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Bush seeks momentum for immigration overhaul

Reuters | April 9, 2007
Steve Holland

Engaged in a fierce debate with Democrats over Iraq, President George W. Bush will seek momentum on Monday for an overhaul of U.S. immigration law with his second visit in a year to a major border crossing.

His trip to Yuma, Arizona, comes as the immigrant community worries about a new approach circulated among Republican lawmakers and Bush administration officials last week that appeared to be aimed at placating conservative opponents.

The idea called for a new "Z" visa that would allow immigrant workers to apply for three-year work permits. They would cost $3,500 each time they are renewed, a major expense for low-income workers.

A White House official said the visa concept was among ideas discussed by the administration and Republican lawmakers and was not a formal plan.

It was scorned by thousands of people who marched in Los Angeles on Saturday, demanding government action to allow an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants to become citizens.

Bush, ending a long Easter weekend at his Texas ranch, will visit the U.S.-Mexico border crossing at Yuma for the second time since May. It had been the site of massive incursions by illegal immigrants, prompting a major increase in border security.

Bush wants an immigration deal with congressional leaders by August. His proposals to find a way to put illegal immigrants in a guest-worker program to give them a legal status have generally had more support from Democrats than Republicans.

But whether Democrats will be in any mood to help Bush reach a deal is uncertain. He is locked in a battle with them over a $100 billion funding request to pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In his remarks, Bush is expected to cite failures in past immigration policy as a reason for a new approach.

A 1986 law made it illegal for employers to hire illegal immigrants, but it has not worked well because it is relatively easy to get fake documents and some employers hire in violation of the law.

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