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Bush Calls for 'Comprehensive' Immigration Reform

President Bush has called on Congress to make new efforts at immigration reform. VOA's Brian Wagner reports that Mr. Bush made the call in a speech to college graduates in Miami.

President Bush congratulated graduates and their families during the commencement ceremony at Miami Dade College.

The president noted the area has one of the largest immigrant populations, and that more than half of the students at the community college were raised speaking a language other than English. "This diversity is one of the great strengths of this city, it is one of the great strengths of this college, and it is one of the great strengths of America," he said.

Mr. Bush urged graduates to strive to achieve their dreams, and he asked them to speak out on issues that matter to them. He said residents in the mostly Hispanic community have a special responsibility to raise their voices on the issue of immigration reform. "We need a system where our laws are respected. We need a system that meets the legitimate needs of our economy. And we need a system that treats people with dignity and helps newcomers assimilate into our society," he said.

President Bush has been pressing lawmakers in Congress to propose reforms that will address concerns about the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States.

Last year, members of the president's Republican party in the House of Representatives blocked efforts to vote a comprehensive reform bill. Instead, lawmakers approved a measure that extended border barriers and increased other security measures.

President Bush says he backs improving border security as part of wider reform efforts. But he said any comprehensive deal must include a guest worker program and measures to resolve the status of some 12 million illegal immigrants living in the country. "We must address all elements of this problem together - or none of them will be solved at all," he said.

In an earlier speech Saturday, Mr. Bush suggested he is gaining support from lawmakers who opposed earlier comprehensive reform proposals.

The Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, has said he plans to hold a debate on immigration proposals next month. Members of the House are expected to discuss the issue in the coming weeks.

Mr. Bush also used the speech in Miami to send a message to the area's large Cuban-American population, and to residents of Communist-ruled Cuba. Referring to Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the president said the reign of every tyrant comes to an end, and the desire for freedom is never-ending.

Mr. Castro has been recovering from stomach surgery he underwent last year, when he handed power to his brother, Raul. It is unclear whether he will resume his full duties as president.