The Bush administration announced plans Friday to enlist state and local law enforcement in cracking down on illegal immigrants, which previously was largely a federal function.
The administration unveiled a series of tough border control and employer enforcement measures designed to make up for security provisions that failed when Congress rejected a broad rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws in June.
The package revealed Friday has 26 elements, and the administration announcement said they “represent steps the Administration can take within the boundaries of existing law to secure our borders more effectively, improve interior and worksite enforcement, streamline existing guest worker programs, improve the current immigration system, and help new immigrants assimilate into American culture.
After the announcement, President Bush released a statement in Kennebunkport, Maine, saying that despite the failure of Congress to pass a new law, his administration “will continue to take every possible step to build upon the progress already made in strengthening our borders, enforcing our worksite laws, keeping our economy well-supplied with vital workers, and helping new Americans learn English.”
As part of the new measures, the secretary of Homeland Security will deliver regular “State of the Border” reports beginning this fall.
In one of the most interesting revelations, the plans call for the administration to “train growing numbers of state and local law enforcement officers to identify and detain immigration offenders whom they encounter in the course of daily law enforcement.”
The announcement is aimed at restoring Bush’s credibility with conservatives who were dismayed that he pushed so hard for broad immigration reform, including a guest worker program for people now here illegally, before the border was more secure.
As part of the package, Bush is planning to increase muscle at the Mexican border, as conservatives have long pleaded.
Other elements of the package:
—The Department of Labor will reform the H-2A agriculture worker program so farmers can readily hire legal temporary workers, while protecting their rights.
—The Department of Labor will issue regulations streamlining the H-2B program for non-agricultural seasonal workers.
—The Department of Homeland Security will extend, from one year to three, the length of the NAFTA-created TN visa for professional workers from Canada and Mexico, removing the administrative hassle of annual renewals for these talented workers.
—The Office of Citizenship will unveil in September a revised naturalization test that emphasizes fundamentals of American democracy, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.
—The Office of Citizenship will introduce a Web-based electronic training program and convene eight regional training conferences for volunteers and adult educators who lead immigrants through the naturalization process.
—The Department of Education will develop a free, Web-based model to help immigrants learn English.