Come Home, Mr. President

President Bush will deliver a televised address to the nation tonight on immigration policy. It is his first address from the Oval Office on immigration, and if it not successful, it may be his last.

In this speech, the President needs to do three things to accomplish his goals. There is a road to consensus and success if the President will take it. It is not only a path to consensus — it is a path to success for the Republican Party in November.

In his Monday speech, the President needs to make a clear break from previous speeches on the topic and come home to Republican Party principles. He needs to stop pandering to perceived voting blocs and employer lobbies and speak to the one thing all Americans agree upon: No immigration policy is workable without secure borders.

The President needs to speak to the nation as fellow citizens, not ethnic or economic groups, and tell them America will have secure borders that stop all illegal entry into our country. He needs to announce that he will federalize the National Guard in four border states to provide support to the beleaguered Border Patrol. He needs to say this will happen tomorrow morning, not next month or next year.

The second thing the President must do is explicitly separate the priority and necessity of secure borders from all other proposed federal legislation. Secure borders do not depend on a “comprehensive” immigration reform package that includes amnesty and a new temporary worker program. Secure borders are a prerequisite for any new immigration legislation, not a component to be bartered away for increased immigration numbers or new visa rules.

The third thing the President’s speech should do is to avoid any mention of amnesty for illegal aliens already in the country. No matter how cleverly he defines his “legalized status” proposal as not being amnesty, it is still amnesty and everyone knows it.

Americans are not in a mood to negotiate the matter of “regularization” for 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens — and Newt Gingrich has pointed out the amnesty would ultimately legalize up to 36 million — until they see we have in fact achieved secure borders. Once that is done, once our laws are being enforced, then we can begin to discuss the problem of how to deal with the millions of illegal aliens already living here.

I hope the President and his advisers are perceptive enough to see that this course of action is the only one that will achieve all of his goals. It will unify the Republican Party. It will stop the flood of illegals aliens crossing our borders. And perhaps most importantly, it will point America in a positive direction for immigration policy and set a foundation for future reform. To be sure, it will not solve all of our immigration-related problems — but it will be a much-needed and long overdue start.

A new beginning is what we desperately need, and the President’s speech can do that if it is based on candor, on Republican principles and the priority of secure borders. Anything less will not only not be a new beginning, it may very well be the end of Republican coherence and credibility.