National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America


President Bush In Arizona To Promote Comprehensive Immigration Reform

April 06, 2007

Washington, DCOn Monday, President Bush will visit Yuma, Arizona to gauge progress on border security initiatives, to promote comprehensive immigration reform, and to meet with Gov. Janet Napolitano and other Arizona lawmakers.  The following is a statement by Frank Sharry, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigrant advocacy organization in Washington.

Last year, President Bush went to Yuma, Arizona, stood with Governor Napolitano of Arizona, and called on Congress to work on a bipartisan basis to enact a tough, fair comprehensive immigration reform bill that included a path to earned citizenship (link).  Will he do so again? 

Certainly, the President will call on Congress to act this year.  His commitment to immigration reform and to fixing our broken system with a comprehensive approach cannot be questioned.  But the strategy being pursued by the White House to advance immigration reform needs to be. 

Why has the White House pursued a partisan back room approach rather than a public bipartisan approach?  Why has the White House seemed to back away from a balanced comprehensive package that includes a meaningful path to earned citizenship?  Is the White House strategy propelling the debate forward or is it jamming it into reverse? 

Yes, the White House is trying to bring more Republican support to the table.  And in that regard, the Administration is doing what they have been asked to do by leaders in both parties.  But the time for back room discussions is over.  The time for partisan huddles is over.  The time for positioning is over.  It’s time for serious legislating to begin.  It’s time to craft a bill that can pass the Congress and work once implemented.  It’s time for the kind of bipartisan cooperation that led to a 62-36 vote in favor of an unprecedented if flawed comprehensive reform bill in last year’s Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the Senate will debate immigration beginning in mid-May.  We all know the math: 40 to 45 Democrats, 20 to 25 Republicans.  So, during the trip to Yuma, Mr. President, here are our recommendations:  Call on both parties to enact a Senate bill on a bipartisan basis by the end of May.  Call on Republican Senators to sit down with those from the other side of the aisle to negotiate seriously.  Call for a tough and balanced approach that is workable; an approach that couples tough border security and a crackdown on bad actor employers with a widened legal channel for needed workers and close families as well as a meaningful path to earned citizenship for those here and those coming who make the U.S. their home.  Please don’t step back.  Step forward.

In fact, it is our hope that President Bush will be inspired by the example and leadership of Governor Napolitano.  She gets this issue.  It’s the number one issue in her state.  She was attacked for her support of comprehensive immigration reform in her re-election campaign and won by 26%.  She knows that bipartisanship and balance are the only ways to end illegal immigration as we know it.  She knows that the public is ready for reform and is out in front of most politicians on this issue.  Others in Arizona did not get it in the last election cycle.  And that is why the likes of J.D. Hayworth and Randy Graff lost their House races to comprehensive reformers. 

The clock is ticking.  The public wants their leaders to get it done and get it done right this year.  We call on the President to have Yuma be the turning point that gets the Senate back to bipartisan legislating that will lead to a workable bill that actually solves the problem. 

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