This week President Bush used his weekly radio address to try and revive the bipartisan immigration reform bill which was pulled from the Senate floor Thursday night. First Bush discussed the Republican concerns about the border security provisions in the bill. â€œI understand the skepticism some members of Congress have regarding certain aspects of this legislation. Like any legislation, this bill is not perfect. And like many Senators, I believe the bill will need to be further improved along the way before it becomes law. In the heat of the debate, critics and supporters can sometimes talk past each other. So I want to speak to members about some of the concerns I have heard. I know some of you doubt that the Federal government will make good on the border security and enforcement commitments in this bill,â€ he said
The president continued, â€œMy Administration is determined to learn from the mistakes of the past decades. And that is why we are now committing more resources than ever before to border security, doubling the number of Border Patrol agents, building hundreds of miles of fencing, and employing advanced technology, from infrared sensors to unmanned aerial vehicles. The bill builds on this progress by requiring that we meet border security objectives before certain other provisions can take effect.â€
He also explained why he believes this bill isnâ€™t amnesty. â€œAmnesty is forgiveness with no penalty for people who have broken our laws to get here. In contrast, this bill requires illegal workers to pay a fine, register with the government, undergo background checks, pay their back taxes, and hold a steady job. And if at the end of eight years they want to apply for a green card, they will have to pay an additional substantial fine, show they have learned English, and return to their home country so they can apply from there. In short, they will have to prove themselves worthy of this great land,â€ Bush said.
The president also discussed Democratic concerns about the family portions of the bill. â€œI also want to say a word to those in Congress concerned about family unification. This bill will create a merit-based point system that recognizes the importance of family ties by granting points to some applicants who have family members here legally. More than half of new green cards will go to family members, immigrants will be allowed to bring in their spouses and minor children, and we will clear the backlog for millions of people who have been waiting patiently in line. Securing the border and upholding family values are not partisan concerns. They are important to all Americans. They must be addressed, and this bill is the best way to do it. I urge Senator Reid to act quickly to bring this bill back to the Senate floor for a vote, and I urge Senators from both parties to support it,â€ the president said.
The problem here is that some Republicans, mostly in the Border States, view any plan that includes a path to citizenship for current illegal immigrants as amnesty, and they refuse to vote for it. A majority of Democrats already support the bill, but I donâ€™t see how the president is going to get the Republican votes he needs to pass the bill. Those who hate this bill feel the way they do for ideological, not practical reasons. This battle also demonstrates how irrelevant President Bush has become within the Republican Party. If Bush canâ€™t get the members of his own party in line, then nobody can. In short, Bush can talk about this bill all he wants. He can even visit with the Republican senators, as he plans to do next week, but the truth is that this bill is dead. Nothing the president will do is going to revive it.
Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com. Â His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics