WASHINGTON, March 27 (UPI) -- President Bush stood firm Monday on rejecting amnesty for illegal immigrants, but again called for a guest worker program.
"A temporary worker program is vital to securing our border. By creating a separate legal channel for those entering America to do an honest day's labor, we would dramatically reduce the number of people trying to sneak back and forth across the border," he said. "That would help take the pressure off the border and free up law enforcement to focus on the greatest threats to our security, which are criminals and drug dealers and terrorists."
Bush made the remarks in a speech on Immigration reform at Constitution Hall in Washington. It came following a weekend in which tens of thousands of people across the country demonstrated over the immigration issue.
Exact numbers are elusive, but it is believed there are about 12 million illegal aliens in the United States.
The House of Representatives recently passed immigration reform legislation mandating stricter border and internal immigration law enforcement. But there was neither an amnesty provision for those now in the country illicitly nor the temporary guest-worker provision Bush wants. The Senate now takes up the issue.
"We're still very early in the legislative process, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said when asked if Bush would veto legislation without his pet program. "There are different ideas about how to move forward. The president said today that this is a difficult issue. There's going to have to be compromise, and there are going to have to be tough choices."
Bush said amnesty would encourage more illegal immigrants and would also be unfair to those who immigrated to the United States in the legal manner.
"America should not have to choose between being a welcoming society and being a lawful society," Bush said. "We can be both at the same time ... And so to keep the promise of America, we must enforce the laws of America."