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Bush Appeals to Skeptical Republicans to Back Immigration Bill


President Bush Tuesday made a rare visit to Capitol Hill to press senators of his own Republican party to support legislation overhauling the nation's immigration system. Opposition Republicans, concerned about border security and guest worker provisions in the bill, blocked the measure from coming to a vote in the Senate last week. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

After his meeting with Senate Republicans, President Bush acknowledged the divisions among lawmakers in his party over the issue of immigration reform.

"Some members in there believe we need to move a comprehensive bill, some don't. I understand that. It is a highly emotional issue," he said.

But Mr. Bush vowed that the White House would stay engaged with Congress on an issue that is a top priority for him.

"It's going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of effort," he said. "We've got to convince the American people that this bill is the best way to enforce our border. I believe without the bill that it's going to be harder to enforce the border. The status quo was unacceptable."

Besides securing the border, the bill would also create a temporary guest worker program and offer a path to citizenship for many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants now in the United States.

Some Republicans are skeptical that the measure would greatly improve border security, and many others argue the plan would amount to amnesty by offering citizenship to those who entered the country illegally.

President Bush said he hoped Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has the same desire to move the bill forward as he does.

But Reid told reporters most Democrats support the bill, and that it is up to the president to deliver Republican votes.

"We have done our job. It is not a question of Democrats doing anything," he said. "It is a question of Republicans supporting their own president."

The top Republican in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, was asked if President Bush managed to secure any more Republican support for the bill.

"I think a lot of that will depend on what it [the bill] looks like in the end," he said. "None of us knows that yet. So, it was a good give and take. We did not expect anybody to stand up and holler that they had an epiphany. We had a very good discussion about the issue."

Senator Reid could bring the bill to the Senate floor again as early as the end of next week, after senators complete energy legislation.

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