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President Bush Renews Push for Immigration Reform

In a speech Monday in Arizona, President Bush called on Congress to revive immigration reform efforts, touting an approach to secure America's borders and resolve the status of illegal immigrants. Past and current Arizona lawmakers share their reactions.

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    Since last July, some 6,000 National Guardsmen have been deployed along the nation's southern border, helping Border Patrol agents stem the tide of illegal crossings from Mexico.

    The guardsmen and women are part of Operation Jumpstart, a Bush administration program the president praised this morning during his tour of the border near Yuma, Arizona.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: The men have reported that the number of arrests are down, which is an indication that fewer people are trying to cross the border at this part of along the border. So we're making some pretty good progress.


    In fact, apprehensions at the border during the last six months were down about 30 percent from the same period a year earlier.

    In addition to increased fence construction along the border, the administration has added Border Patrol agents, beefed up aerial surveillance, installed sophisticated cameras and sensors, and built border fortifications, like this project meant to stop cars from crossing off-road, along with new skyboxes, portable watchtowers loaded with hi-tech surveillance equipment.

    The NewsHour talked to Staff Sergeant Dan Heaton of the Michigan Air National Guard during its deployment late last year.

  • DAN HEATON, Michigan Air National Guard:

    If somebody sees that the border is being guarded, the border is being defended, and they decide not to cross, you know, we'll view that as a success. It's difficult to quantify it, but clearly that's a success.


    But during remarks delivered outside the Yuma border patrol station, the president said the border won't be fully secure unless Congress overhauls the nation's immigration laws. Key to his plan: a guest-worker program granting undocumented workers temporary permission to work in the U.S.


    And that way, our Border Patrol can chase the criminals and the drug runners, potential terrorists, and not have to try to chase people who are coming here to do work America's not doing.


    As for the estimated 11 million already in the country illegally, they would be required to return to their home countries, get in line behind people already in the process, and pay hefty fines before they could become legal U.S. residents.

    That proposal met opposition over the weekend, as thousands marched through Los Angeles, spurred in part by what they called "a betrayal by Mr. Bush," who last year supported a bill that would have allowed illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. while they applied for citizenship.

    However, a majority of House Republicans and several in the Senate helped scuttle that bill, calling it amnesty for lawbreakers.

    Despite early signs that Republican opposition to the president's guest-worker idea has only grown, Mr. Bush told his congressional allies to take another look.


    It's important for people not to give up, no matter how hard it looks from a legislative perspective. It's important that we get a bill done.