Oh boy. Talk about a blatant PR
move to win votes in the next election.
Matt D will love this:
Bush to Propose Immigration Law Changes
WASHINGTON - President Bush (news - web sites) will propose immigration law changes to allow workers from Mexico to enter the United States if they have jobs waiting for them, officials said Monday in previewing an election-year measure intended to bolster support among Hispanic voters.
Advocacy groups were invited to the White House on Wednesday to hear details of the program.
"The president has long talked about the importance of having an immigration policy that matches willing workers with willing employers," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "It's important for America to be a welcoming society. We are a nation of immigrants, and we're better for it."
Immigration advocacy groups characterized Bush's move as a politically drawn effort to curry favor with Hispanics, a potent political force, particularly in key states like Florida, California and border states. Two sources speaking on condition of anonymity said Bush would outline a set of principles rather than a detailed piece of legislation, and that the policy statement would draw on bills already pending in Congress.
"It looks very much like a political effort and what they do with these `principles' is going to determine whether this is really a policy initiative or not," said Cecilia Munoz, vice president for policy at the National Council of La Raza. "The Latino community knows the difference between political posturing and a real policy debate."
She said the initiative was crafted by Bush's political strategist, Karl Rove, and that the immigration policy community was excluded from the deliberations.
"We know of no one in the immigration policy community, business groups or Latino groups who has been consulted," she said.
Rove, with Bush at a campaign fund-raiser in St. Louis, deflected questions about Bush's proposal.
"Stay tuned," he told a reporter.
Bush's planned announcement comes five days before he meets in Mexico with President Vicente Fox (news - web sites) on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas, a meeting of the hemisphere's leaders.
Mexico is seeking a measure of legality for the approximately 4 million undocumented Mexicans living in the United States and wants a legal way for others to work in the country in the future.
Immigration talks between the United States and Mexico stalled when the Sept. 11 terror attacks prompted the United States to tighten border restrictions, and were set back further by Mexico's refusal to support the Iraq (news - web sites) war. Tensions also arose over Bush's refusal to stop the execution of a Mexican national in Texas.
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, at a town hall meeting in Miami last month, hinted at a change of policy when he said the United States needs to "come to grips" with an estimated 8 million to 12 million illegal immigrants and "determine how you can legalize their presence." He also said that the immigrants should not be rewarded citizenship.
Bush, at a year-end news conference in January, said he was preparing to send Congress ideas about an "immigration policy that helps match any willing employer with any willing employee." He said he is "firmly against blanket amnesty," or a mass legalization.
Two guest-worker bills have been proposed in Congress: One from Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and two of McCain's Republican House colleagues, Jim Kolbe and Jeff Flake; and a second from Sen. John Cornyn.
Cornyn, a Texas Republican, has proposed that illegal immigrants could volunteer to work for up to three years if a job exists for them. When they've worked three years, they could apply for legal permanent residence, but must return to their country of origin to do so.
Workers illegally in the United States would have 12 months to apply to the program and after that would no longer be eligible. Those accepted would be given a "blue card," allowing them to travel outside the United States.
The Cornyn proposal would give guest workers the same rights granted Americans under Labor Department (news - web sites) laws and would set up accounts for workers in which employers would deposit money drawn from workers' wages in lieu of withdrawing the money for Social Security (news - web sites) or Medicare.
The money would be held by the Treasury and would be refunded to the worker when the worker returns to his or her home country.