Bush Brushes Off Criticism of Immigration Bill

WASHINGTON – President Bush has not been hindered by heavy criticism of an immigration bill that would legalize millions of unlawful immigrants. Instead, he pressed harder for its support on Friday ahead of his departure for the Group of Eight summit on industrialized nations next week.

Conservatives and liberals, activists and analysts have all had their say on what is wrong with the comprehensive immigration bill before the Senate. Yet Bush remains steadfast in his conviction that despite its weaknesses the bill is still worth passing.

"No matter how difficult it may seem for some politically, I strongly believe it's in this nation's interest for people here in Washington to show courage and resolve and pass a comprehensive immigration reform," Bush said on Friday, according to The Associated Press.

The bill, S-1348, offers a process for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the country to work legally through a combination of fines, criminal background investigation, English proficiency tests, and paperwork.

It is a product of a bipartisan group of senators and White House negotiators.

The bill has often come under attack for being too lenient and providing amnesty for lawbreakers.

"This bill isn't amnesty," countered Bush. "For those who call it amnesty, they're just trying to, in my judgment, frighten people about the bill. This bill is one that says we recognize that you're here illegally and there's a consequence for it."

In addition to legalizing millions of illegal immigrants, the measure also calls for increased border security, a verification system to prevent the hiring of illegal immigrants and creates a new temporary worker system.

"No one will get everything they want, but everyone will get something, and in the end, what we come up with is better for the country, and we all have to see it that way," said Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who helped with the agreement, on Friday, according to AP.

The issue of comprehensive immigration reform has increasingly become a high priority concern to Christian leaders and churches. Many cite their support as stemming from a desire to have a biblical response and put a human face to a national crisis affecting millions of people.

Many churches across the nation have even publicly made known they are sheltering illegal immigrants to protect them from deportation.

Moreover, prominent Christian leaders have spoken in support of a comprehensive immigration reform bill including Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and megachurch pastors Joel Osteen, Jack Hayford, and Joel C. Hunter.

"We propose that Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform that reflects the American commitment to the three formative pillars of our nation: the rule of law, our faith value system and the pursuit of the American Dream," Rodriguez had said at the launch of the Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform campaign earlier in May. His organization, which serves 10,700 Hispanic evangelical churches with 15 million members, is America's largest Hispanic Evangelical organization.

On Monday, President Bush will leave for Europe to attend the G-8 summit leaving White House Spokesman Tony Snow to manage the public-relations advocacy in favor of the bill.