Bush orders use of National Guard to patrol Mexican border
WASHINGTON (AP): After months of partisan maneuvering, U.S. Senate passage of sweeping immigration legislation is virtually assured by Memorial Day.
That will scarcely end the struggle in Congress, given the vast differences between President George W. Bush and Republicans in the House of Representatives over the fate of millions of undocumented immigrants.
The substance of the Senate bill is unlikely to change significantly from the measure that was stuck in gridlock more than a month ago [the McCain-Kennedy Bill). It would include additional border security, a new guestworker program and provisions opening the way to eventual citizenship for many of the estimated 11-12 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
What changed was that after weeks of exchanging insults, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and the Democratic leader, Harry Reid, agreed on a procedural compromise that gives the bill’s critics ample opportunity to seek amendments. It also offers assurances to Democrats that Senate negotiators will not simply capitulate to the demands of House conservatives in talks on compromise legislation later in the year.
However briefly, almost everyone seemed pleased.
“We congratulate the Senate on reaching agreement, and we look forward to passage of a bill prior to Memorial Day,” said Dana Perino, deputy White House press secretary. Reid and Frist exchanged compliments on the Senate floor, and México’s foreign secretary issued a statement that called the deal a “positive step toward the approval of a migration accord.”
Everyone seemed pleased except House Republicans, many of whom criticize the Senate’s bill as “offering amnesty to lawbreakers.”
In political terms, Rep. J.D. Hayworth of Arizona and others said Republicans would pay a price in November’s congressional elections if they should vote for anything like the Senate legislation. “Many of those who have stood for the Republican Party for the last decade are not only angry, they will be absent in November,” he said.
Others believe that the Republicans will pay a price regardless, due to what many believe to be the draconian provisions of its House Bill HR 4437, passed on Dec. 16, 2005, which makes felons out of undocumented immigrants and those that assist them.
The political calculations are, likewise, different at the White House. Latinos comprise the nation’s fastest growing minority, according to this line of reasoning, and no political party can afford to be seen as blind or even hostile to their needs and the desire of their relatives to join them in the United States.
Looking ahead, the White House is searching for ways to assure Conservatives that the president understands their problems with the Senate legislation. White House strategist Karl Rove, who is under fire for leaking the identity of a CIA operative, met with lawmakers last week, and at least one session included a discussion about making greater use of National Guard troops to shore up border security.
• Bush to use National Guard to guard only Mexican Border
U.S. President George Bush announced Monday that he would use National Guard troops along the U.S.-Mexican border, aimed at keeping out undocumented immigrants.
Bush ignored the pleas of Mexican President Vicente Fox, who called Bush on Sunday.
The vast majority of Democrats are opposed to the use of the National Guard for border patrol, which would further burden an already overextended military—overtaxed with Iraq and other venues. So is Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
“We’ve got National Guard members on their second, third, and fourth tours in Iraq,” said Hagel. “We have stretched our military as thin as we have ever seen it in modern times.”
México is concerned that the United States is singling out México by its militarization of their border only.
Bush and top House Republicans reviewed the issue last week at a private White House meeting, according to several officials, and the president urged congressional Republican leaders to embrace his desire for comprehensive legislation. That means provisions to strengthen border security, coupled with a guestworker program that, while the president doesn’t say so in public, provides a chance at citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert and other leaders stressed that would be a hard sell with their members. Bush restated his desire for a comprehensive bill, and the leaders responded by noting the sentiment of the members, according to officials familiar with the conversation. They spoke on condition of anonymity, given the private nature of the meetings.
EDITOR’S NOTE: AP Writers David Espo and Nedra Pickler, and Rico de La Prensa contributed to this report.