Bush Presses for Immigration Legislation

By DEB RIECHMANN
The Associated Press
Saturday, May 20, 2006; 8:08 PM

WASHINGTON -- President Bush urged Congress on Saturday to find a middle ground between mass deportation or instant U.S. citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already living in America.

Bush's radio message was the third time this week he has spoken out about immigration.

On Monday, in a televised address from the Oval Office, Bush said he would order as many as 6,000 National Guard troops to secure the U.S. border with Mexico, and urged Congress to give millions of illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship.

Bush said the National Guard troops would fill in temporarily while the nation's Border Patrol is expanded. He asked Congress to add 6,000 more Border Patrol agents by the end of his presidency and add 6,700 more beds so illegal immigrants can be detained while waiting for hearings.

However, Homeland Security Department Inspector General Richard L. Skinner said in a report Friday that the administration hadn't budgeted enough, and that it will take nearly 35,000 more jail beds to detain all high-risk aliens.

"This week I asked Congress to provide funding for dramatic improvements in manpower and technology at the border," Bush said Saturday. "We'll hire thousands more Border Patrol agents. And to help these agents do their jobs, we will deploy advanced technologies such as high-tech fences in urban areas, infrared cameras and unmanned aerial vehicles."

Many congressional Republicans said they supported Bush's plan to use National Guard troops at the border. But he ran into criticism from some border state governors, Democrats and some other Republicans.

In the Democratic radio response, Rep. Mike Honda of California said Bush should denounce the approach of House Republicans, who won passage of a tough immigration bill that would erect fences along the Mexican border and treat people who sneak across as felons to be deported.

"The president's public relations campaign won't get the job done," Honda said about the proposals the president announced Monday. "As the Senate continues to consider comprehensive immigration reform, the president needs to stand up to the far right, and take a stand on the details of the bill before them."

On Thursday, the president traveled to Arizona to tour an unfortified section of the border in the desert. He endorsed using fences and other barriers to cut down on illegal crossings. The Senate on Wednesday voted to put 370 miles of fences on the border.

"To secure our border we must create a temporary worker program that provides foreign workers a legal and orderly way to enter our country for a limited period of time," Bush said.

Bush wants an immigration bill that pairs up better security on the border with a guest worker program.


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