With less than six month to go before the midterm elections, and Republicans fearing catastrophic losses, President Bush tonight took to the airwaves to try to throw some water on the rapidly growing brushfire of immigration reform that threatens to destroy his party. With poll numbers below 30%, a near mutiny brewing from House Republicans, and a loss of support amongst his conservative base, Bush attempted a political high wire act that would have tested even the most skilled political acrobat. For the feeble footed Boy King, it was nothing more than an exercise in futility.
Bush's juggling act began with an attempt to throw a bone to the hard line "enforcement only" House Republicans.
tags: immigration, National Guard, Border Security, Bush, Bush speech
By the end of 2008, we will increase the number of Border Patrol officers by an additional 6,000.
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.
So in coordination with governors, up to 6,000 Guard members will be deployed to our southern border. The Border Patrol will remain in the lead. The Guard will assist the Border Patrol by operating surveillance systems analyzing intelligence installing fences and vehicle barriers building patrol roads and providing training. Guard units will not be involved in direct law enforcement activities that duty will be done by the Border Patrol. This initial commitment of Guard members would last for a period of one year
So we will increase federal funding for state and local authorities assisting the Border Patrol on targeted enforcement missions. And we will give state and local authorities the specialized training they need to help federal officers apprehend and detain illegal immigrants.
We have expanded the number of beds in our detention facilities, and we will continue to add more. We have expedited the legal process to cut the average deportation time. And we are making it clear to foreign governments that they must accept back their citizens who violate our immigration laws. As a result of these actions, we have ended "catch and release" for illegal immigrants from some countries. And I will ask Congress for additional funding and legal authority, so we can end "catch and release" at the southern border once and for all.
Bush's tough talking cowboy persona has lost its luster over the past five years, and those from his party who are seeking an airtight border, will find these proposals sorely lacking any real punch. In fact aside from the use of the Guard, most of Bush's "new" proposals have already been outlined in the Senate legislation (albeit not quite as harshly.) That legislation has already been flatly rejected by the Tancredo and Sensenbrenner wing of the party. While they will welcome any increase in "border security" Bush's proposal falls far short of what they consider even the bear minimum of security; the building of a wall along the southern border and the criminalization of all undocumented immigrants in the country.
Since no Bush immigration speech would be complete without the obligatory "guest worker" Braceros program pitch, the Boy King then moved on to his second point. With polls showing a lack of public support for this program from both the right and the left, it is an essential element of any comprehensive plan that would get support from big business. With Senate Majority Leader Frist walking a precarious line to hold together the current Senate coalition in favor of reform, the loss of support from the business wing of his party would cause any compromise to fall apart. It has also been the cornerstone of Bush's plan for the last two years.
Second, to secure our border, we must create a temporary worker program
This program would match willing foreign workers with willing American employers for jobs Americans are not doing. Every worker who applies for the program would be required to pass criminal background checks. And temporary workers must return to their home country at the conclusion of their stay.
In an attempt to appease the growing anti-business, quasi-populist rhetoric that has been entering the debate, as typified by the Lou Dobbs "Broken Borders" shtick, Bush then went on to explain how he would get tough on those who employ undocumented immigrants.
Third, we need to hold employers to account for the workers they hire. …Yet businesses often cannot verify the legal status of their employees, because of the widespread problem of document fraud….A key part of that system should be a new identification card for every legal foreign worker. This card should use biometric technology, such as digital fingerprints, to make it tamper-proof
Ok, so he wasn't so much, "getting tough" as he was being an apologist for his donor class. I guess he feels that with his numbers in the toilet, the last thing he needs to do is alienate the last vestiges of support he has amongst business. So instead of any meaningful workplace enforcement, he'll request for a new identification system. I guess he feels that since Chertoff, the DHS and ICE have been so successful thus far in formulating a system for documenting immigrants, giving them even more responsibility is the best way to ensure employers adhere to immigration regulations and restrictions.
Lastly the Boy King attempted to explain to the rabid right wing just why his proposal to deal with the 12 million undocumented immigrants already living and working in the US is not really an "amnesty" program. Apparently unaware of the fact that the House Republican anti-immigrant advocates have repeatedly said that ANY plan that would allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the country would be considered an "amnesty". To them it matters not whether fines are paid, taxes collected, or English learned. They don't want to hear about workers lost or families destroyed … they want the immigrants gone. That's the bottom line. Bush apparently having not read a newspaper, or watched the news in the past year was unaware of this fact and went to great lengths to disassociate his plan (which seems to be no different than the Hagel - Martinez compromise) from any form "amnesty" which he claim he opposed. "Amnesty would be unfair to those who are here lawfully, and it would invite further waves of illegal immigration."
Bush, if his spin is to be believed, has always been a man of strong convictions who never waivers for political expediency, yet tonight he wavered and vacillated, trying to be all things to all people. In the end he fell flat on all accounts. He neither appeased the rapid right wing, nor stood on principle and demanded a fair and humane immigration policy.
In a moment of irony apparently lost on the President's speech writers he warned against exploiting fear for political gain.
"We cannot build a unified country by inciting people to anger, or playing on anyone's fears, or exploiting the issue of immigration for political gain. We must always remember that real lives will be affected by our debates and decisions, and that every human being has dignity and value no matter what their citizenship papers say."
With these words the Boy King summed up his seventeen minute high wire act.
Complete transcript of Bush speech