President Bush yesterday said he wants the House and Senate to pass immigration bills by August but said the U.S. will continue to send home illegal aliens caught in the meantime, disappointing his Guatemalan hosts who wanted all deportations to end.
“The United States will enforce our law. It’s against the law to hire somebody who’s in our country illegally, and we are a nation of law,” Mr. Bush said.
He said his plan is to find a bill “most Republicans are comfortable with” in the Senate, then begin working with Democrats in the Senate, before turning to the House.
But he received an earful from Guatemalan President Oscar Berger, who said he was worried Guatemalans are being deported “without clear justification,” based on a raid at a leather goods factory last week in Massachusetts.
“The Guatemalan people would have preferred a more clear and positive response no more deportations, so to say,” he said, according to a translation of his remarks at a joint press conference with Mr. Bush.
“I am a ‘If they break the law, arrest them,’ person,” Mr. Bush said.
But moments later, the press conference discussion turned back to its dominant topic Mr. Bush’s plan to legalize most of the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens in the U.S., with three of four questions touching on the issue.
One Guatemalan reporter charged the U.S. with showing a “lack of respect for the rights of Guatemalan immigrants.” The reporter asked why deportations can’t be suspended because Mr. Bush expects to sign a bill that will legalize most illegal aliens.
Last week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided a Michael Bianco Inc. leather goods factory in New Bedford, Mass., netting more than 350 illegal aliens, many of them Guatemalans. They are now being detained as they await immigration proceedings.
“The deportations took place as a result of law enforcement enforcing the law,” Mr. Bush said. “They didn’t say ‘Well maybe there’s Guatemalans there, let’s go and get them.’“
Mr. Bush said the fact that Guatemalans are asking about deportations shows that his efforts to boost enforcement work.