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President Bush signed a bill to build 700 miles of fence along the U.S. border with Mexico. Experts debate the controversial immigration policy.
With the stroke of a pen, the president this morning authorized the construction of a fence along 700 miles of the 2,100-mile frontier between the United States and Mexico. The fence would stretch from points in California, to a long, 360-mile stretch largely in Arizona, to a 170-mile expanse along the Texas border.
The bill actually passed Congress late last month, but wasn't signed until today, less than two weeks prior to Election Day, giving Republicans a platform to talk border security and illegal immigration in the campaign's final stretch. In fact, the bill, which allocates no new money to build the fence, is the only result so far of a long-running debate over comprehensive immigration reform.
GEORGE W. BUSH:
We're a nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws. We're also a nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways.
The president himself had argued that any final immigration bill must include a guest-worker program, giving legal status short of citizenship to millions of currently undocumented immigrants presently working in the United States. The president's proposal was endorsed by a majority of the Senate.
SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), Idaho: 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.
And pro-immigration forces numbering in the millions rallied throughout the spring and summer for a bill that would give undocumented workers a chance to stay in the U.S. But many House Republicans equated guest-worker status to amnesty and wanted to push border security first.
REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R), Wisconsin: The approaches taken by the House and the Senate on this issue have been 180 degrees apart.
Their objections scuttled any broad reform.
Thus far on the campaign trail, candidates in both parties have tried to take advantage of the immigration issue. In Pennsylvania, for example, incumbent Republican Senator Rick Santorum and his challenger, State Treasurer Bob Casey, have run dueling ads.
Listen carefully to what Bob Casey said about the Senate immigration bill.
BOB CASEY, JR. (D), Senate Candidate: If I were in the United States Senate, I would vote yes.
This bill gives amnesty to 11 million illegal aliens.
BOB CASEY, JR.:
I would vote yes.
Listen to Rick Santorum on illegal immigration.
SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), Pennsylvania: Illegal immigration and doing something about border security is important.
Really? Then why did he vote seven times against more Border Patrol agents?
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