Bush faces more trouble over immigration bill

Via The Washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, March 14, 2006; 2:34
PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President George W. Bush, whose administration
suffered a stinging setback over a Dubai company’s deal to operate some U.S.
port terminals, faces another brewing Republican revolt over immigration
reform.

With the full Senate due to take up the issue before the end of March,
Republicans are split over what to do about the estimated 12 million illegal
immigrants in the country. Whichever way they turn, some part of their governing
coalition will be furious, analysts said.

The issue could also antagonize Hispanic voters — a swing group Bush has
targeted as a source of Republican growth — before November elections in which
Democrats are seeking to regain control of Congress.

“I have seen virtually no agreement on anything when it comes to this
immigration bill. Emotions are running at an all-time high,” said Pennsylvania
Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He spoke as
debate began in his committee on an ambitious overhaul of U.S. immigration
law.

Specter is pushing Bush’s proposal to create a guest-worker program for jobs
that Americans either cannot or will not do. The committee is also trying to
agree on a provision for illegal aliens to gain legal status.

That has angered a sizable anti-immigration wing in the Republican Party.
More than 90 House members, nearly all Republicans, have joined a caucus headed
by Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, who has vowed to derail Bush’s guest-worker plan
and any legislation that smacks of what he calls “amnesty” for illegal
immigrants.

“There is a loud group of anti-immigration folks out there for whom this is
the main issue they care about. They make a lot of noise, send e-mails and write
and call their congressional representatives,” said John Gay of the National
Restaurant Association, which backs a guest-worker program and a way for illegal
immigrants to become legal.

“This issue splits both parties but it splits the Republicans more,” he
said.

In a debate roiled by charges of xenophobia and lax security, Republican
lawmakers broke with Bush this month and forced a Dubai company pull back from
its plans to acquire management of some terminal operations in six major U.S.
ports.

On immigration, Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Edward Kennedy has pushed for a
guest-worker program and a path for legalization, but many Democrats have been
content to watch the Republicans fight, said Steve Camarota of the Center for
Immigration Studies.

One Republican aide said the party needed a major accomplishment before the
November election. But others doubt an immigration overhaul can pass this year
because the issue is so divisive.

The House of Representatives, where anti-immigration sentiments are stronger
than in the Senate, passed a bill last December to tighten border security and
toughen enforcement against illegal immigrants.

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