The battle over illegal aliens and homeland security is heating up in the nation’s capital, as President Bush is being challenged by fellow Republicans on the best course of action.
The president continues his effort to grant illegal aliens guest-worker status, while a leading member of his own party has introduced a get-tough crackdown dealing with driver’s licenses, political asylum, deportation and border security.
“I know there’s a compassionate, humane way to deal with this issue,” Bush said at a White House news conference.
“I want to remind people that family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River. People are coming to our country to do jobs that Americans won’t do, to be able to feed their families. And I think there’s a humane way to recognize that, at the same time protect our borders, and at the same way to make sure that we don’t disadvantage those who have stood in line for years to become a legal citizen. And I’m looking forward to working with people of both parties on the issue.”
While critics of the president’s plan have said his suggestions amount to amnesty for lawbreakers, the president denied that.
“On the other hand,” Bush noted, “I do want to recognize a system where a willing worker and a willing employer are able to come together in a way that enables people to find work without jeopardizing a job that an American would otherwise want to do.
“I also happen to believe immigration reform is necessary to help make it easier to protect our borders. The system right now spawns coyotes and smugglers and people willing to break the law to get people in our country. There is a vast network of kind of shadowy traffickers. And I believe by making a—by advancing a program that enables people to come into our country in a legal way to work for a period of time, for jobs that Americans won’t do, will help make it easier for us to secure our borders.”
The president’s comments come the same day a leading member of his own party announced sweeping measures aimed at cracking down on the ability of terrorists to travel within the United States.
The Real ID Act, introduced by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., looks to deny drivers licenses to illegal aliens, tighten the political asylum system abused by terrorists, plug a three-mile hole in the border fence between California and Mexico near San Diego, and strengthen deportation laws to more quickly oust foreign terrorists dwelling in the U.S.
“American citizens have the right to know who is in their country, that people are who they say they are, and that the name on a driver’s license is the holder’s real name, not some alias,” said Sensenbrenner, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee.
“The 9-11 hijackers could have used their passports to board the planes, but only one did. Why? Those murderers chose our driver’s licenses and state IDs as their forms of identification because these documents allowed them to blend in and not raise suspicion or concern. Mohammed Atta received a six-month visa to stay in the U.S. yet received a Florida driver’s license good for six years!”
He says the act, which has 115 cosponsors in the House, would establish a uniform rule that temporary driver’s licenses for foreign visitors expire when their visa terms expire, and create tough rules for confirming identity before temporary driver’s licenses are issued.
The standards for licenses include proof of lawful presence in the U.S., physical security requirements to reduce counterfeiting and mandatory compliance by all states “to eliminate weak links in domestic identity security.”
“I believe these common-sense provisions that enjoy such strong support among House members and the American people will receive similar levels of support from the Senate and White House,” Sensenbrenner said.
The American Civil Liberties Union wasted no time announcing its opposition.
“The Sensenbrenner legislation seeks to create significant hurdles to those suffering persecution in their home countries who seek the safe haven of American shores,” said Timothy Edgar, an ACLU legislative counsel. “The bill would do little to enhance our security, but it would undermine our national commitment to freedom and liberty.”
Opponents claim it forces states to deny driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants in violation of their own policies. They also suggest it would turn state motor-vehicle agencies into agents of the federal immigration service and would further the trend of transforming licenses into de facto national ID cards.
The ACLU believes the measure would lead to an increase in the number of unlicensed drivers, thus undermining public safety and prompting an increase in insurance rates for the public as a whole. It says local motor-vehicle employees lack training in federal immigration law, and are likely to rely on ethnic profiling based on notions of who “looks foreign.”
Estimates range from 8 million to 20 million so-called “undocumented” immigrants currently within the U.S.
As WorldNetDaily reported last week, a new survey of voters shows the top priority of Americans is the defense of U.S. borders and homeland security.
The provisions of the Real ID Act are not brand new, as they easily won approval last year in the House version of the intelligence bill, but were not included in the final approved version after opposition from the Senate.