President Bush says a Senate compromise on immigration reform will secure the nation's borders, restore respect for law and meet the needs of the U.S. economy. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, the bill faces opposition from some House Republicans.
In his weekly radio address, President Bush thanked Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate for coming together on legislation that he says includes all the elements required for comprehensive immigration reform.
Mr. Bush said the legislation will make it easier for employers to verify the immigration status of new workers. It creates a temporary worker program and helps resolve the status of some 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country without what the president calls animosity or amnesty.
"I realize that many hold strong convictions on this issue, and reaching an agreement was not easy," he said. "I appreciate the effort of Senators who came together to craft this important legislation. This bill brings us closer to an immigration system that enforces our laws and upholds the great American tradition of welcoming those who share our values and our love of freedom."
The president's past efforts to reform U.S. immigration laws were blocked by members of his own party in the House of Representatives who believe that offering illegal immigrants a means to regularize their status amounts to rewarding people who have broken the law.
The latest plan tries to address those concerns by requiring illegal immigrants to pass a strict background check, pay a fine, hold a job, maintain a clean criminal record, and eventually learn English. If they want to become citizens, they will have to pay an additional fine, pass a citizenship test, and return to their country to apply for a green card.
Beyond opposition from Republicans in the House, the plan is also dividing the ruling-party's presidential candidates. Arizona Senator John McCain backs the deal. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and most of the other Republican presidential hopefuls do not.
In the Democratic radio address, Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro called on the federal government to spend more money on child welfare, including funds for after school programs and health care for children from poor families.