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President to Address Nation About Border Plan

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President to Address Nation About Border Plan

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President to Address Nation About Border Plan

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Immigration will be the topic tonight as President Bush delivers a primetime address to the nation from the Oval Office. Among other things, he's expected to call for the deployment of the National Guard along the U.S. Mexico border.

Portions of the president's speech have already been released. He's expected to say, “We do not yet have full control of the border and I am determined to change that.”

NORRIS: Mr. Bush's plan has already caused some concern. Mexican President Vicente Fox called President Bush yesterday, expressing concern about what he called the possibility of a militarized border. Border security is just part of the immigration debate that's taking place on Capitol Hill.

Today, the Senate took up legislation that would create a guest worker program, and give illegal immigrants already in this country a path to citizenship. We'll have live coverage of the president's address on many stations at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Right now, we've gathered three of our correspondents to look ahead.

BLOCK: And we'll begin at the White House with NPR's David Greene. And David, as we mentioned, portions of the president's speech have been released. Give us a preview of what he'll be talking about tonight.

DAVID GREENE:

Hi, Melissa. Yeah, well, some of this is going to be familiar, I think. You know, this is a president who loves sticking to his talking points on an issue. He'll talk again about wanting a comprehensive bill on immigration and, that has some kind of so-called guest worker plan that would give undocumented workers in the U.S. a crack at legal working status. As you said, we have some excerpts and bear in mind, these are selections that the White House chose itself and handed out to us.

But the president will also say “that the U.S. is a nation of immigrants and we must uphold that tradition.” He'll also say, though, that legislation has to increase security at the border. And what's new, Mr. Bush is expected to do something to try to please conservatives, who like the focus to be on beefing up security and who make the specific proposal to send National Guard troops to the border to work in a supporting role behind Border Patrol agents.

Some lawmakers have already come out and said that the numbers he's talking about really aren't enough to do much good. Mexico, as you said, has expressed concern that this could be militarizing the border, something the White House says is not true.

BLOCK: Now you mentioned the idea of pleasing conservatives there. The timing of this speech, I would imagine is no accident. It comes at a time when the president's poll numbers are dropping and specifically his support among conservatives has been eroding quite a bit.

GREENE: Well, the timing is a good question, but he's been speaking about this issue since he came into office. You know, a president gives a prime time speech when he thinks it could make a difference and let's think about the political context we've got right now. The Senate is taking up the issue this week, trying to reach a compromise on a guest worker program. The president, I think, may see this as a brief window before the midterm election year really heats up and so the White House decided this could be the moment to try to fight hard for a compromise and reach out to some of those lawmakers who are standing in the way, especially during this election year.

If you make the move to tighten security, at least the White House hopes, and you give some conservative House members something they can go out and talk about on the campaign trail, they hope is that some of these lawmakers may be open at some point to a compromise once a bill goes to conference.

BLOCK: And how much of a difference does the White House think that this issue might make in trying to get those conservatives back?

GREENE: Well, speaking live from the Oval Office, I mean, if he's trying to reach conservative lawmakers as well as conservative voters, who like the focus on security, this will show the president is engaged and thinking about these issues and trying to make a difference. Polls show that very few Americans approve of Mr. Bush's handling of immigration so far. If he goes out there on national television, people like what they hear, it's a good thing for him, if they don't, it could be a problem.

BLOCK: NPR's David Greene at the White House. Thanks very much.

GREENE: My pleasure.

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