WASHINGTON -- President Bush will relaunch his push for a sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration laws today in Arizona, with a fresh speech on the border, a new congressional leadership that is friendlier to his views but facing the same dynamics that scuttled his last attempt: A cooperative Senate but bipartisan opposition in the House.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, has told the White House she cannot pass a bill with Democratic votes alone, nor will she seek to enforce party discipline on the issue. Bush will have to produce at least 70 Republican votes before she considers a vote on comprehensive immigration legislation, a task that might be very difficult for a president saddled with low approval ratings.
Her party's conservatives had to weather a barrage of attacks on the issue before their victories in November and are not eager to relive the experience, Democratic aides and lawmakers say.
Some of those freshmen, such as Representatives Nancy Boyda, Democrat of Kansas; Brad Ellsworth, Democrat of Indiana; Nick Lampson, Democrat of Texas; and Heath Shuler, Democrat of North Carolina, are implacably opposed to any bill that would allow any of the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants legal residence or citizenship, at least until new border controls are implemented and working.
In his speech in Yuma, Bush will stress four elements that he has to see in an immigration bill: more border security; better enforcement of immigration laws in the interior, especially laws against the hiring of undocumented workers; a temporary worker program to address labor shortages; and "resolving without amnesty and without animosity the status of the millions of illegal immigrants that are here right now," said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.
A recently leaked White House presentation devised after weeks of closed-door meetings with Republican senators suggests some hardening of his positions, however. As spelled out in the White House presentation, which White House aides describe as ideas for debate, undocumented workers could apply for three-year work visas, renewable indefinitely at a cost of $3,500 each time. To get a green card that would make them legal permanent residents, they would have to return to their home countries, apply for reentry at a US embassy or consulate, and pay a $10,000 fine.
In a new twist, more green cards would be made available to skilled workers by limiting visas for parents, children, and siblings of US citizens. Temporary workers would not be able to bring their families into the country.