On Christmas Eve, the Washington Post published a front page story, headlined “Immigration Reform on Bush Agenda,” that implied that the President was pondering some form of amnesty for illegal aliens.
“Lobbyists working with the White House said Bush is developing a plan that would allow immigrants to cross the border legally if jobs are waiting for them,” reported the Post. “The sources said the administration also wants to provide a way for some undocumented workers in the United States to move toward legal status.”
“Bush,” the paper said, “will try to make the plan more palatable to conservatives by including stricter entry controls, including increased use of technology at the border and steps toward better enforcement of current visa restrictions and reporting requirements.”
The Post said the White House was formulating the plan in anticipation of the President’s trip to Mexico later this month. The report came on the heels of pro-legalization comments by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.
Bush said at a press conference December 15, “I have constantly said that we need to have an immigration policy that helps match any willing employer with any willing employee. It makes sense that that policy go forward, and we’re in the process of working that through now so I can make a recommendation to the Congress. Let me also clarify something. This administration is firmly against blanket amnesty.”
The White House has yet to reveal details of its plan, but Ridge told a Florida audience on December 9, “The bottom line is, as a country we have to come to grips with the presence of eight to 12 million illegals, afford them some kind of legal status some way. . . . I’m not saying make them citizens, because they violated the law to get here.”
But immigration experts speculated that the Bush plan might be modeled on the McCain-Flake-Kolbe amnesty bill introduced last year that would set up a “guest worker” program that would eventually allow illegal aliens to become citizens. Despite this probable result, backers of the bill typically deny it is an amnesty and instead call it a guest worker program. (See “Immigration Hawks: McCain-Flake Bill is Amnesty in Disguise”)