Meeting opposition in both major parties, President Bush’s plan to ease immigration laws goes nowhere in Congress.
Ron Hutcheson, herald.com (Miami), Mar. 4
LOS ANGELES — President Bush’s plan to ease immigration laws is dead on arrival in Congress, doomed by opposition from Republicans who think it goes too far and Democrats who think it doesn’t go far enough.
Although White House officials had hoped the plan would boost Bush’s standing with Hispanics, it has turned out to be a flop. Some of the strongest opposition comes from the president’s fellow Republicans, especially in California and other states with large immigrant populations.
The hostile reaction will put Bush in an awkward position when he welcomes Mexican President Vicente Fox for a two-day visit to his Texas ranch starting Friday. Two months after Bush announced his intention to ease immigration laws, he has little to show for it other than criticism.
The White House plan would let an estimated eight million workers who are in the country illegally gain legal status as part of a new guest-worker program. Immigrants would receive temporary work visas for up to three years at a time, with a still-to-be-determined number of extensions.
”It was an absolute flop,” said Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., an outspoken opponent of the president’s plan. ”His proposal is going nowhere.”
Even those who are sympathetic to Bush’s approach agree that it won’t pass Congress this year. Frank Sharry, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, an organization that favors less-restrictive immigration laws, said the president needs a second term to have any hope of pushing his idea through Congress.
Democrats and leading Hispanic organizations criticized the plan for failing to put illegal workers on a fast track to citizenship. Instead, the president insisted that the workers eventually return to their home countries.
The temporary-visa proposal also failed to calm critics at the other end of the ideological spectrum, who see it as an open-door policy for illegal workers. The issue is particularly sensitive in California, the top destination for illegal immigrants.
Mike Spence, the president of the California Republican Assembly, which bills itself as the state’s largest Republican volunteer organization, said many California Republicans considered the proposal an amnesty plan for illegal workers.
The opposition isn’t limited to California Republicans. A nationwide Gallup poll conducted shortly after the president announced his plan found that 55 percent of Americans opposed it. Hispanics were more receptive, but hardly unanimous in their support.
Another poll, by Bendixen & Associates, a Miami-based firm, found Hispanics evenly divided: 45 percent in favor, 45 percent opposed and 10 percent undecided.
Both polls had a margin of error of three percentage points.
White House aides said Bush wouldn’t back down.
”It’s an important priority for the president,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. “This is about addressing an important economic need. It’s also about bringing about a more humane migration policy. He remains firmly committed to it.”