House GOP vows to defy Bush on ‘amnesty’ plan

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Charles Hurt

House Repub­li­cans op­posed to amnesty on Jan. 24 vowed to fight Pres­i­dent Bush’s pro­posal to le­gal­ize mil­lions of il­le­gal aliens as out­lined in his State of the Union ad­dress on Jan. 23.

“The pres­i­dent worked hard to get a Congress that agrees with him on this and now he’s got it,” said Rep. Tom Tan­credo, Colorado Repub­li­can, in ref­er­ence to the Demo­cratic takeover of both cham­bers of Congress in the Novem­ber elec­tions. “But we’re still go­ing to fight him on it.”

Mr. Bush on Jan. 23 reis­sued his call to wel­come for­eign­ers with a guest-worker plan, and he called for a path to cit­i­zen­ship for mil­lions of those here il­le­gally.

“We need to up­hold the great tra­di­tion of the melt­ing pot that wel­comes and as­sim­i­lates new ar­rivals,” Mr. Bush said in his speech to un­even ap­plause. “We need to re- solve the sta­tus of the il­le­gal im­mi­grants who are al­ready in our coun­try, with­out an­i­mos­ity and with­out amnesty.”

More Democrats than Repub­li­cans rose in ap­plause.

Mr. Tan­credo, a long­time ad­vo­ca­teof im­mi­gra­tion re­form, termed the re­frain “same song, sec­ond verse.”

“It’s the same thing we’ve been hear­ing from the pres­i­dent for a long time,” he said.

Rep. Sam John­son, Texas Repub­li­can, called Mr. Bush’s im­mi­gra­tion pro­posal “empty and im­plau­si­ble.”

“I’m sens­ing a real lack of com­mit­ment to com­bat­ing il­le­gal

im­mi­gra­tion,” he said.

Mr. John­son said he has seen lit­tle ev­i­dence in Texas that the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to stop il­le­gal en­try are work­ing.

“Our borders are out of con­trol,” he said. “Il­le­gal im­mi­grants are run­ning free across the borders.”

Sen. Ed­ward M. Kennedy, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat, wel­comed “the pres­i­dent’s re­newed com­mit­ment” to com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form.

“The pres­i­dent has been a leader on this is­sue and I am hope­ful that he will con­tinue his ef­forts with mem­ber­sofhis­par­tysothatwe­can pass leg­is­la­tion that will solve the prob­lem once and for all,” he said af­ter the ad­dress.

For House Repub­li­cans, Mr. Kennedy’s stamp of ap­proval was proof that Mr. Bush does not share their con­cerns.

“Onceagain,we­seethep­res­i­dent is push­ing amnesty,” said Rep. Ed Royce, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can. “The pres­i­dent claims this is not amnesty, but the very def­i­ni­tion of amnesty is chang­ing some­one’s sta­tus from il- le­gal to le­gal. As a mat­ter of na­tional se­cu­rity, we need an im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem that is sound, and this one is not.”

As ev­i­dence of its stand against il­le­gal en­try, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has an­nounced raids on busi­nesses that hired il­le­gal aliens.

“I think they were just for the pur­poses of rhetoric so the pres­i­dent could say he was do­ing some­thing,” Mr. Tan­credo said, adding that he has fol­lowed up with those em­ploy­ers and learned that the il­le­gals have been al­most en­tirely re­placed with, pre­sum­ably, le­gal cit­i­zenswho­had­been­look­ing­for­work.

“If th­ese raids prove any­thing, it’s that we do not need a guest-worker pro­gram,” he said.

Mr. Tan­credo said farm­ers are hir­ing il­le­gals de­spite a fed­eral guest-worker pro­gram al­ready in place be­cause of the cum­ber­some re­quire­ments to pay cer­tain rates and pro­vide cer­tain liv­ing con­di­tions.

“Why shouldn’t they ig­nore it?” Mr. Tan­credo said. “Their own gov­ern­ment ig­nores it.”

He­saidHouseRepub­li­can­shave “lost a lot of mo­men­tum” since push­ing through a bill last year to con­struct about 800 miles of fenc­ing along the U.S.-Mex­ico border.

“It’s back to play­ing de­fense, I sup­pose, but that’s a role I’ve played for six or seven years,” he said.

Mr. Tan­credo has an­nounced the for­ma­tion of a pres­i­den­tial ex­ploratory com­mit­tee, which he con­sid­ers a good ve­hi­cle to con­tinue his cru­sade while in the mi­nor­ity party.

He hopes to pull off a sur­prise vic­tory on the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign trail and per­haps with an amnesty bill in the House.

“There are enough [con­ser­va­tive Democrats] to cre­ate a pretty sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem for the new ma­jor­ity,” he said with a broad smile. “A lot of them cam­paigned on our side of this is­sue and would have a lot of ex­plain­ing to do back home.”

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