President Bush yesterday told a crowd of supporters in Arizona that “we have an obligation to enforce the borders,” but did not mention his guest-worker proposal that would allow millions of illegal aliens to stay in the United States.
Mr. Bush vowed that the federal government would work closely with state governments to tackle the problem of illegal immigration.
“That’s the most effective way to do things, is to work with the state and local authorities. There are more resources that will be available; we’ll have more folks on the border; there will be more detention space to make sure that those who are stopped trying to illegally enter our country are able to be detained.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Bush plans a push on his second-term agenda priorities next month, including immigration. His guest-worker proposal would allow as many as 11 million illegal aliens to hold jobs Americans won’t take and apply for legal entrance into the United States while remaining in the country.
But the president is considering a change to his proposal—limiting guest-worker visas to those illegal aliens who came to the United States before February 2004. Those who arrived later would be deported.
Francis Harris, Telegraph (London), Aug. 25
The Bush administration has signalled a big policy reversal on illegal immigration, telling a worried public that it is “rightly distressed” about the nation’s porous borders.
The homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, made what amounted to a U-turn on immigration policy after months of rising pressure from congressmen and law enforcement officials.
Mr Chertoff appeared to bow in the direction of public opinion, which is increasingly restive over the unrestricted flood of people into the US.
“The American public is rightly distressed about a situation in which they feel we do not have the proper control over our borders,” he said.
Announcing a series of measures, Mr Chertoff said he would build camps for illegal migrants, speed up deportations by providing more judges and lawyers and raise the number of officers tracking down fugitives ignoring expulsion orders.
Last week, two border states declared emergencies, saying that tens of thousands of illegal migrants were bringing border security to the point of collapse. Drug smuggling and other criminal activity are also on the rise.
Mr Chertoff wrote to the governor of one of the border states, Arizona, and promised swift action. “We are moving forward quickly and aggressively to fashion a comprehensive plan with real solutions,” he said.
The administration’s promises were welcomed by Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who had complained that his police officers were being overwhelmed. “I am a bit more optimistic,” he told the New York Times.
At least a million people a year are entering the US illegally through the southern border with Mexico.
Until now, the administration has emphasised the need to legalise many of the 10 million illegal immigrants by offering them work papers.
But that has angered many congressmen, particularly Republicans, who face tough re-election battles next year. They have demanded stronger enforcement, which is what the Bush team is now promising.
Most polls indicate that more than 80 per cent of Americans believe border protection is too lax.
Congress and the White House have been unable to agree on new legislation, with legislators seeking tougher enforcement and President George W Bush’s aides seeking an amnesty for many of the illegals.
The stalemate has spurred a number of unofficial responses, including the Minutemen, a volunteer group that has stationed members along America’s 2,000-mile border with Mexico.
But Mr Chertoff said volunteer militias did not provide the answer. “The border is a very dangerous place. This is not a place for people to play as amateurs,” he said.
The American immigration system is close to collapse. This year, the federal authorities have caught almost 500,000 illegal migrants, with 142,000 from countries other than Mexico. That has forced officials to release many before they reach deportation hearings.
America already spends $7.3 billion (£4.2 billion) on border security, an increase of more than 50 per cent since the September 11 attacks.
But Right-wing critics say the only workable solution is to punish American firms employing illegal migrants.