WASHINGTON – At a gathering of Hispanic Christian and community leaders on Friday, President Bush pushed for support for an immigration bill that would legalize millions of unlawful immigrants, highlighting the compassion behind the bill.
Bush spoke as the keynote speaker of this year's National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, which convenes over 750 Hispanic clergy members and community-based organization leaders to discuss how to respond to issues affecting Latinos.
Hispanic men and women were praised by Bush for making the United States more "vibrant" in fields ranging from art to business to religion, and for helping to change America for the better.
The president gave as example success stories of immigrants in the White House and government. He pointed to Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) who is originally from the communist island of Cuba but is now a member of the United States Senate. He also spoke about a Hispanic American coast guard he recently met who graduated at the top of his class who shared in his speech about his migrant grandfather.
"Isn't it a fabulous country where a migrant grandfather can come and have a dream and work hard, and there's his grandson talking about the promise of America in front of the president of the Untied States and his classmates," Bush said. "That's the beauty of America."
However, Bush did not neglect to mention the country's responsibility to enforce the border, create a lawful way for foreign workers to fill vacant jobs, and resolve the status of illegal immigrants in the country "without amnesty and without animosity."
The comprehensive immigration reform bill that Bush is tirelessly lobbying for would create a pathway for 12 million illegal immigrants to receive citizenship, increase border security and impose stricter laws banning employers from hiring illegal workers. The bill is the product of months of intense negotiations between a bipartisan group of senators and White House representatives.
"We must meet our moral obligation to treat newcomers with decency and show compassion to the vulnerable and exploited," Bush said at the prayer breakfast, "because we're called to answer both the demands of justice and the call for mercy."
Bush's speech on Friday came a day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that the immigration bill will be reintroduce in the Senate after the completion of the energy bill, according to the New York Times.
The bill was stalled last week when the majority of the Senate did not agree to end debate and move to a final vote on the bill.
However, the president made a rare visit to the Capitol earlier this week and personally lobbied to Republican senators to support the bill. Negotiations between the parties and the White House took place after the Capitol visit and lead to a new amendment, accepted by representatives of involved parties, for $4.4 billion in immediate funding for border security and law enforcement activities.
It is predicted the bill will not be discussed on the floor until late next week or more likely the week after. The Senate hopes to complete a final vote on the bill before legislators break for their Fourth of July vacation.