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President Bush looks to revive immigration bill in Senate



"I think that the silver lining in this bill and the fact that we've debated this bill and the fact that he's pushed it so hard, it probably means there will never be a President John McCain," he said.

"This is becoming as big an issue for him as it is for me in a way," said Tancredo, who strongly opposed McCain on the immigration bill and has built his campaign around the issue. He said failure to get the bill through should send a message to McCain and his supporters, and claimed "This is sort of the death knell for John McCain's campaign."


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President Bush, referring to the nation's immigration situation "unacceptable", urged senators to try again to pass legislation that he described as imperfect but the best option available.

In his weekly Saturday radio address, Bush said the bill would not grant amnesty to illegal immigrants, that they would have to pay fines and take other steps to get on a path to legal status and possibly citizenship.

``Securing the border and upholding family values are not partisan concerns,'' the president said. ``They must be addressed, and this bill is the best way to do it.''

Georgia Senators withdraw from immigration compromise

Despite saying that amendments in recent days had only improved a bipartisan immigration compromise they helped write, Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson backed away from the measure and said Friday it wasn't "good enough for Georgia."

Facing blistering criticism from conservatives, the two Republicans never fully embraced the bill, which was pieced together by an improbable coalition of Democrats and Republicans after years of stalemate.

In a key procedural vote Thursday night, they parted with a handful of other Republicans who support the measure and helped block a final vote in the Senate.

The move to continue debate didn't necessarily kill the legislation. But it may have scuttled chances for keeping the fragile bipartisan coalition alive; Democratic leaders - accusing Republicans of stalling - said they would move on to other issues."This bill was not good enough yet for the people of Georgia," Isakson said in a release Friday. "We will continue our efforts."

Spokeswomen for the senators said they opposed ending debate because they wanted the chance to make it stronger, even though major changes would likely have blown up the compromise.

"We're not saying guarantee us the outcome of every vote. We're saying give us the vote," Isakson spokeswoman Joan Kirchner said.

"We started with a good concept and a good meeting of the minds but it is too critical an issue to just ram it through the process," Chambliss said in a statement.

Both senators have made clear that they don't like all aspects of the bill, which President Bush also supports. But they have insisted that it is far better than allowing the current system to continue and said it is the best compromise available.

Chambliss - just as he gears up for a re-election bid next year - has found himself in the unusual position of taking strong criticism from the right. He was booed at a state Republican convention last month, and conservatives have protested outside his offices in Georgia. Even his Democratic opponents have called Chambliss soft on the issue.

In an interview in his Capitol Hill office Thursday, he acknowledged that most of the feedback he's received has been negative - he spent part of an afternoon answering angry calls to his office recently. But he said the outrage frequently softens when he explains the proposal in detail.

Among other things, the bill would tighten borders while giving many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country a pathway to legal status.

It calls for illegal immigrants to register with the Homeland Security Department to get a temporary work visa or risk being deported. To get the so-called Z visa, which lasts four years and can be renewed, immigrants would have to pay a $1,000 fine, up to a $1,500 processing fee and a $500 state impact fee. They also must show they are trying to learn English and pass a background check.

To become legal permanent residents, immigrants would be required to return to their home countries and get in line to apply, a process that could take years.

"Pull out any dictionary and look at the definition of amnesty and it says complete forgiveness for an offense," Chambliss said. "Here we're not forgiving anything. We're telling these people the first thing they've got to do is step forward and say you've violated the law, and pay a $1,000 fine specifically for violating the law ... the status quo is amnesty."

Chambliss and Isakson were among 38 Republicans to vote against moving to final vote on the bill. Seven Republicans supported the move, including John McCain of Arizona.

 

 

Bush recorded his address Friday in Germany where he was attending a summit with other world leaders.

The White House and a bipartisan group of senators drafted the wide-ranging bill, but they could not overcome steady attacks from the left and right during weeks of Senate wrangling. When the Senate failed Thursday to end debate and schedule a vote, Democratic leaders set the bill aside with no promise of reviving it.

Bush plans to lunch with Republican senators in the Capitol on Tuesday, part of a more hands-on approach to persuading party conservatives that the compromise bill is much better than the status quo.

In his radio address, Bush acknowledged mistakes in handling immigration and pledged to improve the bill as it moves through Congress.

``Today, illegal immigration is supported by criminal enterprises dedicated to document forgery, human trafficking, and labor exploitation,'' he said. ``This is unacceptable, and we need to fix it in a way that honors our finest traditions.''

He said the bill ``puts border security first, establishes a temporary worker program to meet the legitimate needs of our growing economy, sets up a mandatory system for verifying employment eligibility, and resolves the status of the estimated 12 million people who are here illegally.''

Conceding that a 1986 immigration overhaul largely failed, the president said his administration ``is determined to learn from the mistakes of the past decades.'' The bill would double the number of Border Patrol agents, he said, build more border fences and employ infrared sensors and unmanned aircraft to detect illegal border-crossers.

``Unlike the 1986 law, this bill gives honest employers the tools they need to ensure that they are hiring legal workers,'' Bush said, including ``a tamper-resistant identity card.'' Businesses that ``knowingly hire illegal aliens will be punished,'' he said.

Addressing the word that has rallied the bill's opponents, the president said: ``Amnesty is forgiveness with no penalty for people who have broken our laws to get here.'' The bill, he said, ``requires illegal workers to pay a fine, register with the government, undergo background checks, pay their back taxes, and hold a steady job.''

If those immigrants eventually want a green card for permanent residence, he said, they will have to pay another fine, learn English ``and return to their home country so they can apply from there.''

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