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Conservatives, Liberals Take Aim at President’s Immigration Plan

President Bush's five-point immigration plan proposed in a national address Monday, drew criticism from both sides of the aisle as the Senate continued debate over its immigration reform bill. Two members of Congress debate President Bush's five points and current legislation.

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  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The president used a news conference with the Australian prime minister today to renew his call to Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: And the objective is, on the one hand, protect our borders; and, on the other hand, never lose sight of the thing that makes America unique, which is we're a land of immigrants and that, you know, we're not going to discriminate against people.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    During his Oval Office address last night, the president cited five key objectives: Secure the U.S. border with Mexico, with the help of 6,000 National Guard troops; create a temporary-worker program; hold employers responsible for verifying worker identification cards; give illegal immigrants a chance to earn citizenship and help them assimilate into American culture.

    Today, the president defended the one new proposal that's gotten the most scrutiny: sending the National Guard to the border.

  • GEORGE W. BUSH:

    Up to 6,000 Guard in the first year of operation really is not going to put a strain on our capacity to fight and win the war on terror, as well as deal with natural disasters. And, of course, we'll be working in conjunction with governors to make sure that that's not the case, that it doesn't put an unnecessary strain on other functions of the Guard.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    But the president's plan got mixed reviews in the Senate, which began voting today on its immigration reform bill. Democrat Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts said simply increasing the number of people guarding the border won't solve the problem of illegal immigration.

    SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), Massachusetts: We know the record on the border. Twenty years ago, we had 40,000 people that were coming in here illegally. Ten years ago, it was 400,000. And you know what we did? We spent $20 billion between the last 10 years.

    We've increased border guards by 300 percent. And guess what? We have doubled the numbers to 800,000 today, to 800,000. And what is the answer to that? The answer to that is that we need tough border security, but we need tough law enforcement here in the United States.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Republican Larry Craig of Idaho liked the president's focus on beefing up the border.

    SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), Idaho: The president simply gets it. And if this Senate doesn't get it, shame on us. We can't write a bill in any fashion, Democrat or Republican, that works unless our borders are secure and the law plays against the border in allowing an orderly approach through that border on a daily and an annual basis.

    Oh, yes, our economy needs immigrant workers. We'll need several hundreds of thousands a year if we expect our economy to continue to grow as it has and to prosper.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    And Majority Leader Bill Frist said he supported the president's proposal.

    SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), Senate Majority Leader: It's not so much as a compromise but a coming together to recognize the reality of stopping that flow, that influx coming across the border, but doing it in a compassionate way. I think the president's leadership does help.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Democratic Leader Harry Reid praised the president's call to allow the nation's 11 million undocumented people to earn citizenship, but Reid charged Senate Republican leaders today indicating they favor an immigration bill passed by the House in December that focuses on enforcement and criminalizes illegal status. That legislation spurred nationwide protests last month.

    SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), Senate Minority Leader: So the president, if he wants to help us on comprehensive immigration reform, needs to look first at his Republican leadership in the Senate and say something negative about this monstrous House bill that we're going to have to go to conference with if we're fortunate enough to pass something here.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The Senate has some 20 amendments to wrestle with in the coming days before any reform proposal can be reconciled with a very different House version.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Gwen Ifill takes it from there.

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