Mixed Reaction To Bush Speech

Day laborers wait at the Taco Rico Moya on U.S. 1 in Woodbridge, Va., Monday, May 1, 2006, in spite of a called for boycott for immigration rights. There were about 20 day laborers waiting for work at this location.
AP/Potomac News/Dylan Moore
The Senate is delving into contentious immigration legislation after a televised prod from President Bush to toughen border security with National Guard troops and find a "rational middle ground" on citizenship for millions of men and women in the United States illegally.

The centerpiece of the Bush speech Monday night was his announcement that as many as 6,000 National Guard troops would be dispatched to states along the Mexican border to provide intelligence and surveillance support to civilian Border Patrol agents. The Border Patrol would remain responsible for catching and detaining illegal immigrants.

"We do not yet have full control of the border, and I am determined to change that," said the president, insisting at the same time that "the United States is not going to militarize the southern border."

Democrats responded with a pledge of cooperation and a barbed question for the commander in chief. President Bush "has the power to call up the National Guard to patrol the border," said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat, who delivered the Democratic response. "But does he have the power to lead his own Republican forces in Congress in support of real immigration reform?"

"Democrats are willing to support any reasonable plan that will secure our borders, including deploying National Guard troops," said Durbin. "But Americans don't want a plan that's been cobbled together to win political favor."

Durbin's jab was aimed at anticipated year-end compromise negotiations with House Republicans. But the next move in an election year struggle belongs to the Senate, where, hours before President Bush spoke, debate began on a bipartisan bill that generally meets his specifications.

The measure includes tougher border security provisions, a guest worker program and an eventual path to citizenship for nearly all the estimated 12 million immigrants in the country illegally. The bill also includes steps to make sure employers don't hire illegal workers.

Some Republicans say President Bush's plan to use National Guard troops to increase border security is right on target; some Democrats question where the troops would come from, with so many already in Iraq.

Here is an assortment of reactions to the president's plan:

  • "Utilizing the National Guard is an effective, short-term stopgap to immediately strengthen border security as long-range reforms begin to take effect." - Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.
  • "Putting another burden on the backs of the National Guard troops who are serving their second tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan isn't the right answer... I'm introducing a plan to put an additional 1,000 additional Border Patrol agents on the border next year, plus more 100 helicopters and 250 more power boats to secure our borders." Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
  • "If the Guard can go to work on the fence between Douglas, Ariz. and Calexico, Calif., immediately, they've got a chance of saving lots of lives during the hot season, which is going to commence in about 20 days." - Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.
  • "The decision to send troops is the shot in the arm we need to strengthen our borders and protect our families." - House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.
  • "It is not enough for President Bush to tell us he wants to increase security at our borders. After all, he's had five years to do it. If he wants to be credible on border security, he must acknowledge his mistakes and commit to fixing them." - Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.