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President Bush Pushes Immigration Reform

Two days after thousands of people rallied in several American cities to call for change in U.S. immigration laws, President Bush again spoke out for what he calls comprehensive reform. Members of the president's own Republican Party in the House of Representatives scuttled his efforts last year. But Mr. Bush today spoke optimistically of chances for action this year. VOA's Jim Fry reports:

May Day rallies in cities throughout the U.S. dramatized the passions that remain over the divisive issue.

Demonstrators mostly supported easing immigration laws and legalizing many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country.

Two days later, President Bush spoke out at a Washington D.C. church where immigrants learn English. Mr. Bush pointed to Franciso Lara, a political refugee from Nicaragua who is now a U.S. citizen, and told the audience, "Francisco said, 'When you learn English, doors open up for you.' And I appreciate that beautiful sentiment, because it is true. I strongly support comprehensive immigration reform."

Mr. Bush says those reforms should include not only tighter border security but also a guest worker program. He has proposed inviting a limited number of workers into the country each year.

Democrats in Congress last year also pushed for illegal immigrants to eventually earn citizenship. Opponents instead passed legislation to build a wall along the southwestern border of the U.S. .

In Los Angeles, police clashed with pro-immigration demonstrators Monday. Crowds gathered in New York City, and protesters expressed their impatience. One demonstrator, Enrique Lica, said, "Please, please, Mr. Bush or anybody that is listening. It is about time we do something about it."

In Chicago, at a downtown park, the city's mayor, Richard Daley, appealed for action. "When we look at the skyline, it was built by immigrants in the past and present and future. We will not be deterred by Democrats or Republicans. We want a compromise before the 2016 Olympic games in the City of Chicago. We want it now."

"I am looking forward to working with both Democrats and Republicans to get a comprehensive immigration bill done this year. We have a good chance to get it done" Mr. Bush said.

The White House and key lawmakers have been negotiating privately, seeking a compromise. But so far, no sign of an agreement.