Bush to press immigration reform in televised speech

President Bush will address Americans on the heated immigration debate Monday in a televised speech in which he may announce the deployment of troops to the border with Mexico to stop illegal immigration.

With his popularity at all-time lows, Bush will speak from the Oval Office in the White House as the Senate resumes debate on legislation that could lead to legalization of at least part of the estimated 11.5 million undocumented workers in the United States.

According to US media, Bush will use the 8:00 pm (0000 GMT) speech to announce the deployment of troops to the border, a measure approved on Thursday in the House of Representatives as a way to halt the smuggling of drugs and people.

The immigration debate has divided Republicans ahead of legislative elections in November, as some call for the creation of a guest-worker program while others want tougher laws.

"I think members of the House will like what the president has to say on border security," a senior administration official told the Washington daily on condition of anonymity.

Bush's possible deployment of troops could help settle differences among his fellow Republicans.

"Congressional Republicans who back Bush's call for a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants say (the deployment) is precisely what they need to win over House conservatives," the Washington Post said Saturday.

The announcement of Bush's address coincided with a meeting Friday between Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his Mexican counterpart, General Clemente Ricardo Vega, at the Pentagon's invitation, to discuss border security.

The differences between what the Senate means by "immigration reform" and what was passed in December by the House of Representatives highlights the strong differences within the Republican Party.

Under the leadership of Tom Tancredo of Colorado and James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, the House approved a law that would make unapproved entry to the United States a crime punishable with jail time. The bill also calls for the construction of a wall along about one third of the 3,000-kilometer (2,000-mile) border with Mexico.

Left out of the House bill, however, was Bush's guest-worker program, which would allow foreigners into the United States to fill temporary jobs, such as picking agricultural crops.

The Senate bill, on the other hand, would open the possibility of legal residency and citizenship to most of those in the United States without papers, under the bipartisan sponsorship of Democrat Ted Kennedy and Republican John McCain.

Once approved by their respective chambers, a conference committee of senators and representatives will hammer out a compromise version -- which will then need a final vote by both houses in a form that Bush will sign.

Settling on the makeup of that committee is what allowed the Senate debate to go ahead after more than a month of nationwide protests, marches, general strikes and a boycott.

Immigration reform, one of Bush's 2004 campaign promises, has triggered a tense debate in the United States, marked by a recent shouting match between opponents and defenders of undocumented workers outside Congress.

On Friday, it was the Americans of the Minuteman Project, a group patrolling the border, yelling, "Go Home!" versus Latinos saying, "We're here to stay!"

For more on this story Listen to: Talk Show America 5/15/2006

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