President's Immigration Plan Stymied; Few Lawmakers Welcome Issue in Election Year

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 17, 2004 | Go to article overview

President's Immigration Plan Stymied; Few Lawmakers Welcome Issue in Election Year


Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

President Bush tried to jump-start the debate over changing U.S. immigration policy in January, but his proposal isn't seen as having any chance of success on Capitol Hill by either Democrats or Republicans.

"It's nonexistent," said Carlos Espinosa, spokesman for Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican and chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, who opposes the plan.

His evaluation was seconded by Democrats and other Republicans who said the schedule and the contentious nature of the issue mean there isn't time for anything to pass this year.

On Jan. 7, Mr. Bush proposed raising the level of legal immigration and creating a perpetual guest-worker program that would both allow the estimated 8 million to 12 million illegals already in the country to remain and work and allow new applicants from foreign countries to apply for guest-worker status as long as they can find a willing employer.

But his proposal met with objections from both sides. Few lawmakers endorsed his proposal, and many even called it "dead on arrival."

At root, Mr. Bush's plan had a key ambiguity - it proposed allowing guest workers to renew their status every three years, but didn't say whether that would be capped at a certain number of terms.

Conservative opponents said the plan was an amnesty program because it invited those in the United States illegally to gain some perpetual legal status. Liberal opponents saw it as unpracticeable and said it could become a scheme to identify illegal aliens and deport them.

Rep. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said it was "better described as a path to deportation than a path to the American dream."

Mr. Bush has not submitted specific legislation, and his Jan. 7 speech was just a statement of principles. Since then, he has not put any pressure on Congress to act.

Answering questions with Mexican President Vicente Fox at a joint news conference in Crawford, Texas, two weeks ago, the president sounded resigned to no action. …

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