President George W. Bush yesterday argued for his temporary worker plan for foreigners, hoping to win over skeptical conservatives with get-tough promises about undocumented immigration.
"We're going to get control of our borders and make this country safer for all our citizens," Bush said. He commented as he signed into law a $32-billion homeland security bill that has large increases for patrolling borders but fewer grants for local first responders and a freeze in transit security funding.
Hours earlier, administration officials appeared on Capitol Hill to promote the guest worker plan, saying action is needed beyond improving border patrols to stem the flow of undocumented immigrants.
"We're going to need more than just brute enforcement," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "We're going to need a temporary worker program as well." Bush last year introduced a plan that would allow undocumented workers to get three-year work visas. They could extend that for another three years, but would then have to return to their home countries for a year to apply for a new work permit.
The president called his proposal a necessity for an economy that needs employees for jobs many Americans don't want.
"I'm going to work with members of Congress to create a program that can provide for our economy's labor needs without harming American workers, without providing amnesty and that will improve our ability to control our borders," Bush said.
Seeking to mollify balky Republicans, Bush emphasized border-control measures. He said the bill he signed would help in deporting undocumented immigrants and would provide more border patrol agents, new immigration-fighting technologies and expanded detention centers.
GOP leaders in the House and Senate have suggested that Congress should first take up the enforcement issue, putting off debate on the more complex issues of undocumented workers and the demand for low-skilled labor in this country, reports the AP. I.L.