Over the last few days, President Bush has been pushing his comprehensive immigration reform package. He's been chatting up the Democrats (Nancy Pelosi has told him he has to get his own party in line and muster dozens of votes before she's bring this to the floor for a vote),and he's been on the road throughout the southwest touting his plan.
Overall, what Bush has to propose seems reasonable, although there is enough here to please and annoy folks on both sides of the aisle. Here are the basics, according to the White House website:
Comprehensive Immigration Reform Must Accomplish Five Clear Objectives
1. Securing The Border
Securing The Border Is A Critical Part Of Our Strategy For Comprehensive Immigration Reform, And We Are Increasing Manpower And Improving Infrastructure And Technology At The Border. Since the President took office in 2001, we have more than doubled funding for border security – from $4.6 billion in 2001 to $10.4 billion in 2007. We have expanded the Border Patrol from about 9,000 agents in 2001 to about 13,000 agents today. By the end of 2008, we will have a total of more than 18,000 agents, doubling the size of the Border Patrol under the President's leadership.
Under Operation Jump Start, National Guard Members Are Supporting The Border Patrol In Texas, California, Arizona, And New Mexico. As we work to complete upgrades at the border, Operation Jump Start is providing the Border Patrol with immediate reinforcements. National Guard Troops deployed under Operation Jump Start are assisting the Border Patrol with surveillance, intelligence, construction, and logistics.
* Operation Jump Start Has Put More Manpower On The Border And Allowed The Border Patrol To Move 563 Agents Into Front-Line Positions. The number of people apprehended for illegally crossing our Southern border is down by nearly 30 percent in 2007 from this point in 2006.
We Have Effectively Ended The Practice Of "Catch And Release" For Every Non-Mexican Apprehended At The Southern Border. More than 85 percent of the illegal immigrants caught crossing the Southern border are Mexicans, and virtually all are sent back home within 24 hours. For years, however, most apprehended non-Mexican illegal immigrants were released back into society on this side of the border – with a notice to appear at a future court date – because the government did not have enough detention space to hold them. The President believes this practice is unacceptable, and we have effectively ended it for every non-Mexican apprehended at the Southern border.
* We Have Added Thousands Of New Beds At Detention Centers Across The Country. Since the President took office, we have provided funding for 7,798 new beds to accommodate apprehended illegal immigrants – a 40 percent increase over 2001.
* We Have Expedited The Legal Process To Cut The Average Deportation Time. We are also making it clear to foreign governments that they must accept back their citizens who violate U.S. immigration laws.
2. Creating A Temporary Worker Program
We Cannot Fully Secure The Border Unless We Take Pressure Off The Border – And That Requires A Temporary Worker Program. By creating a lawful and orderly channel for foreign workers to come to America on a temporary basis, a temporary worker program would help reduce the number of people trying to sneak past the Border Patrol, freeing agents to focus on apprehending violent criminals and terrorists who pose a threat to our security.
3. Holding Employers Accountable For The Workers They Hire
Enforcing Immigration Laws At The Worksite Is A Vital Part Of Any Successful Reform. We are cracking down on employers who knowingly violate the law. To make worksite enforcement practical on a large scale, the President has called for the creation of a tamper-proof identification card for legal foreign workers and a better system for businesses to verify the legal status of their workers. By taking these steps, we will make it easier for businesses to obey the law – and leave them no excuse for violating it.
4. Resolving The Status Of The Millions Of Illegal Immigrants Already In The Country
The Administration Is Working With Democrats And Republicans To Find A Practical Answer That Lies Between Granting Automatic American Citizenship To Every Illegal Immigrant And Deporting Every Illegal Immigrant.
* The President Opposes Amnesty. Amnesty is the forgiveness of an offense without penalty. It should not be given to people who entered our country illegally.
* Illegal Immigrants Who Have Roots In Our Country And Want To Stay Should Have To Pay A Meaningful Penalty For Breaking The Law, Pay Their Taxes, Learn English, And Work In A Job For A Number Of Years. People who meet a reasonable number of conditions and pay a penalty of time and money should be able to apply for citizenship, but approval would not be automatic, and they will have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law.
5. Finding New Ways To Help Newcomers Assimilate Into Our Society
We Will Honor The American Tradition Of The Melting Pot And Help Immigrants Assimilate By Learning Our History, Our Values, And The English Language.
* Last June, The President Created The Task Force On New Americans To Look For Ways To Help Newcomers Assimilate And Succeed In Our Country. Many organizations, from churches to businesses to civic associations, are already working to answer this call.