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Bush urges Congress to reach consensus on immigration reform bill

[JURIST] US President Bush on Thursday urged Congress to negotiate a comprehensive immigration reform bill [JURIST news archive] that recognizes that "America can be a lawful society and America can be a welcoming society at the same time." In a speech at the US Chamber of Commerce [group website], Bush said that the final immigration reform bill should include a temporary worker program and provide steps for illegal immigrants to obtain eventual citizenship. The Chamber of Commerce backs [press release] the Senate's Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act [PDF text; S. 2611 summary] and, like President Bush, supports a pathway to citizenship [USCC materials] for law-abiding illegal immigrants and a guest-worker program. Bush said of the controversial pathway to citizenship provision:

There's a rational middle ground between granting an automatic path to citizenship for every illegal immigrant and a program that requires every illegal immigrant to leave. The middle ground recognizes there are differences between an illegal immigrant who crossed the border recently, and someone who has worked here for many years who's got a home, a family, and a clean record. My position is clear: I believe that illegal immigrants who have roots in our country and who want to stay should have to pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law, to pay their taxes, to learn English, and to work in a job for a number of years. People who meet these conditions should be eventually permitted to apply for citizenship like other foreign workers. But approval would not be automatic. They would have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law. This isn't amnesty. It is a practical and reasonable way for those who have broken the law to pay their debt to society and demonstrate the character that makes a good citizen.
Bush also emphasized the need for secure borders, noting the need for increased funding for detention facilities [JURIST report], and called for a temporary guest worker program and for stiffer penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants.

The Senate bill was passed [JURIST report] earlier this month, and must be reconciled with the more conservative, enforcement-oriented Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act [PDF text; HR 4437 summary] that was narrowly approved by the House [JURIST report] last year. AP has more.

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