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Whitehouse Whitewash: Bush rules out amnesty for undocumented workers

AFP | March 22, 2006

President George W. Bush said he was opposed to amnesty or automatic citizenship for the some 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Amid an intense debate over the issue among US lawmakers, Bush on Tuesday ruled out amnesty for illegal immigrants but said he favored a "guest worker" program that would provide legal status for workers for a limited time period.

"In my judgment, amnesty would be the wrong course of action," Bush told a news conference.

He said "a whole industry" of exploitation had emerged with workers being smuggled across the US border in dangerous conditions.

"The best way to do something about it is to say that if an American won't do a job and you can find somebody who will do the job, they ought to be allowed to do it legally on a temporary basis," Bush said.

Asked about those undocumented workers who have lived in the US for more than a decade, Bush said: "One of the issues is going to be to deal with somebody whose family has been here for a while, raised a family, and that'll be an interesting debate.

"My answer is: That person shouldn't get automatic citizenship."

Bush's comments came as a showdown looms in Congress over rival proposals on immigration reform and a day after the Mexican government bought full-page advertisements in major US newspapers to set out their stance on the issue.

"Mexico does not promote undocumented migration," the advertisement read in the New York Times and other newspapers.

Mexico supports "a safe, orderly guest worker program" but acknowledges the need for incentives such as housing credits to encourage the return of temporary workers to Mexico, said the advertisement, which was based on a document produced by Mexican legislators, government officials, academics and other experts.

"A guest worker program designed to process the legal temporary flow of workers will allow Mexico and the United States to better comabt criminal organizations specialized in the smuggling of migrants and the use of false documents...," the advertisement said.

The issue has split Bush's fellow Republicans in Congress, some of whom have pushed for strict enforcement measures on the US-Mexico border without providing the possibility of legalizing those undocumented workers already settled in the United States.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has yet to agree on reforms while the House of Representatives has already voted for the construction of a wall along the US border with Mexico to stop illegal immigration, as well as severe penalties for violations of immigration laws.

Bush warned that illegal immigration was "an emotional issue" and if the debate was "not conducted properly," it would "send signals that I don't think will befit the nation's history and traditions."



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