President Bush cannot push his guest-worker program for illegal immigrants and new foreign workers and still win reforms to Social Security or the tax code, congressional opponents said yesterday.
Last January, Mr. Bush proposed allowing foreign workers to apply for renewable three-year work permits. Illegal immigrants already in the United States would be eligible and would not have to face the deportation and waiting period before re-entering the country that the law now requires.
But soon after he made his proposal, the president’s aides faced tough criticism from Republican lawmakers at a retreat in Philadelphia, and Mr. Bush seemed to put the proposal on the back burner.
Mr. Bush faces a tricky legislative path in the House.
Rep. John Hostettler of Indiana, chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, who controls which bills reach the floor, all oppose granting legal status to illegal immigrants in the United States.
“And then you come to the rank-and-file guys,” Mr. Hayworth said, “who, on nine out of 10 items agree with the administration, this is the 10th item. And now, if it goes to number one on the priority list, it is the item where there will be serious debate and discussion and ultimately rejection of this initiative.”
One complication for the president is the Mexican government’s decision last month to publish a comic-book-style pamphlet giving pointers for how to cross the U.S. border and live illegally and undetected in the United States.
Mr. Tancredo said the pamphlet helps his cause because it will allow some guest-worker opponents who had been relatively silent an opportunity to stand up and be heard.
“It came at absolutely the best time for us and the worst time for them,” he said. “People who have felt this way for a long time but have bit their lip and have held their tongue now have a reason—they can be outraged.”