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President Paying Price For Immigration Plan Poll: Hispanics Divided GOP Senators, Officials Back Alien Proposal Outcry On Right Over Bush Plan Hits Blockade In Congress
Bush's Immigration Plan Hurts Re-Election War Chest
By Bill Sammon
January 16, 2004
President Bush's immigration initiative has angered conservative Republicans so much that some are refusing to donate to his re-election campaign, according to a Bush fund-raiser in Georgia.
Phil Kent, a member of the host committee for a Bush fund-raiser in Atlanta yesterday, said he was told by several would-be donors that they would not attend the $2,000-per-person event because of the president's announcement last week on immigration reform.
"I was soliciting checks right after the announcement, and I lost two checks from people who had wanted to come, but wouldn't," Mr. Kent said. "They specifically said this is just rewarding lawbreakers.
"That was the constant theme," he added. "And even among some people who wrote the checks, there's grumbling."
Mr. Bush's initiative would allow millions of illegal aliens to remain in the United States as guest workers if they have jobs. The immigrants eventually could apply for permanent legal residence.
"The vast majority of Georgians black and white, I might add don't like this because it's perceived as amnesty for illegal immigrants," Mr. Kent said, shortly before greeting the president at the fund-raiser. "And I intend to tell him so, not just because it doesn't help him with money, but because it's wrongheaded policy."
Asked what he specifically would tell the president, Mr. Kent said: "I think you're a great president, but, boy, I think you're wrong on amnesty for illegals."
A Bush campaign official declined to criticize Mr. Kent, but said of his complaint: "I'm not sure it's that big a deal."
"Fundamentally, this is a tough decision the president made to address a tough issue," the official said. "And it's a decision based on policy concerns, not political concerns."
Interviews with attendees at last night's fund-raisers revealed a mix of opinions.
Gerry Lynn Warner, who works for an Atlanta assisted-living equipment company, said although he opposed the immigration initiative, he was even more opposed to the idea of supporting a Democratic candidate, such as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. So, Mr. Warner donated the $2,000 to the president.
"I don't agree with everything he does, and I think it would be a mistake to do what he has proposed," Mr. Warner said. "In business, you have to support the guy you think is going to win."
Jim V. Schrull of Horton Automotive, who also gave $2,000 to the campaign, said the president's proposal was not a factor in his decision to contribute.
"I'm pleased with the proposal. I actually think it's a good thing," Mr. Schrull said. Opponents of the plan, he said, "are either misinformed or uninformed."
But those opponents include Rep. Johnny Isakson, Georgia Republican, who is considered the front-runner in the campaign to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Zell Miller.
"I have great respect for President Bush and the leadership he has provided over the last four years," Mr. Isakson said in a statement. "I have serious concerns, however, over recent policy announcements with regard to undocumented workers and illegal aliens."
He said the president's proposal would cause an increase in illegal immigration.
"We must not reward past illegal activity or encourage it in the future," he said. "I do believe a complete overhaul of our nation's immigration system is critical. Any reform must begin with strict enforcement of current laws and better security at our borders."
Also opposing the immigration initiative are the three Republicans who are vying to fill Mr. Isakson's seat in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, which once was held by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Ironically, much of the grumbling from Republicans came during a fund-raiser at which Mr. Bush was introduced by a Democrat Mr. Miller. The senator, who is retiring at the end of the year, called the president "a great leader with a good heart and a spine of steel."
"The more I see of this leader, my respect and my support just continue to grow," he said. "And I can guarantee you that I will not be the only Democrat working for his re-election."
Joseph Curl contributed to this report in Atlanta.
Bush's Worker Plan Divides Hispanics, Poll Finds
By DAVID OVALLE
January 29, 2004
President Bush's proposal to give temporary legal status to millions of undocumented workers has drawn lukewarm support among Hispanics, the group likely to be most impacted by any changes in immigration law, according to a national poll released Thursday.
About 42 percent of Latinos vaguely familiar with the plan supported Bush's proposal, 20 percent opposed it and 38 percent said they did know about the plan or did not have enough information to have an opinion.
But opposition to the plan, which Bush announced Jan. 7, surged when those polled were told that the plan would eventually require most temporary workers to return their native countries. Knowing that, 45 percent of Hispanics supported the plan, but the same percentage opposed it.
The telephone poll of 800 Hispanics was conducted in English and Spanish, included legal and undocumented respondents, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. It was conducted by Bendixen & Associates, a Miami-based polling firm, between Jan. 20 and 26.
''We saw a very, very strong shift in public opinion when we informed them about the major elements of the proposal,'' said Sergio Bendixen, whose firm conducted the poll for New California Media, an association of more than 700 ethnic media organizations.
Bush proposed creating a program to allow undocumented people already working here and foreigners who can prove they have jobs awaiting them in the United States to apply for temporary legal status that would allow them to remain in the United States for up to six years.
Under his proposal, they could apply for legal permanent residence. But because there are limited number of green cards each year, many of those people would be forced to return to their native lands.
Bendixen, in a conference call on Thursday afternoon, called the six-year window fo obtaining residency the ''Achilles heel'' in Bush's plan.
More than six of 10 Hispanics polled said Bush's plan was an election year ploy intended to curry Hispanic votes. Bush's proposal, however, had no impact on his approval ratings among Latinos, according to the poll.
Also, respondents were overwhelming in their support for an alternative proposal pushed recently by Hispanic members of Congress that would offer a clearer path to permanent residency.
Eighty-five percent said they approved of such a proposal, which is similar to legislation proposed recently by Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. and Sen. Tom Daschel, D-S.D.
For poll results, go to www.ncmonline.com/polls.
GOP Senators, Officials Back Alien Proposal
By Jerry Seper
February 13, 2004
The administration rolled out its top immigration officials and several senior Republican senators yesterday to endorse publicly a guest-worker program offered by President Bush that could give legal status to the 8 million to 12 million illegal aliens now in the United States.
One by one, the officials and the senators told the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, border security and citizenship that the Bush plan, outlined Jan. 7, would fix a broken immigration system, allow U.S. businesses to hire needed workers, bring illegal aliens into the mainstream economy and assure greater homeland security.
The president's proposal, which some Republicans say rewards lawbreakers and could lead to an election-year backlash from Republican voters against Mr. Bush, even drew support from Democrats.
"In announcing his proposal, President Bush recognized America's proud tradition of welcoming immigrants," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the subcommittee's ranking Democrat. "He acknowledged the essential role that immigrants have had and continue to have in our nation's life."
Average Americans disagree more with government officials and other "elites" on immigration than any other foreign-policy issue. A January Zogby poll shows 74 percent of respondents oppose aiding undocumented workers.
During a packed subcommittee hearing in the newly reopened Dirksen building, Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for border and transportation security for the Department of Homeland Security, said the program was "a bold step, aimed at reforming our immigration laws, matching willing workers with willing employers and securing our homeland.
"Passing a temporary-worker program that works to benefit the American economy while bringing integrity to our immigration system is a reasonable goal for all of us," Mr. Hutchinson said.
Labor Department Deputy Secretary Steven Law said the Bush proposal would "bring undocumented workers out of the shadows into the mainstream economy, allowing them to more easily establish credit, invest and purchase items like appliances, homes and automobiles."
Critics, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports limited immigration, say passage of the Bush proposal will reward lawbreakers by allowing foreign nationals who illegally entered the United States to remain without penalty. They add that it will encourage future illegal immigration.
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said America's borders would not be secure "until we supply willing employers with willing workers," while Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican, said the "only way" to solve the nation's immigration problem was to "create a dynamic program that recognizes the need for foreign nationals to come to this country to work."
Last month, Mr. Bush proposed, as a set of principles and not specific legislation, a broad temporary-worker program that would allow millions of illegal aliens now in the United States to remain during renewable three-year periods without penalty and, eventually, to apply for permanent legal residence.
Illegal aliens who could prove they were employed in this country on Jan. 7, the day the program was announced, could stay, even returning to their home countries and then coming back to their U.S. jobs.
The White House painstakingly has denied that the program offers "blanket amnesty," even though the aliens who gained entry to the United States illegally to obtain jobs often with phony identification documents will face no penalties.
Subcommittee chairman, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican, called for a "total overhaul" of the nation's immigration policies, saying the country needs to meet national-security requirements, economic interests and a manageable policy for how many foreign nationals are admitted each year.
"Many U.S. employers of aliens have difficulties in finding Americans to fill jobs performed by illegal aliens," he said. "Employers also have difficulty in determining who is legal and who is illegal due to the lack of verifiable documentation in the hiring process.
"This wink-and-nod cycle contributing to hiring illegal aliens must stop, while still providing a method for U.S. employers to gain access to the workers they need," he said.
Building on the "framework" outlined by the Bush guest-worker program, Mr. Chambliss said Congress needs to begin a legislative process toward immigration reform that would include:
Sufficient resources to guarantee increased border security and interior enforcement, along with added penalties for employers who hire illegal aliens and for foreign nationals illegally in the country who do not work.
A guest-worker program for foreign nations in the United States who have temporary jobs, as long as they do not displace U.S. workers.
The issuance under a guest-worker program of work visas to foreign nations and not green cards, which would be unfair to those seeking legal entry to the United States.
A guarantee that no one in the United States illegally has the same privileges associated with those here legally.
Eduardo Aguirre, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a branch of the Homeland Security Department, told the subcommittee that Mr. Bush had "courageously confronted a broken system, one that has been ignored for too long," adding that the president's guest-worker proposal would "facilitate economic growth, enhance national security and promote compassion."
Outcry On Right Over Bush Plan on Immigration
By RACHEL L. SWARNS
February 21, 2004
CHICAGO, Feb. 20 Amid the crowded field of Republicans vying for a seat in the Senate here, Jim Oberweis seems a most unlikely insurgent. He is a wealthy supporter of President Bush who favors pinstriped suits, tax cuts and a constitutional amendment blocking same-sex marriage.
But in recent weeks, Mr. Oberweis, a plainspoken dairy owner, has become a leader in a widening conservative revolt against the president's sweeping plan to grant temporary legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.
"The president's plan is just plain wrong," Mr. Oberweis says in a radio advertisement and at public appearances that have drawn hundreds of supporters to his campaign. "I want to be the voice for Illinois voters to tell the president we think illegal immigration cannot be rewarded with amnesty."
Mr. Oberweis is a symbol of a simmering conservative uprising against one of the president's biggest initiatives. One month after Mr. Bush promised the most comprehensive overhaul of immigration law in nearly two decades, opposition to his plan is mounting among conservative Republicans vying for votes in House and Senate races in Illinois, North Carolina, California, Kansas and elsewhere.
With his plan, Mr. Bush hopes to revamp an immigration system widely viewed as broken and to re-establish his credentials as a compassionate conservative particularly with Hispanic and swing voters at the start of an election year. But in debates, campaign stops and interviews, some Republican candidates have sharply criticized his position as they seek to tap into conservative anxiety over the proposal.
The plan has left the party divided, much like the growing deficit has. Some Republicans backed by some Hispanic constituents praise the president for trying to make it easier for businesses to employ illegal immigrants for low-wage jobs that Americans are reluctant to take. Others argue that the plan is tantamount to an amnesty for lawbreakers. The issue is so complicated and divisive that Republicans in Congress now say it is unlikely that legislation supporting the president's plan will be introduced this year.
Senator Saxby Chambliss, the Georgia Republican who is chairman of the Senate subcommittee on immigration, said he believed Congress would make headway this session on other proposals guiding the hiring of foreign farm workers. He said he hoped consensus on Mr. Bush's plan could be reached "within the next couple of calendar years."
But Mr. Chambliss, who supports Mr. Bush's broad proposal, acknowledged that the plan had already become a lightning rod in some Republican contests around the country. "I've seen it in the Georgia primary," he said in a telephone interview this week. "The candidates there are critical of the president on this issue.
"You've seen a lot of the Republican base has gotten all excited and all negative toward the president's proposal for the wrong reason," Mr. Chambliss said. "They really need to read what the president said. The president does not favor amnesty. He's been very clear on that."
In a Senate hearing last week, Bush administration officials said that illegal immigrants living in the country as of Jan. 7 a group estimated at about eight million or more would be eligible for temporary work permits for an initial period of three years, if they can show they have jobs and if their employers certify that Americans cannot be found for the jobs.
The officials said the permits could be renewed several times and that the workers could apply for permanent residency without leaving the United States. By legalizing the status of millions of immigrants who officials say are peaceful and hard working, immigration agents will be able to focus on foreigners who pose terrorist or criminal threats.
Mr. Bush has also promised to stiffen enforcement of immigration laws and to increase the number of people who can obtain permanent residency status.
Vernon Robinson, a Republican contender for a House seat in North Carolina, said that smelled like amnesty. He said his supporters wanted illegal immigrants deported and American troops stationed on the border with Mexico, particularly after the 9/11 attacks.
"There's a major disconnect between rank-and-file Walmart-Kmart Republicans and the party leadership on this issue," said Mr. Robinson, who has raised more money than any other Republican in his race.
Numbers USA, a policy group that favors reducing immigration, has identified about a dozen races where immigration is an important campaign issue among Republican contenders. Many Hispanic leaders have also criticized Mr. Bush's plan for not going far enough. It is unclear whether the issue will be a deciding factor for voters or whether it will dampen enthusiasm for Mr. Bush among conservatives.
Terry Holt, a spokesman for Mr. Bush's re-election campaign, said he believed conservatives would recognize that the president has remained faithful to his key beliefs. "Though there are debates about one issue or the other, on balance the president has stayed true to conservative principles and conservatives respect the president for leading on principle and attacking serious problems whatever they might be," he said.
Mark Krikorian, of the Center for Immigration Studies, which seeks to limit immigration, countered that conservative voters, already doubtful about the president's commitment to fiscal austerity, might stay home on Election Day or vote for lawmakers opposed to Mr. Bush's plan.
The debate is boiling in conservative circles. In January, National Review magazine ran a cover story on the president's plan titled: "Amnesty, Again."
This month, The Wall Street Journal published dueling pieces on its opinion pages. Fifteen Republicans including Grover Norquist, Newt Gingrich and Jack Kemp hailed the president's plan as "a humane, orderly, and economically sensible approach to migration."
Nine conservative stalwarts, including David Keene, Paul Weyrich and Phyllis Schlafly, responded, "Everyone with any common sense knows that it will only encourage a new wave of illegal aliens."
In California, where Republican candidates have opposed the plan in two races, the Republican Party chairman, Duf Sundheim, said he believed the president would ultimately bring people around.
Kris Kobach, a former Justice Department official campaigning for a House seat in Kansas, is doubtful. He says the 9/11 attacks left Republicans more concerned about immigration than in the 1990's when Patrick J. Buchanan criticized immigration to improve his presidential prospects. "When Buchanan was pushing this issue, it had a nativist and protectionist flavor," said Mr. Kobach, who developed the federal program that required Arab and Muslim visitors to register with the government. "Today it's about national security and law enforcement."
Here in Illinois, Mr. Oberweis is the only Republican candidate in his race who has made opposition to the president's plan a prominent part of his message. That stance, he says, has cost him some support.
In 2002, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Republican of Illinois, supported Mr. Oberweis's unsuccessful bid for the Senate. This time around, Mr. Hastert declined to endorse him, saying he ran a poorly managed campaign two years ago. Mr. Hastert also criticized Mr. Oberweis's decision to challenge the immigration plan.
That has not stopped Mr. Oberweis from calling for a crackdown on illegal immigration. Next week, he plans to release a television advertisement on the subject.
"I've always had a tendency to say what's on my mind," he said.
Bush's Immigration Plan Hits Blockade In Congress
Meeting opposition in both major parties, President Bush's plan to ease immigration laws goes nowhere in Congress.
BY RON HUTCHESON
March 4, 2004
LOS ANGELES - President Bush's plan to ease immigration laws is dead on arrival in Congress, doomed by opposition from Republicans who think it goes too far and Democrats who think it doesn't go far enough.
Although White House officials had hoped the plan would boost Bush's standing with Hispanics, it has turned out to be a flop. Some of the strongest opposition comes from the president's fellow Republicans, especially in California and other states with large immigrant populations.
The hostile reaction will put Bush in an awkward position when he welcomes Mexican President Vicente Fox for a two-day visit to his Texas ranch starting Friday. Two months after Bush announced his intention to ease immigration laws, he has little to show for it other than criticism.
The White House plan would let an estimated eight million workers who are in the country illegally gain legal status as part of a new guest-worker program. Immigrants would receive temporary work visas for up to three years at a time, with a still-to-be-determined number of extensions.
''It was an absolute flop,'' said Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., an outspoken opponent of the president's plan. ``His proposal is going nowhere.''
Even those who are sympathetic to Bush's approach agree that it won't pass Congress this year. Frank Sharry, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, an organization that favors less-restrictive immigration laws, said the president needs a second term to have any hope of pushing his idea through Congress.
Democrats and leading Hispanic organizations criticized the plan for failing to put illegal workers on a fast track to citizenship. Instead, the president insisted that the workers eventually return to their home countries.
The temporary-visa proposal also failed to calm critics at the other end of the ideological spectrum, who see it as an open-door policy for illegal workers. The issue is particularly sensitive in California, the top destination for illegal immigrants.
Mike Spence, the president of the California Republican Assembly, which bills itself as the state's largest Republican volunteer organization, said many California Republicans considered the proposal an amnesty plan for illegal workers.
The opposition isn't limited to California Republicans. A nationwide Gallup poll conducted shortly after the president announced his plan found that 55 percent of Americans opposed it. Hispanics were more receptive, but hardly unanimous in their support.
Another poll, by Bendixen & Associates, a Miami-based firm, found Hispanics evenly divided: 45 percent in favor, 45 percent opposed and 10 percent undecided.
Both polls had a margin of error of three percentage points.
White House aides said Bush wouldn't back down.
''It's an important priority for the president,'' White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. ``This is about addressing an important economic need. It's also about bringing about a more humane migration policy. He remains firmly committed to it.''