Rep. Tancredo Predicts GOP Immigration Clash

President Bush and House conservatives are on a collision course over the contentious issue of immigration reform, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R.-Colo.) said Thursday.

Tancredo, chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus and author of the REAL GUEST Act (HR 3333), said he expects Bush to embrace legislation drafted by Senators Teddy Kennedy (D.-Mass.) and John McCain (R.-Ariz.). Conservatives strongly oppose the bill, which Tancredo said is tantamount to amnesty.

Tancredo’s bill instead focuses on enforcement, particularly on companies that employ illegal immigrants. He said once illegal workers are denied jobs, they will no longer flood into the United States.

“If you stop illegal employment in this country—some big, high-profile cases with some large fines and maybe even one or two people go to jail—that would have a chilling effect on employers who are presently involved in that,” Tancredo told reporters Thursday.

Tancredo has attracted a powerful ally in House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R.-Tex.), who said last month that before Congress enacts any guest-worker program supported by Bush it must first strengthen enforcement.

“Any amnesty program put into place before that point would reward past criminality and encourage it in the future,” DeLay told the Fort Bend (Tex.) Republican Club on August 4. “It can only become part of the debate once our borders are actually secure.”

Republicans, however, remain divided. For instance, Senators John Cornyn (R.-Tex.) and Jon Kyl (R.-Ariz.) are sponsoring a bill that, while not as liberal as Kennedy-McCain, includes a guest-worker program similar to what Bush has requested.

Tancredo said he would rather have no bill than one granting amnesty, and he vowed he won’t back down from Bush. “Believe me, it will be one hell of a fight,” Tancredo said. “I guarantee you, I and everyone I can muster will be as aggressive as we can to stop it.”