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President Faces Political Pitfalls in Immigration Address

A White House spokesman announced the National Guard will patrol the Mexican border as part of a broader immigration plan that President Bush will outline in a speech to the nation Monday night. Then, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks preview the president's speech.

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    Reports that the president plans to dispatch thousands of National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border brought out varied opinions this weekend.

    SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), Nebraska: That's not the role of our military. That's not the role of our National Guard.

    SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), Delaware: You got to understand we have stretched these men and women so thin, so thin because of the bad mistakes done by the civilians in the military here, that it really — I wonder how they're going to be able to do it.


    And today, as their work resumed on an immigration reform bill, senators were anxious to know what new ideas the president would offer.

    SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), Texas: I understand the president tonight may make some announcement with regard to the use of National Guard on a temporary basis to fill in the gaps and provide additional boots on the ground so that we can get to that level of security faster. And I believe that we should use all of our national assets to provide border security.

    SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), Senate Minority Leader: When we tell the American people how this proposal will work without jeopardizing the critical role that the National Guard plays in keeping our communities and nation safe.


    It first was reported late Friday that the president wanted to send as many as 10,000 National Guard troops to the Southwest. About 300 Guard troops already are deployed along the four-state, 3,000-mile-long border.

    Yesterday, Mexico's president, Vicente Fox, telephoned President Bush reportedly to express his concern about the border between the two countries becoming "militarized." Meanwhile, California's Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, said on Friday such a plan would be unfair to the National Guard.

    GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), California: I think the federal government should put up the money to create the kind of protection that the federal government is responsible to provide, not to use our National Guard soldiers that are coming back from Iraq.


    New Mexico's Democratic governor, Bill Richardson, called it a political move.

    GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), New Mexico: My worry is that this is basically a political P.R. move so that the White House can appease conservative Republicans that want a repressive immigration bill.


    According to the White House, National Guard troops would not apprehend illegal immigrants at the border but instead offer technical and logistical support on "an interim basis" to an overwhelmed force of Border Patrol agents.

    The president plans to follow up his speech tonight with a visit to the border town of Yuma, Arizona.

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