Bush Backs Away From Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Last month during a primetime television address, President Bush called for comprehensive immigration reform. He said legislation must address “all elements” of the immigration issue:

Tonight, I want to speak directly to members of the House and the Senate: An immigration reform bill needs to be comprehensive, because all elements of this problem must be addressed together, or none of them will be solved at all.

Both the House and Senate passed immigration legislation, but only the Senate bill contained a path toward citizenship for undocumented workers. The differences between the House and Senate bills need to be worked out in conference, but conservative hard-liners have successfully deadlocked talks for several weeks. Now, it looks as if Bush may placate enforcement-only advocates and back off his support for comprehensive reform:

[I]n recent days, senators and the White House have dropped hints that they are willing to move closer to the House’s position – perhaps by agreeing to a two-phase plan that would begin with construction of triple-layer walls, deployment of surveillance aircraft and other means of tightening the border with Mexico. When those measures are fully funded and operational – a process that could take as much as two years – debate on some version of the Senate’s broader proposals would begin. [“¦]

Also this week, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) met with Bush and Vice President Cheney to discuss his proposal for a guest worker program that would roll out only after the government certifies that the border is secure. “The president listened intently,” Pence told reporters. “He told me that he was intrigued with my proposal.”

Even on an issue for which he has strong, bipartisan support, Bush may yet again bow to pressure from his right wing base.