The highly emotional issue of immigration reform is about to come before the full U.S. Senate, and President Bush says the outcome of the Senate debate is crucial. Mr. Bush is urging lawmakers to conduct their debate in a dignified way, and pass a comprehensive reform package.
Few issues in the United States are as controversial as illegal immigration.
Everyone agrees there is a problem, but there is little consensus on the answer, and various proposals are vying for attention.
President Bush says the best way is a comprehensive approach that includes tougher border security, enhanced enforcement, and a guest worker program.
"A temporary worker program is vital to securing our border," Mr. Bush says. "By creating a separate legal channel for those entering America to do an honest day's labor, we would dramatically decrease the number of people trying to sneak back and forth across the border."
But there are members of Congress, including many from border states, who say a guest worker program is not the answer. Their view has dominated debate in the House of Representatives, where members voted last December to approve a plan that focuses on enforcement, and declares illegal immigration to be a felony.
With the Senate about to take up the issue, immigration advocates staged protests this past weekend in cities across the country. More than half a million demonstrators took to the streets in Los Angeles, with smaller rallies in places like Phoenix, Denver and Dallas.
President Bush says there are passions on all sides, and acknowledges the task of drafting immigration reform legislation is not easy. But he stresses it must be done.
"It will require all of us in Washington to make tough choices and make compromises," Mr. Bush says. "And that is exactly what the American people sent us here to do."
The president is urging all participants in the debate to keep their emotions in check, and warns against any attempts to inflame anti-immigrant passions in the country.
"The immigration debate should be conducted in a civil, dignified way," Mr. Bush says. "No one should play on people's fears or try to pit neighbors against each other. No one should pretend that immigrants are a threat to America's identity, because immigrants have shaped America's identity."
Mr. Bush made the remarks at a naturalization ceremony for a group of new American citizens.
He said as the nation deals with the issue of illegal immigration, it must balance two core values.
"All of you are here because you followed the rules and you waited your turn in the citizenship line," Mr. Bush says. "Yet some violate our immigration laws and enter our country illegally and that undermines the system for all of us. America should not have to choose between being a welcoming society and being a lawful society. We can be both at the same time."
He spoke as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee began consideration of several competing immigration proposals. Official deba