U.S. Vows to Get Tough on Illegal Immigrants
Lornet Turnbull, Seattle Times, Jan. 30
The U.S. government would intensify efforts to track down and deport illegal immigrants who choose not to participate in the kind of temporary-worker program outlined this month by President Bush, the nation’s top immigration official said yesterday.
In Seattle, Eduardo Aguirre Jr., director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the president’s proposal is a chance for an estimated 8 million illegal immigrants to come clean.
But if they don’t, “we will find those who are not taking advantage of the law,” he said. “Their numbers will be smaller. There will be a greater probability of deportation.
“They are better served by registering with the program than running the risk of being caught.”
Confirmed last summer by the U.S. Senate to this key Department of Homeland Security position, Aguirre is visiting division employees while talking up the president’s immigration plan.
Himself an immigrant, Aguirre came from Cuba in the early 1960s as part of Operation Pedro Pan — a secret U.S. Government-backed mission to remove middle-class Cuban children from the Communist regime. Organized by Catholic Charities, it remains one of the largest exoduses of unaccompanied minors in history — and one of the least known.
Aguirre’s Seattle stop comes in the same week House Democrats outlined a measure that would exceed Bush’s plan by establishing a pathway to permanent residency and eventual citizenship for certain illegal immigrants.
Immigrant advocates, as well as those who favor stricter immigration controls, have denounced the Bush plan as inadequate in repairing the nation’s beleaguered immigration system.
Bush’s proposal would match employers with foreign workers when U.S. citizens couldn’t be found to fill the jobs. It would allow illegal immigrants now employed to temporarily become legal, able to travel home to visit family without fear of being denied re-entry.
A national survey of Latinos released yesterday shows that while a majority support the president’s proposal, that support dropped once they learned that immigrant workers would have to go back home once their legal status expired.
“The plan is not intended to reward illegal behavior,” Aguirre said yesterday. “It gives people who have broken the law an opportunity to work legally and not be concerned about being picked up tomorrow and sent home.”