensive immigration reform, which he says would secure the borders of the United States and honor the country's heritage as a nation of immigrants.
“Welcoming people here who want to work and realize the American dream renews our spirit and soul,” Bush said at a May 24 White House press conference. “It's been the case throughout generations. And we have an opportunity to put a good law in place right now.”
The reform proposal was crafted by a dozen leading Democratic and Republican senators over weeks of intensive negotiation with the Bush administration. (See related article.)
“People will come here to do work to feed their families, Bush said, and they'll figure out ways to do so.” The current system is resulting in a deadly underground industry of smugglers and document forgers, which he condemned as “anti-humanitarian.” Bush said such immigration presents a security threat and a powerful argument for establishing a formal guest worker program.
“I think the whole industry that exploits the human being is not in our nation's interests,” he said. “And the best way to deal with this problem is to say, ‘If you're going to come and do jobs Americans aren't doing, here is an opportunity to do so, on a temporary basis.’”
But first, he said, the plan would continue ongoing efforts to secure U.S. borders and tighten hiring restrictions while turning inward to require those already in the country to pay a fine, pass criminal background checks, maintain employment while in the United States and join legal immigrants in the citizenship process.
“I strongly believe the bipartisan Senate bill addresses the reasons for past failures, while recognizing the legitimate needs of our economy and upholding the ideals of our immigrant tradition,” he said.
Turning to Iraq, Bush highlighted progress toward securing $120 billion from Congress to fund military operations and predicted a difficult summer ahead as insurgents, sectarian militias and terrorists target coalition forces and their Iraqi allies working to stabilize the country and allow its democratically elected government to enact key reforms.
Bush expressed hope that with improved security, coalition forces could eventually transition operations toward the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Commission, which envisioned a reduced military presence dedicated to training Iraqi security forces and joint special operations to capture terrorists.
“Failure in Iraq will cause generations to suffer, in my judgment,” Bush said. “Al-Qaida will be emboldened. … It will cause them to be able to recruit more. It will give them safe haven. They are a direct threat to the United States.”
Responding to the new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear program, Bush said that the United States would work with its European allies to step up sanctions against Iran and that he would personally discuss the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Hu Jintao. (See related article.)
“The first thing that these leaders have got to understand is that an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing for the world. It's in their interests that we work collaboratively to continue to isolate that regime,” he said.
By David McKeeby
USINFO White House Correspondent