[JURIST] US President George W. Bush on Monday evening announced the deployment of up to 6000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border as a prime element in a wide-ranging plan to 'fix' problems created by illegal immigration advanced in a nationally-televised address [transcript; recorded video; White House fact sheet] ahead of renewed Congressional debate [JURIST report] on immigration reform [JURIST news archive] legislation. Denying this was militarization of the border region, Bush said the initial troop deployment made in co-operation with state governors would only be for a year, and the deployment level would be reduced as new Border Patrol agents and new technologies came online. He also stressed the Guardsmen would be acting only in a supporting role by operating surveillance systems, analyzing intelligence, installing fences and vehicle barriers, building patrol roads, and would not be involved in direct law enforcement activities, potentially contrary to the Posse Comitatus Act [JURIST report].
The President also called on Congress to support and provide funding as necessary for a range of other immigration-related reforms, including
- ending the practice of "catch and release" of illegals inside the US for members of all nationalities - not just Mexicans and some others - caught crossing the southern border illegally;
- creating a temporary worker program;
- holding employers to account for the workers they hire, and requiring all legal foreign workers to carry a new biometric ID card;
- providing a path to citizenship for illegals short of "amnesty" after requiring them to pay a "meaningful penalty" for breaking the law.
An immigration reform bill needs to be comprehensive, because all elements of this problem must be addressed together, or none of them will be solved at all. The House has passed an immigration bill. The Senate should act by the end of this month so we can work out the differences between the two bills, and Congress can pass a comprehensive bill for me to sign into law.Debate on S 2454 [summary] stalled [JURIST report] last month, but key senators appear close to a final compromise on the proposal with a tentative agreement [JURIST report] last week to toughen rules on the hiring of illegal immigrants by forcing employers to check Social Security numbers and investigate the immigration status of potential employees. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has already called for a vote on the bill by Memorial Day.
The US House of Representatives passed [JURIST report] the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act [PDF text; bill summary] last year, a strict immigration control act that focuses on law enforcement by making unlawful presence in the US a felony subject to deportation, and that could punish humanitarian groups aiding the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the US.