By J. Ferguson
Claire C. Laurence/Arizona Daily Wildcat
President George W. Bush greets members of the small crowd who were able to attend his speech yesterday at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. In addition to these supporters, Bush was joined by Arizona Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
President George W. Bush tried to wade through the political minefield of illegal immigration yesterday by calling for a guest worker program that does not include a clause for automatic amnesty.
A backdrop of 45 U.S. Border Patrol agents stood behind Bush as he spoke at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Bush outlined a three-part plan called "Securing America Through Immigration Reform."
Bush said a key point of his plan is a guest worker program, which allows for illegal immigrants to enter American society, at least temporarily, without fear of legal repercussions. Bush said the guest worker program would allow law enforcement to "focus on those who mean this country harm."
Bush told the crowd of Border Patrol agents, custom officials and members of law enforcement that members of Congress, including those in his own party, may not agree with his plan.
"There's a lot of opinions on this proposal - I understand that. But people in this debate must recognize that we will not be able to effectively enforce our immigration laws until we create a temporary worker program," Bush said. "The program that I proposed would not create an automatic path to citizenship, it wouldn't provide for amnesty - I oppose amnesty. Rewarding those who have broken the law would encourage others to break the law and keep pressure on our border."
Bush's guest worker program does not create an automatic path to citizenship or provide amnesty for illegal immigrants, and the plan did not outline how long the guest worker program would allow illegal immigrants to stay in the country before being forced to go home.
Bush also called for strict enforcement of current immigration laws as well as the need for Congress to pass new immigration laws.
He offered an anecdote of a federal law that forced the federal government to let illegal immigrants go rather than deporting them.
"Under current law, the federal government is required to release people caught crossing our border illegally if their home countries do not take them back in a set period of time," Bush said. "That law doesn't work when it comes time to enforcing the border and it needs to be changed. Those we're forced to release have included murderers, rapists, child molesters and other violent criminals."
The president also outlined enforcement efforts to stop illegal immigration at the border. He discussed increases in manpower, technology and infrastructure as well as recent innovations.
"In Tucson, agents on the ground are directing unmanned aerial technology in the sky, and they're acting rapidly on illegal immigration or illegal activities they may see from the drones," Bush said. "In the months since these unmanned flights began, agents have intercepted a lot of drugs on the border that otherwise - and people - that otherwise might have made it through."
The president said legislation he signed last month would provide more than $130 million in funding for enforcement.
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano said she met Bush on the tarmac of the air base, and they attended a briefing by officials from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol. She said Bush heard about current Arizona border issues and the recent addition of 700 more Border Patrol agents to the Arizona border region.
When asked about Bush's guest worker proposal, Napolitano said she was glad he came to Arizona and was taking a strong interest in the matter, but she stopped short of endorsing his vision.
"I am going to watch with great interest the process in the House and the Senate to see if the assurances he made are kept," Napolitano said.
While there are several competing immigration bills in both the House and the Senate, Napolitano said the issue requires immediate action.
"They need to move now, time's a wasting," Napolitano said.
Adam Deguire, senior majoring in political science and history and UA College Republican, said he was impressed by the president' speech.
"I thought what the president had to say was great. He actually laid a concrete three-point plan," Deguire said. "By laying this three-point plan out, it will set the tone and from that, Congress will have to act."