This week, the subject of the president’s radio address was immigration reform. Bush opened the topic by saying, “The opportunities America offers make our land a beacon of hope for people from every corner of the world. America’s ability to assimilate new immigrants has set us apart from other nations. In this country, our origins matter less than our dreams. What makes us Americans is our shared belief in democracy and liberty. Our Nation now faces a critical challenge: to build an immigration system that upholds these ideals and meets America’s needs in the 21st century. Our current immigration system is in need of reform. We need a system where our laws are respected. We need a system that meets the legitimate needs of our economy. And we need a system that treats people with dignity and helps newcomers assimilate into our society.” This last sentence is the part that many conservatives disagree with.

The president very generally spoke about his immigration plan. “So I support comprehensive immigration reform that will allow us to secure our borders and enforce our laws, keep us competitive in the global economy, and resolve the status of those already here — without amnesty and without animosity. I know convictions run deep on the matter of immigration. Yet I am confident we can have a serious, civil, and conclusive debate. My Administration is working closely with Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle.”

He concluded with, “Our Nation deserves an immigration system that secures our borders and honors our proud history as a nation of immigrants. By working together, we will enforce our laws and ensure that America forever remains a land of opportunity and a great hope on the horizon.” No matter how much the president stresses the enforcement parts of his plan, most Republicans will not support a plan that includes a guest worker program, and creates a path way to citizenship for current illegal immigrants. Bush’s base of support here is among the Democrats. If you watched the Democratic debate on Thursday, the immigration plan that Hillary Clinton spoke about was Bush’s plan.

I think the common sense solution to this problem isn’t either extreme of amnesty or deportation, but we must come up with a system to bring illegal aliens out of the shadows and into the melting pot. I don’t think that Bush’s guest worker plan will be successful because I don’t see why a currently illegal immigrant would register for a guest worker visa that is only good for three years, and then requires them to go home for a period of time before they can come back. A system of paying a fine and going to the back of the line would work if the fine isn’t too expensive. If the fine was only $100, and just half of the 12 million illegal immigrants paid it, it would generate $60 million for the U.S. government.

The amount of the fine is critical, because if the fine is too much, low paid illegal workers will never be able to afford it. Thus, illegal aliens won’t use the program because it is cost prohibitive. The point of immigration reform should be to create a system that will work, not just punish. The most severe punishments in the whole system should be directed towards those who hire illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants come to the U.S. for jobs. If we take away their ability to come to this country illegally and still get a job, then we move a big step closer to solving this problem. I agree with President Bush that we need a comprehensive system that addresses the entire issue. When you think about it, it should be simple. No immigrant should be able to come in to this country and work without some form of legal residency, but politics is making this a lot tougher than it has to be.

Full text of President Bush’s weekly radio address

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse  blog radio 

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