In 2004 Bush announced his immigration program, calling for increased enforcement and a temporary worker program. In November 2005 he again called for such legislation with a stronger emphasis on enforcement. In December, when the House passed viciously punitive enforcement-only HR 4437, Bush endorsed it, but said he would like to see a temporary worker program added.
As the Senate debate came to a head, Bush emphasized his priority on enforcement with his plan to send the National Guard to the border, and again called for a temporary worker program. He did not endorse the Senate version, which included a path to citizenship for some undocumented workers. After the Senate bill passed, Bush praised it for its enforcement and temporary worker provisions but did not mention citizenship. GOP Rep. James Sensenbrenner, HR 4437’s author, said he would be willing to work in conference for a strong enforcement bill with a temporary worker program but no path to citizenship — essentially Bush’s original position.
The immigrant rights movement has had two basic responses. One is to support some concessions on enforcement coupled with a strong path to citizenship and a temporary worker program that also has a citizenship path. It seeks to ensure that immigrant rights have some role in any legislation that is passed.
The second approach rejects increased enforcement and temporary worker programs that would limit the number of immigrants covered by legalization. It instead emphasizes continued mass pressure for a path to citizenship, family reunification, labor rights, due process and civic participation.
In the Senate bill, Democrats managed to include legalization with a path to citizenship for large proportions of the undocumented including farm workers and students, and some labor and civil liberties provisions.
It is clear that Karl Rove has the assignment to bring Republican Senate and House leaders together to produce a final bill that would eliminate or reduce the limited citizenship and rights protections in the Senate version.
The call to Congress must be that legalization and full rights, not punitive, restrictive enforcement, should be the priority of any legislation. Mass mobilization is necessary to achieve that, and to defeat the Republican majority in Congress in the fall.