Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bush to grads: Push for immigration reform

MIAMI (AP) -- President Bush, pushing for a hard-to-find breakthrough on a broad immigration overhaul, appealed to graduating college students in this diverse city yesterday for help in persuading Congress to produce a bill.

Mr. Bush gave the commencement address at Miami Dade College, where more than half of the students were raised speaking a language other than English.

He gave the Class of 2007 an assignment: Tell their elected representatives in Washington to get going on immigration overhaul.

"You see every day the values of hard work and family and faith that immigrants bring," the president said.

"This experience gives you a special responsibility to make your voices heard."


The takeover of Congress by Democrats was supposed to be a boon to Mr. Bush's goal of a comprehensive immigration overhaul.

He wants to establish a temporary-worker program for some illegal aliens and to create a path to citizenship -- though a difficult one -- for many.

It was Mr. Bush's fellow Republicans who stymied his plans when they controlled Capitol Hill, saying his proposal was too lenient toward lawbreakers. But the Democrats' ascendance in January has not necessarily made the search for comprehensive reform easier.

The Senate passed a plan in May that tracked closely with Mr. Bush's wishes. The proposal died in the House, where tough new border-security measures were the priority. A bill authorizing 800 additional miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border was Congress' only accomplishment on immigration.

Since then, the White House has highlighted the effectiveness of stepped-up border enforcement while quietly seeking compromise on broader legislation.

So far, however, the only approach that has grown out of those initial talks would be tougher on illegal aliens than the Senate bill. Its path to citizenship would require fines, trips back home, long waits and hefty penalties.

Some conservatives still call this overly permissive. The president was hoping to give a lift to those efforts with the commencement address in Miami and also by devoting his weekly radio address yesterday to the topic.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, applauded the renewed attention from Mr. Bush. "Only a bipartisan bill will become law, and we are prepared to work with the president and our Republican colleagues to get the job done and get it done right," said Mr. Kennedy, a leader for his party on the issue.


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