July 5, 2006

On the day that Congress begins a series of immigration hearings around the country, it is being reported that President Bush has indicated a willingness to enter into a compromise with House Republicans that could be described as “enforcement first.”  The President met with Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN) last week to discuss such a plan.  Pence has promoted an immigration bill that begins with enforcement measures that would be followed by some version of a guestworker program after certain enforcement goals or “triggers” had been met, a time period that is being described as up to two years.  Pence’s plan would require all undocumented persons in the U.S. to return to their country to apply for the guestworker visa.  While Bush has not agreed to specific details, the move is a clear shift in principle:  Bush has steadfastly argued that enforcement measures should be simultaneously accompanied by guestworker and legalization programs.  Immigration advocates fear that an “enforcement first” approach could too easily be turned into an “enforcement only” approach either through amending the legislation prior to enactment of the legalization provisions or by manipulating the triggers to continually delay their implementation.