Union Tribune

December 16, 2003

Bush: Immigration plan won't involve amnesty


WASHINGTON President Bush is preparing an immigration plan that could help millions of Mexicans living illegally in the United States, but it won't include an amnesty like the one Congress adopted 17 years ago, he said yesterday.

"This administration is firmly against blanket amnesty," Bush said during a news conference largely devoted to discussing Saddam Hussein's capture.

Bush has endorsed the concept of matching "willing workers with willing employers" before his election in 2000. But his administration has failed to come up with a politically feasible plan.

"It makes sense that that policy go forward, and we're in the process of working that through now so I can make a recommendation to the Congress," Bush said.

"Let me also clarify something. This administration is firmly against blanket amnesty."

Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge called for a new legal status for 8 million to 12 million immigrants living illegally in the United States. Roughly half are Mexican.

Congress in 1986 passed legislation that combined a sweeping amnesty for 2.7 million immigrants while promising to stem continuing illegal flows through employer sanctions.

The sanctions program failed, marred by weak regulations and scant enforcement and undermined by opposition from politically connected businesses. Illegal immigration soared, powered by networks established across the country by those who received amnesty.

Bush is expected to meet with Mexican President Vicente Fox next month.