President Bush scheduled his speech for Monday to coincide with the start of major debate in both houses this week on the Illegal Immigration issues at hand. If you didn't catch the speech, you can get a transcript here, or you can actually download and watch the speech from here.
I thought it was pretty good. Not Bush's best speech by a long shot. Some of his early State of the Union speeches were much better. But he said things that he's needed to say for a long time.
Some thoughts on the points he talked about.
1. Increased border security. Amen, brother. As much as I haven't really been impressed with the President's response to this issue up to this point, this is the most important part of the debate. Finally, we're hearing something that resembles sense on national security regarding our borders.
Tonight I am calling on Congress to provide funding for dramatic improvements in manpower and technology at the border. By the end of 2008, we will increase the number of Border Patrol officers by an additional 6,000. When these new agents are deployed, we will have more than doubled the size of the Border Patrol during my Presidency.Will this stop the influx of desperate men and women, doing whatever they can to enjoy the prosperity they could only dream about in their countries of birth? Perhaps. Anyway it's a step in the right direction. You can't even talk about trying to deal with the massive population of undocumented immigrants in America without putting your finger in the dike that separates out fine land from the rest of the world.
At the same time, we are launching the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history. We will construct high-tech fences in urban corridors, and build new patrol roads and barriers in rural areas. We will employ motion sensors infrared cameras and unmanned aerial vehicles to prevent illegal crossings.
If nothing else you can't argue that Bush hasn't really been tough on border security, as the agency has 50% more agents than it did when he started. However, since 9/11, how many people in his position wouldn't have increased that number.
Also, Bush lays down that there will no longer be "Catch and Release" because of overfilled immigration prison space. Great, but kind of late. This program should have been terminated on September 12, 2001.
2. Guest worker program. Bush claims that creating a program that allows more people to come over for just the sake of taking jobs that other Americans won't take will reduce the number of people trying to sneak over illegally.
A temporary worker program would meet the needs of our economy, and it would give honest immigrants a way to provide for their families while respecting the law. A temporary worker program would reduce the appeal of human smugglers and make it less likely that people would risk their lives to cross the border. It would ease the financial burden on state and local governments, by replacing illegal workers with lawful taxpayers. And above all, a temporary worker program would add to our security by making certain we know who is in our country and why they are here.I'm not saying that this wouldn't work, or wouldn't cause problems, but I understand why he's suggesting it. The major complaint here is going to be that other immigrants who are on track to be citizens are going to be upset, as they are trying hard to do things the lawful way while others are being allowed to skirt the law.
And anyway, we've tried temporary worker programs before. (Hat tip to Powerline)
The problem is that we have unsuccessfully tried this approach before, from 1942 to 1964, with the so-called braceros - the hired "arms" from Mexico. Various programs to bring Mexican laborers across the border were initially small, supposedly temporary and aimed only at alleviating wartime shortages of labor.And the current Senate plan is inviting an influx of immigration that could overwhelm the system.
But some 4 million braceros later, the idea of guest workers had evolved into a huge labor exchange, delivering hardworking, and very cheap, farmworkers to American employers, most of them large agribusiness concerns.
3. Greater employer accountability and harder to fake documentation. Mostly I'm with him here, except that there's really no pressure on employers now, so "more" enforcement or accountability is relative.
4. No amnesty, but no mass deportations. We all realize that trying to deport all the people currently here illegally isn't practical, and certainly most people are sensitive to the realities of those people's lives. The places they would have to return to, and the families and lives they have developed here.
Bush is sending a message here, I think, to the Senate, whose plan (see above) calls for some of the undocumented workers who have been here over 2 years a path to citizenship. Which is amnesty.
5. Assimilation and English as the language that immigrants must learn to become citizens. This should be a no-brainer, and yet so many public and government signage and documentation is displayed in Spanish as well as English. It's nice that waccommodatemodate visitors to our great nation, but for the sake of unity there should be one language officially.
I don't really see what the President is proposing here. What is the Senate supposed to do here?
All and all a positive step forward. Now we have to wait for the bloviated chambers of Congress to all agree on something. I hope it's somewhere in the ballpark of what the President is proposing here.
Instapundit: "My prediction: Over the next few weeks, lots of back-and-forth with Congress (this is an opening bid), ending with no guest worker program and with a slightly-less-open
There are lots of people not expecting much from Congress on this, including me.
Powerline: "Bush blew it."
Ed Morrissey: "President Bush tried reaching for the center -- a position he has occupied on this issue all along. He tried a one-from-column-A, two-from-column-B approach that probably will leave all sides more or less dissatisfied. His declaration that catch-and-release would end was the most welcome news in the entire speech."
Tony Snow (White House Press Secretary): "This is an act of leadership. The fact is, the President is going to give a speech that is based on what he thinks is important, and these are his real passions. If he wanted simply to give a speech to mollify any given voting block, it would be a much different kind of speech. Instead what he's -- you've heard him talk about this in the past. He has very strong passions about it."