As his tour of Latin America concluded, President Bush pledged to work to change U.S. immigration laws and said immigration reform legislation could be completed by Congress this year. Analysts discuss the prospects of passing such a bill.
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Under pressure from his hosts in Guatemala and Mexico, President Bush has been talking this week about a new immigration law for the United States.
Today, appearing with Mexican President Felipe Calderon at a Yucatan Peninsula resort, President Bush sounded his most optimistic yet about getting immigration reform through the U.S. Congress.
GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: I feel pretty good about it. I must — you know, I don't want to predict legislative successes, but I can tell you my mood.
Secondly, I'm optimistic because Republicans in the Senate are working with Democrats in the Senate. We're facilitating that work. The administration is very much involved with helping the senators find common ground to the point where we can move a bill as quickly as possible out of the Senate so it gets to the House of Representatives.
President Bush has repeatedly called on Congress to overhaul immigration law by creating a guest-worker program and legalizing, without amnesty, the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.
Last year, the Senate passed broad immigration legislation President Bush largely backed. But the House failed to pass it. Instead, Congress adopted a bill supporting a 700-mile fence along the border, and the president signed it.
More recently, Republican Sen. John McCain joined forces with Democrat Ted Kennedy to work on a new bill. The president acknowledged today there were still obstacles.
GEORGE W. BUSH:
Look, amnesty's not going to fly. There's not going to be automatic citizenship. It just won't work. People in the United States don't support that, and neither do I.
Nor will kicking people out of the United States work. It's not practical; it's not a realistic solution. Some may articulate that, but it's empty talk. And so, therefore, there's got to be a middle ground.
President Bush said he was looking forward to working with Sen. Kennedy to reach that common ground, but he did not talk about prospects for the bill in the House.
Mexican President Calderon also fielded immigration questions, one about reports of his relatives working in the United States.
FELIPE CALDERON, President of Mexico (through translator): Yes, I do have family in the United States. And what I can tell you is that these are people who work and respect that country. They pay their taxes to the government. They probably handle that which you eat, the lettuce, et cetera. These are people who respect the United States.
I am from Michoacan. And in Michoacan, we have 4 million people; 2 million of these Michoacanos are in the States. We want them to come back. We want them to find jobs here in Mexico. We miss them.
These are our best people. These are bold people; they're young; they're strong; they're talented; they have overcome tremendous adversity. We're working so that they can come back to their country someday.
The news conference wrapped up President Bush's five-nation Latin America trip. He returned to Washington this afternoon.