[Reader-list] Bush and immigration

Rana Dasgupta eye at ranadasgupta.com
Wed Jan 7 18:43:17 IST 2004

Two articles which help to lay out Bush's policies towards travel and immigration.  The
first, from Monday, describes the strict new checks Bush has introduced for non-
European travellers to the US.  The second, from Tuesday, describes his proposals for a
much more liberal approach to illegal immigrants - he has basically proposed an
amnesty in which they can declare themselves and will be given permits to stay and
work legally.

The two have in common that they both increase the amount of information that the US
government has about who is within its borders.


> U.S. Begins Tracking Foreign Arrivals
> By MARK NIESSE, Associated Press Writer
> ATLANTA - Authorities began scanning fingerprints and
> taking photographs of arriving foreigners Monday as
> part of a new program that Homeland Security Secretary
> Tom Ridge said will make borders "open to travelers
> but closed to terrorists."
> The program, aimed at letting Customs officials
> instantly check an immigrant or visitor's criminal
> background, targets foreigners entering the 115 U.S.
> airports that handle international flights, as well as
> 14 major seaports. The only exceptions will be
> visitors from 28 countries — mostly European nations —
> whose citizens are allowed to come to the United
> States for up to 90 days without visas.
> Ridge was at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International
> Airport to meet with some of the first foreign
> passengers to go through the new system.
> He described the move as "part of a comprehensive
> program to make sure our borders remain open to
> travelers but closed to terrorists."
> "It's easy for travelers to use but hard for
> terrorists to avoid," Ridge said Monday.
> In a pilot program at Hartsfield-Jackson that preceded
> Monday's nationwide implementation, authorities turned
> up 21 people on the FBI (news - web sites)'s criminal
> watch list for such crimes as drug offenses, rape and
> visa fraud, Ridge said.
> Foreigners also will be checked as they leave the
> country as an extra security measure and to ensure
> they complied with visa limitations.
> Some passengers said they supported the extra scrutiny
> of foreign visitors.
> "I don't have any real ethical problems with it, just
> the inconvenience of having to wait a little bit
> longer. But it's not a big deal," said Bradley
> Oakley-Brown, who was changing planes at Atlanta en
> route from South Africa to Wisconsin.
> Called US-VISIT, or U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status
> Indicator Technology, the program will check an
> estimated 24 million foreigners each year, though some
> will be repeat visitors.
> Inkless fingerprints will be taken and checked
> instantly against the national digital database for
> criminal backgrounds and any terrorist lists.
> Homeland Security spokesman Bill Strassberger said
> that once screeners become proficient, the extra
> security will take only 10 to 15 seconds per person.
> Foreign travelers also will continue to pass through
> regular Customs points and answer questions.
> Photographs will be used to help create a database for
> law enforcement. The travel data is supposed to be
> securely stored and made available only to authorized
> officials on a need-to-know basis.
> A similar program is to be installed at 50 land border
> crossings by the end of next year, Strassberger said.
> Brazil's Foreign Ministry has requested that
> Brazilians be removed from the U.S. list, and police
> started fingerprinting and photographing Americans
> arriving at Sao Paulo's airport last week in response
> to the new U.S. regulations.
> "At first, most of the Americans were angered at
> having to go through all this, but they were usually
> more understanding once they learned that Brazilians
> are subjected to the same treatment in the U.S.,"
> Brazilian (news - web sites) police spokesman Wagner
> Castilho said last week.
> The U.S. system consists of a small box that digitally
> scans fingerprints and a spherical computer camera. It
> will gradually replace a paper-based system that
> Congress ordered to be modernized following the Sept.
> 11, 2001, attacks.
> A person whose fingerprints or photos raise questions
> would not be turned away automatically. The visa
> holder would be sent to secondary inspection for
> further questions and checks. Officials have said
> false hits on the system have been less than 0.1
> percent in trial runs.
> The system was scheduled to begin operation New Year's
> Day but was delayed to avoid the busy holiday travel
> period.

Bush Would Give Illegal Workers Broad New Rights


WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 — President Bush will propose a sweeping overhaul of the nation's
immigration laws on Wednesday that could give legal status to  millions of 
undocumented workers in the United States, senior administration officials said Tuesday

Under Mr. Bush's proposal, which effectively amounts to an amnesty program for  illegal
immigrants with jobs in the United States, an undocumented worker could apply for
temporary worker status here for an unspecified number of years, with all the employee
benefits, like minimum wage and due process,  accorded to those legally employed.

Workers who are approved would be permitted to travel freely between the United States
and their home countries, the officials said, and would also be permitted to apply for a
green card granting permanent residency in the United States.

Administration officials said that Mr. Bush would also propose increasing the number of
green cards issued each year, which is now about 140,000, but they did not provide a
specific number. The administration officials, who briefed reporters in a conference call
on Tuesday night, said only that Mr. Bush would ask for a "reasonable increase."

Mr. Bush's proposal, one administration official said, would "match willing workers with
willing employers" and would "promote compassion" by fixing what one called "a broken
system." The officials declined to call it an amnesty program.

Under the proposal, workers in other countries could also apply for guest worker status
in the United States, provided there was no American to take the job.

But the president's plans are expected  to face a tough fight in Congress, where
conservative Republicans have said they consider programs like the one the president is
proposing nothing more than amnesty for people who have broken the law.

The president's proposals were designed to appeal  to Hispanic groups, a  constituency
that the White House is focusing on as Mr. Bush seeks re-election this year. The
proposals are expected to be embraced by President Vicente Fox of Mexico, who has
been lobbying for them for the past three years.

Mr. Bush is to meet with Mr. Fox at an economic summit next week in Monterrey,
Mexico, where immigration will be a significant part of the agenda and Mr. Bush's
proposals are likely to become a major focus.

Mr. Bush's proposal is closely modeled on legislation introduced last summer by Senator
John McCain and Representatives Jim Kolbe and Jeff Flake, all Republicans from Arizona.
The issue of illegal workers has been an important one there.

"We are ecstatic that they are addressing this," Mr. Flake said in a telephone interview on
Tuesday night. "We've maintained all along that you have to deal with both sides of the
issue — those who want to come to the country, and those who are here now. We're very
happy to see a realistic approach. We deal with it daily, and we have to have a rational

Mr. Bush's proposal is in some ways more generous to illegal  workers than is Mr.
Flake's bill. The legislation, for example, requires that a guest worker wait three years
before applying for a green card. Under Mr. Bush's proposal, a worker could apply for a
green card right away.

Mr. Bush's proposals apply to all illegal immigrants in the United States, which officials
estimate at 8 million  to 14 million people. About 60 percent  are thought to be
Mexican. No one is certain how many undocumented workers there are among all illegal
immigrants, but Mr. Fox has said that some 3.5 million of the workers are Mexican.

Mr. Bush entered office with immigration reform at the top of his foreign policy agenda,
and in the late summer of 2001 various guest worker proposals were under  discussion
by United States and Mexican officials. But the  Sept. 11 terrorist attacks led to increased
concerns about the safety of America's borders and derailed the negotiations.

Under Mr. Bush's proposals, an undocumented worker and an employer would have to
apply for the guest worker program hand in hand, with the employer serving as the
sponsor for the worker. There would also be a fee to register for the program, but
officials would not say how much that would be.

The plan  also includes incentives for workers to return to their countries, like a promise
of retirement benefits there based on  income earned in the United States.

Critics of Mr. Bush's proposal noted  that unless the White House sought, and obtained,
a large increase in the number of green cards issued each year, many of the
undocumented workers who apply under the president's program could  face an
extended wait for residency, 10 to 20 years, by some estimates.

Administration officials acknowledge that  the wait for a green card could take up to six
years or longer,  meaning that some guest workers who apply for green cards but do
not receive them before their guest worker status expires would face the prospect of
being forced to leave the United States. In that case, critics of the proposal said Tuesday
night, workers would be better off remaining illegal and staying indefinitely in the
United States, rather than revealing themselves to immigration officials when they sign
up for a program that may, these critics assert, lead to their deportation.

"They're asking people to sign up for a program that is more likely to ensure their
departure than ensure their permanent residency," said Cecilia Muñoz, a vice president
of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy organization.

Administration officials declined to say how long people could remain in the guest
worker program. But Ms. Muñoz said congressional officials briefed on the program told
her they were led to believe that it could be no longer than six years.

Groups opposed to increased immigration also criticized the president's proposal. "It's
an amnesty, no matter how much they dance around the fact," said Mark Krikorian,
executive director of the Center on Immigration Studies, a group that seeks to limit
immigration. "It's legalizing illegal immigrants."

Other critics say that the guest worker program could lead to the exploitation of
immigrant workers. "If you are dependent on an employer filing a petition on your
behalf, that employer has a tremendous club over you,"  one person  briefed on the
president's proposal said.

But an administration official said that the plan would protect the rights of
undocumented workers, "who now live in the shadows, and are fearful of coming out of
the shadows."

A number of limited guest worker programs already exist in the United States, but they
are designed for  skilled  technology workers, who typically come from India, China and
Eastern Europe.

Mr. Bush will also argue, administration officials said, that his plan  will make the
country safer by giving the authorities a better idea of who is in the country and
crossing its borders.

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