President Bush says the United States does not have full control of its border with Mexico, and he is dispatching 6,000 National Guard troops to toughen border security.
In a nationally-televised address from the White House late Monday, Mr. Bush said "the United States is not going to militarize the southern border." But he said the guard troops will provide intelligence and surveillance support for border patrols.
Mr. Bush also insisted that efforts to secure the border be coupled with a guest-worker program for undocumented immigrants already in this country. He said he rejects amnesty for illegal immigrants, but he also rejected mass deportations, calling instead for a path to earned citizenship.
Senator Richard Durbin gave the Democratic response, and warned that the National Guard is already stretched thin. He also said Mr. Bush must convince his fellow Republicans of the need for a guest worker program.
The Senate is currently debating immigration reform.
The House of Representatives in December passed an immigration reform bill which calls for building a fence along much of the border with Mexico. The House bill would also make felons out of millions of undocumented immigrants already in the United States.
In response to Mr. Bush's address, the Mexican Foreign Ministry said it has been assured that the U.S. measures do not imply a militarization of the border. However, the ministry expressed concern that these measures are "still not accompanied by sufficient advances in the legislative process" toward immigration reform.Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.