WILL BUSH CHANGE HIS MIND ON IMMIGRATION REFORM?
As the House of Representatives' Republican leaders prepare to embark on a series of nationwide hearings that could determine the fate of the Senate "comprehensive" immigration reform bill, President Bush is indicating a new willingness to negotiate with House Republicans in an effort to revise the stalled legislation before the November elections.
Republicans both inside and outside the White House say Mr. Bush, who has long insisted on comprehensive reform, is now open to a so-called enforcement-first approach that would put new border security programs in place before creating a guest worker program or path to citizenship for people living in the United States illegally.
"He thinks that this notion that you can have triggers is something we should take a close look at, and we are," said Candi Wolff, the White House director of legislative affairs, referring to the idea that guest worker and citizenship programs would be triggered when specific border security goals had been met, a process that could take two years.
When the House Republicans pushed through a tough immigration enforcement bill, they were lambasted by the Democrats, some GOP senators and the news media. They were condemned as being meanspirited and criticized for wishing to criminalize illegal alien workers. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) told a crowd of immigrants that the House Republicans are attempting to create a "police state."
Not only are the House Republicans in favor of enforcement-first, several Democrats are calling for the government to first stop the flood of illegal aliens before considering other measures such as guest worker programs and pathways to citizenship.
Political analysts believe the President's almost sudden change of heart is based on the groundswell of criticism of his "amnesty" plan by American citizens. Thousands upon thousands of e-mails, telephone calls and letters continue to flood the White House and the offices of key GOP members calling for real action on the US borders.
In May the Senate passed immigration legislation that appeared weak on border security, but would create a program permitting illegal immigrants who had resided in the United States for five years or more to "earn" their citizenship after paying a fine and back taxes, learning English and holding a job for six years.
But conservatives began digging deeper into the bill and discovered a grab-bag full of goodies -- social security, wage regulations, etc. -- for people viewed by many as lawbreakers. The Senate bill also would allow illegal immigrants who have resided in the United States from two to five years to apply for a guest worker program.
President Bush strongly supported the Senate's "comprehensive" approach to immigration reform. Many conservative Republicans, especially those in the House, said the Senate's approach amounted to "amnesty" and vociferously oppose any legalization program before border security has been strengthened.
Then when the Senate "amnesty" bill arrived in the hands of the House leadership, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert proposed that GOP congessmen would hold citizen hearings all across the country in order to get citizens' input.
Many senators at first complained that the House's call for hearings was their way of stopping the immigration bill, but now they seem more receptive to the House enforcement bill as does President Bush.
Speaker of the House, Denny Hastert says that the "top thing needed is to secure the borders and we need to have the law enforcement to go along with that.
Immigration is the most important issue for the Republicans and conservatives, a House Republican aide said, and will drive conservatives to the polls -- unlike the recent Senate debate on gay marriage or the upcoming vote on an amendment to ban flag burning.
As evidence, House Republicans point to the victory by Rep. Brian Bilbray in a special election in California earlier this month. Bilbray ran against the approach favored by President Bush and the Senate and argued that the borders must be secured first. His opponent lost the election partly because she was recorded telling illegal aliens they didn't need "papers" to vote.
© 2006 Jim Kouri- All
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Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country.
He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) told a crowd of immigrants that the House Republicans are attempting to create a "police state."