Bush Tries To Inspire Breakthrough On Immigration Bill

Saturday, April 28th 2007, 4:00 pm
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ President Bush, pushing for a breakthrough on immigration legislation, appealed to college graduates Saturday in this diverse city for help in persuading Congress to find a bipartisan compromise.

Bush gave the commencement address at Miami Dade College, a community college where more than half the students were raised speaking a language other than English. He gave the graduating class an assignment: Tell their elected representatives in Washington to get going on immigration overhaul.

``You see every day the values of hard work, family, and faith that immigrants bring,'' the president said. ``This experience gives you a special responsibility to make your voices heard.''

Bush said the immigration system is deeply broken: Employers are not held accountable enough; borders are not secure enough; businesses need workers willing to do low-paying jobs; and the 12 million people estimated to be in the U.S. illegally cannot all be deported and so must be dealt with ``without amnesty and without animosity.''

``We must address all elements of this problem together _ or none of them will be solved at all,'' Bush said.

The takeover of Congress by Democrats was supposed to help Bush's goal of a comprehensive immigration overhaul. He wants to establish a temporary worker program for some illegal immigrants and to create a path to citizenship _ albeit a difficult one _ for many.

It was his fellow Republicans _ conservatives who reject the president's approach as too lenient toward lawbreakers _ that stymied his plans when they controlled Capitol Hill.

The Democrats' ascendance in January has not necessarily made the search for a bill acceptable to a majority easier.

The Senate passed a plan last May that would allow illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship and create a temporary guest worker program for new arrivals. The proposal died in the House, where tough new border security measures were the priority.

Last October, Bush signed a get-tough bill that authorized 700 additional miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Since then, the White House has highlighted the effectiveness of new efforts along the border while quietly looking for areas for compromise so broader legislation can pass.

So far, however, the only approach that has grown out of those initial talks would be tougher on illegal immigrants than is in the Senate bill. There still would be a path to citizenship, but it would require fines, trips back home, long waits and hefty penalties.

Some conservatives have called this overly permissive, essentially amnesty for illegal behavior.

Most national polls show people in the U.S. are overwhelmingly supportive of an immigration overhaul that would allow those already in the country illegally to stay, work and earn their way to legal status.

The president was hoping to give a lift to those efforts with the commencement address in Miami and also by devoting his weekly radio address on Saturday to the topic.

Bush said the talks between the White House and Capitol Hill are beginning to bear more fruit.

``I know convictions run deep on the matter of immigration. Yet I am confident we can have a serious, civil and conclusive debate,'' he said in his weekly radio address aired in the morning.

Later, he pressed the point that America's strength lies in its diversity. He spoke in a gymnasium at Miami Dade College before 5,000 people, including 1,500 graduates, many who are immigrants or children of immigrants.

``Maintaining the promise of America requires that we remain an open and welcoming society,'' he said. ``Our nation faces a vital challenge: to build an immigration system that upholds these ideals and meets America's needs in the 21st century.''

Earlier Saturday, over a $25,000-a-person lunch at a bayside home on Key Biscayne, just outside Miami, Bush raised campaign cash for the Republican Party. The hourlong fundraiser was held at the home of developer and longtime GOP contributor Edward Easton.