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White House defends immigration reform deal

[JURIST] The White House over the weekend defended an immigration reform agreement [JURIST report] reached Thursday with key Republican and Democratic senators which has drawn opposition from both aisles of Congress, threatening what President Bush called a "secure, productive, orderly, and fair" [statement] proposal. The deal has been derided by some Republicans as amounting to "amnesty" for up to 12 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez [official profile] told CNN Sunday that for those critics "the only thing that would not be amnesty is mass deportation." DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff [official profile] meanwhile challenged critics to offer alternative solutions instead of simply saying "this isn't good enough." Bush himself championed the deal in his weekly radio address [transcript; recorded audio] Saturday, insisting that it contained "all the elements required for comprehensive immigration reform", specifically rejecting the "amnesty" characterization, and noting that the agreed reform would "require that strong border security and enforcement benchmarks are met before other elements of the legislation are implemented."

Democratic objections to the immigration reform [JURIST news archive] proposal have focused on its restrictions on the right of legal immigrants to be joined by their families and its preference for high-tech workers. Under the proposal, undocumented immigrants would be able to obtain a probationary card allowing them to live and work legally in the United States, but which would not place them on the road to permanent residency or citizenship. The proposal also seeks to create a temporary guest worker program that would be implemented once the borders are declared "secure." Up to 1.5 million migrant farm-workers can also obtain legal status through an "AgJobs" measure [bill materials], supported by Sen. Diana Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) [official websites]. AgJobs creates a five-year pilot program that would grant legal status to those who have worked in US farms for at least 150 days in the last two years. AFP has more.

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