Vol. 5 Num 295 Sat. March 26, 2005  

Bush faces uphill battle over immigration reform

President Bush's proposed overhaul of immigration laws faces diminishing prospects in a Congress already wary of his top domestic priority, revising Social Security, analysts said on Thursday.

Bush seemed to acknowledge the difficulties facing his plan to give temporary work permits to illegal immigrants, when he discussed the issue on Wednesday after meeting Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.

Addressing Fox, Bush said: "Mr. President, you've got my pledge I'll continue working on it. You don't have my pledge that Congress will act, because I'm not a member of the legislative branch."

Bush's comments amount to an admission that his reform proposals are not advancing in the Republican-controlled Congress, said Steve Camarota of the Centre for Immigration Studies, which opposes the president's plan and calls for reduced immigration.

"I think Bush now understands there isn't much support for what he wants to do. There are very powerful Republican committee heads who are not interested in pursuing it and Bush doesn't seem willing so far to expend much political capital on it," Camarota said.

The president's plan is effectively dead for this Congress, a senior Republican Senate aide said.

"Bush can't do both immigration and Social Security reform and he has his hands full with Social Security. He's losing water on that one and he can't infuriate the grass-roots of our party on immigration in the leadup to congressional mid-term elections next year," the aide said.

Bush was personally committed to the reform but might have to wait until the final two years of his term to move forward, said the aide, who asked not to be identified.

Under Bush's plan, illegal immigrants could obtain work permits for three years, renewable for another three years, to do jobs U.S. citizens did not want.