President Bush is making a renewed push for legislation to reform the country's immigration laws, as members of Congress head back to Washington after a holiday recess. Mr. Bush went to California - a state with the largest immigrant population in the nation - to make his case.
The president went to a Republican stronghold in California to urge lawmakers from all points on the political spectrum to come together on immigration reform.
"It's a debate that requires clear, rational thought and it is really important for those of us in positions of responsibility to remember we are a nation of law, a welcoming nation, a nation that honors people's tradition no matter where they are from," said President Bush.
President Bush acknowledged Americans are torn about the best way to deal with the more than 11 million illegal immigrants now estimated to be in the country. The issue has spurred nationwide demonstrations in recent weeks. And as the president spoke to his audience at a Irvine, California hotel, protesters on all sides of the issue gathered nearby.
Mr. Bush said those who are worried about the security of U.S. borders have a legitimate concern. But he also expressed concern for the plight of illegal immigrants.
"I know this is an emotional debate," he said. "I understand it is emotional. But one thing we cannot lose sight of is that we are talking about human beings."
The debate over immigration reform has been often bitter, with some lawmakers calling for a crackdown on illegal immigrants, while others want to give them a path to citizenship.
Once again, Mr. Bush called for middle ground, urging Congress to combine steps to secure America's borders with a temporary worker program.
"It is really hard to enforce the border with people sneaking across to take jobs," said Mr. Bush. "Doesn't it make sense to have a rational temporary worker plan that says you don't need to sneak across the border?"
Senators tried and failed to agree on legislation before they left Washington for a two week holiday recess. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says they will try again in May and predicts this time they will succeed.