House Democrats and Republicans have found rare common ground on immigration—chastising the White House for failing to fund most of the 2,000 Border Patrol agents called for in last year’s intelligence-overhaul law.
In House and Senate hearings last week, Democrats took the lead in calling for Mr. Bush to rethink his budget proposal, which was submitted last month and funded only 210 of the new agents, and found themselves joined by Republicans in those calls.
“There isn’t a divide, and should not be a divide, on the question of terrorism and the potential for an attack on the American people. And that’s why I think, even today, the administration has an opportunity to reconsider their decision and change it,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary immigration, border security and claims subcommittee.
She said that the new agents are particularly important because of the increasing flow of so-called “OTM”—“other than Mexican”—illegal immigrants across the Mexican border.
With Mr. Bush pushing immigration “guest-worker” legislation near the top of his political agenda, Democrats appear to have found part of the issue on which they can run to the right of the president and possibly negate a key political advantage of his.
“They can attack him, because the one thing the president had to offer during that last election was he was perceived as being stronger when it came to national security, national defense, than was Kerry,” Rep. Tom Tancredo, the Colorado Republican who leads the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, said referring to Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, last year’s Democratic presidential nominee.
“If he loses that allure for the American public—combine it with all the other attacks being made on him—they believe they can clearly weaken his presidency. They can take away the one thing he has,” Mr. Tancredo said.