Tags: Bush | Open | Accepting | Illegal | Aliens

Bush Open to Accepting Illegal Aliens

Thursday, 06 September 2001 12:00 AM

In a brief news conference on the White House lawn, as Mexican President Vicente Fox and Bush left for a visit to Toledo, Ohio, Bush was asked how he would handle Mexican illegal aliens in the United States.

He said he told Fox he was willing to consider a plan for "a guest worker to earn a green card status," referring to U.S. permanent resident alien identification, but he was trying to find a formula "that will not penalize the person who's chosen the legal route."

Bush said illegal aliens were "incredibly complex issue" that was going to take enormous effort on the part of the administration to resolve. "But to make matters more complicated, we've got to work with the Congress, and we've got to come up with a solution that Congress can accept," Bush said.

One great concern, he stressed, was that to grant legal status to the criminals, the United States would penalize workers who obeyed the law and waited to come to the United States with visas.

Though he said that his administration would "expedite the process" of dealing with the question, he gave no sign that it could be completed in four months. Fox challenged the United States on Wednesday to come up an agreement on immigration by year's end.

Some Republicans in Congress immediately objected to signals that the White House might hand green cards to illegal aliens at any time. They blamed Bush for political pandering.

"It is not in the best interest of either of our two countries to allow the unfettered south-to-north flood of illegal and legal immigrants," said Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., leader of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus.

Hispanic groups in the United States have said any immigration agreement should encompass permanent legal status for "guest workers" after a period of time. They have tried to convince the Bush administration that the Latino vote might follow the GOP along with it.

"I want President Bush and all Republicans to win more votes, but I don't think we should do that by rewarding people who break the law," Tancredo said.

Immigration experts also opposed to any "earned legalization" plan were incensed with the Bush administration. "The problem is not Fox. The problem is Bush is not articulating a set of principles to guide his administration on this issue," Federation for American Immigration Reform Executive Director Dan Stein said. "He is practicing ethnic pandering."

Democrats immediately urged their GOP colleagues to quickly move "comprehensive" immigration legislation that would emphasize family reunification, establish a guest worker program, and include an earned legalization component for some of those "guest workers."

"I also agree with [Fox's] call for quick and immediate action on immigration reform. I think we can have an agreement this year," said House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo. "It is clear to me that many Republicans in Congress are not where the president is, and not where we are."

Earlier Thursday, Fox told a joint meeting of Congress that "trust," close economic ties and developing "democracy" in Mexico could propel the two nations into a new era of cooperation.

"The issue is not whether we can afford to trust each other, it is whether we can afford not to," Fox told Congress and members of Bush's Cabinet gathered in the House chamber.

He reiterated his call for the United States and Mexico to reach an agreement on how to handle immigration.

"We must also trust each other if we are to successfully deal with the issue of migration," Fox said.

Fox told Congress a U.S.-Mexico immigration agreement should address the legal status of millions of Mexicans who have already entered the United States, set a higher ceiling for the number of permanent work visas for Mexicans and expand opportunities for temporary work visas. As a part of that agreement, Fox said Mexico would help improve the safety of the border, crack down on smuggling gangs, and boost the Mexican economy, particularly in regions that are the source of many illegal aliens.

"I am sure that many on both sides of the border would rather stick to the old saying that good fences make good neighbors," Fox said. "But circumstances have changed. We are now bound closely together."

Fox also called for closer cooperation on drug interdiction and for the United States to allow Mexican trucks to travel on U.S. roads under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

He said the two countries must start any discussion in a climate of trust. "When history comes knocking on our doors, as it has done now, bold decisions are required," Fox said. "Let us make one today. Let us decide to trust one another."

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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In a brief news conference on the White House lawn, as Mexican President Vicente Fox and Bush left for a visit to Toledo, Ohio, Bush was asked how he would handle Mexican illegal aliens in the United States. He said he told Fox he was willing to consider a plan for a...
Thursday, 06 September 2001 12:00 AM
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