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Bush's Plan To Overhaul The Nation's Immigration Laws

post #1 of 4
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Bush immigration plan draws fire
Knight Ridder Newspapers

Under the Bush proposal, foreign workers could apply for legal status for a three-year period if they had U.S. jobs. They could travel to and from the United States. J.R. HERNANDEZ, AP

WASHINGTON - President Bush formally presented his plan to overhaul the nation's immigration laws Wednesday, but it drew a largely negative reaction that called into question his ability to push it through Congress.

Anti-immigration groups said Bush's plan to offer legal status to millions of workers who are in the country illegally would bring a flood of new immigrants and drive down wages. Labor unions and immigrant groups called the proposal an election-year ploy that would lead to more exploitation of foreign workers.

The strongest positive reaction came from business leaders, who praised Bush's effort to meet their employment needs while closing the black market in human labor.

Under the plan, as many as 8 million workers who are in the country illegally could become legal by joining a new guest-worker program. New immigrants could enter the country by showing that they have jobs.

The guest workers could stay for three years, with the possibility of extensions. Bush left it to Congress to decide how many extensions a worker could receive.

The proposal, Bush's first initiative of the new election year, re-ignited the long-running debate over immigration and tossed the issue into the middle of the 2004 presidential campaign. It also inflamed passions over how to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants who have become a part of life all across the country.

Declaring the current system a failure, Bush said his plan recognizes reality and lets illegal workers come into the open.

"Workers who seek only to earn a living end up in the shadows of American life - fearful, often abused and exploited," he said. "It is not the American way. … Our laws should allow willing workers to enter our country and fill jobs that Americans are not filling."

Although the goal of closing the underground market for illegal workers has broad support from business organizations, labor unions and liberal advocacy groups, the coalition broke apart Wednesday over the details of Bush's plan. Labor leaders and immigrant advocacy groups criticized Bush's refusal to put illegal workers on a track to full citizenship.

Under the White House plan, illegal workers who join the guest-worker program could apply for citizenship, but they would have no advantage over any other immigrant.

"America is a welcoming country," Bush said, "but citizenship must not be the automatic reward for violating the laws of America."

Nearly all of Bush's Democratic rivals for the White House favor plans that would make it much easier for illegal workers to become citizens. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., said Bush's proposal "leaves foreign workers as fodder for our fields and factories, without giving them a path to legalization."

Labor leaders said Bush's call for full legal rights for guest workers means little if they are in the country temporarily. Guest workers are open to exploitation, immigration experts say, because they need their employers' assistance to obtain their visas. An employer, for example, could agree to sponsor only those workers who agree not to join a union.

The Bush proposal gives workers some clout against their bosses by allowing them to switch to another employer under the same visa.

Even so, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said the plan would create "a permanent underclass of workers" while "undermining wages and labor protections for all workers."

While critics from the left said Bush's plan wouldn't go far enough, Bush also faces strong Republican resistance. As many as a third of House Republicans are thought to be cool to the proposal, if not outright hostile, according to analysts on both sides of the issue.

The initiative forces some Republicans to choose between their president and constituents who resent the flow of immigrants. About 70 lawmakers, mostly Republicans, have joined a caucus that advocates tougher immigration laws.

To their dismay, Bush's plan would let illegal workers obtain legal status. The guest workers could freely leave and re-enter the United States and could bring dependents into the country as long as they could show an ability to support them.

"There's nothing more permanent than a temporary worker," said Craig Nelsen, director of ProjectUSA, a group that favors tougher immigration laws. "There's going to be a surge in illegals coming across the border now, hoping to get in on the amnesty."

Talk shows bristled with angry comments.

Patrick Buchanan, a former Republican presidential candidate, called the plan "a massive reward for lawbreaking," and Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., emerging as a leading congressional opponent to Bush's initiative, made repeated TV appearances to denounce the proposal as "dangerous and unworkable."

"The wages for millions of jobs are being kept artificially low because there is a continuing supply of cheap labor," Tancredo said.

If approved by Congress, Bush's plan would be the biggest overhaul of U.S. immigration laws since the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which granted legal status to nearly 3 million undocumented workers. The act also imposed sanctions on employers, but enforcement proved virtually impossible.

Former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., a co-sponsor of the 1986 law, said Bush could face the same political firestorm he confronted in trying to negotiate the morass of competing interests over immigration.

"I just know it will be very hot politically in an election year," Simpson said in a telephone interview. "If it's perceived as simply something to attract Hispanic voters, it's going to fail."
post #2 of 4
This is just my opinion. And it is from someone outside of the USA so I do hope I don't upset anyone.

I plan to become a teacher. There are plenty of opportunities available to teach outside of Australia once you graduate and get experience under your belt.

I do like the sound of the proposal. And for me, this is the first time I have ever said anything positive about George Bush. Though that's another issue entirely. If I were to teach in USA, I would enjoy the ability to travel to and from USA back home when I was able to.

And before I would go to another country to teach, I would be looking for a country with a flexible working visa. One that didn't have a million and one regulations.

I haven't dealt with the illegal immigrants issue here. I don't feel that I know enough to say anything about it, just the working visa part.
post #3 of 4
I find this very disturbing...our President is now willing to disregard the well-being of our country for the sake of cheap labor and trying to score election-year points with the Hispanic population.

Our country is rapidly paving over and populating our last remaining habitable open country as our population skyrockets, largely due to immigration. How will we continue to feed other overpopulated countries that can't produce enough food for their people, when we're building houses on top of our ranches and farmlands? What about greenbelt? Many parts of the country are facing potential water shortages.

The city I live in is experiencing more severe flash floods than ever, because of irresponsible development. We are paving over the very aquifer that provides our water - water from rainstorms has more difficulty draining back into the aquifer to resupply our drinking water, while runoff from paved areas causes flooding. We are also rapidly draining nearby rivers that provide water for smaller towns in our area. Some have run dry in recent summers.

My family has land in what used to be a very isolated part of New Mexico. The road out to the ranch that used to be treacherous and narrow is currently being widened to a 4-lane highway. What the people moving out there don't realize is that there simply isn't enough water to support the population boom taking place out there.

If overpopulated countries don't have to deal with the effects of their overpopulation or poorly run governments and can just send their dissatisfied & overcrowded people to America, how will they ever change?

Mexico is rich in natural resources, and there is no reason I can see(other than a terribly corrupt government and culture of greed) that it couldn't be as successful as the USA, if the people of Mexico would pull together and try to improve the situation in their home countrly, rather than fleeing to the US.
post #4 of 4
I don't like political stuff because it is very complicated...but I am happy to saw I totally agree with Bush. I am VERY excited about this purposal. If this reduces the number of immigrants that come from Mexico (which is just 8 hours from my home), it would be a lot better place to live. In my neighborhood alone, we have dozens of illegal immigrants from there. If they are here, they should work like we do and gain citizenship and accept what we do in America. If they don't like the rules, they should reconsider why they are here...I hope that many people do gain citizenship because some really respect the ways things are...my two cents once again. If I have upset anyone, I apologize...I just think the purposal is a good idea (for the time being atleast)
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