This week President Bush used his weekly radio address to make one last push in support of the immigration reform bill which will be debated again in the Senate early next week. The president spent much of his address highlighting the enforcement portions of the bill. â€œAs the Senate takes up this critical bill, I understand that many Americans have concerns about immigration reform — especially about the federal government’s ability to secure the border. So this bill puts the enforcement tools in place first. And it means more Border Patrol agents, more fencing, more infrared cameras and other technologies at the border. It also requires an employee-verification system based on government-issued, tamper-proof identification cards that will help employers ensure that the workers they hire are legal.â€
Bush continued, â€œThe bill also addresses other problems with immigration enforcement. Right now, our laws are ineffective and insufficient. For example, crossing the border illegally carries weak penalties. In addition, participation in illegal gangs is not enough to bar admission into our country. And when we cannot get other countries to accept the return of their citizens who are dangerous criminals, in most cases our government can only detain these aliens for six months before releasing them into society. This is unacceptable.
The bill before the Senate addresses these problems. Under this bill, those caught crossing illegally will be permanently barred from returning to the United States on a work or tourist visa. Under this bill, anyone known to have taken part in illegal gang activity can be denied admission to our country. And under this bill, we will be able to detain aliens who are dangerous criminals until another country accepts their return.â€
He then stressed that his guest worker program wonâ€™t begin until border security is strengthened. â€œOnce the border security and worksite enforcement benchmarks are met, the bill will resolve the status of 12 million people who are now in our country illegally. Under this bill, these workers will be given an opportunity to get right with the law. This is not amnesty. There will be penalties for those who come out of the shadows. If they pass a strict background check, pay a fine, hold a job, maintain a clean criminal record, and eventually learn English, they will qualify for and maintain a Z visa. If they want to get a green card, they have to do all these things — plus pay an additional fine, go to the back of the line, and return to their country to apply from there.â€
He concluded, â€œThis bill provides an historic opportunity to uphold America’s tradition of welcoming and assimilating immigrants and honoring our heritage as a Nation built on the rule of law. We have an obligation to solve problems that have been piling up for decades. The status quo is unacceptable. We must summon the political courage to move forward with a comprehensive reform bill. By acting now, we can ensure that our laws are respected, that the needs of our economy are met, and that our Nation treats newcomers with dignity and helps them assimilate. I urge members of both parties to support comprehensive immigration reform. By working together, we can pass this good bill — and build an immigration system worthy of our great Nation.â€
You can say a lot of things about President Bush, but he certainly is persistent. It is going to be a close call as to whether or not supporters of this bill have the votes needed to end the Republican filibuster that is stopping it from coming up for a final vote. I think that the reformâ€™s supporters still have not done enough to convince those who view the guest worker program as amnesty that they should vote for this bill. Last time they fell 15 votes short of ending debate, and while I think that they will get closer to passage this time, I donâ€™t think they will get the 60 votes that they need.Â This is going to be tight vote, and the odds are really 50/50 that it could go either way, but if it doesnâ€™t pass this time, I think this bill is officially dead.
Â 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