New Mexico Governor Decries Border Fence

The Associated Press
Thursday, December 7, 2006; 11:47 AM

WASHINGTON -- Blasting House Republicans' proposals to control immigration as a "monument to demagoguery," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson urged the new Democratic Congress to pass a bill securing the border and enabling some illegal immigrants to gain citizenship.

The first step to fixing the immigration system should be reversing legislation signed this fall by President Bush authorizing a 700-mile fence at the Mexican border, said Richardson, who is eying a bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

"The Congress should abandon the fence, lock, stock and barrel," Richardson said Thursday in a speech at Georgetown University laying out a four-part plan for immigration overhaul. "It flies in the face of America as a symbol of freedom."

A Hispanic border governor, Richardson has been outspoken on immigration as Congress has struggled in the last year to deal with the nation's porous borders.

House Republicans have placed their emphasis on strong enforcement measures, while many senators and Bush have favored a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants.

Richardson said the new Congress should follow the Senate's lead.

"The new political lineup in Washington means that Congress has the numbers to pass a comprehensive immigration reform law next year which the president will sign," he said. "We have a historic opportunity to solve a problem that is tearing our country apart. We must not miss this chance."

"Four realistic steps" must be taken, Richardson said: Securing the border, increasing legal immigration, preventing employers from hiring illegal workers and providing a path to legalization.

"But we must understand that building a fence will not in any way accomplish that objective," he said.

© 2006 The Associated Press