President Bush's newly announced plan to bolster the southern border and offer guest-worker programs strikes a middle ground in the debate over immigration policy, says Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff
In an interview Tuesday, Chertoff said President Bush is not offering amnesty to illegal immigrants. He said they would pay their debt to society before beginning on the "path to citizenship."
Members of the president's own party are divided on what to do about the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants now living in the United States. Many Republicans want those here illegally to be deported, not moved toward citizenship.
Chertoff also said the National Guard will not be involved in arresting people who have entered the country illegally. That will be left to the U.S. Border Patrol. Instead, he says, the Guard will be used in areas where they already have training: building infrastructure, for example, or conducting helicopter surveillance.
And, for this budget year, he said the billions of dollars President Bush wants to direct to the border would be money shifted from other uses. Next year, the White House will ask Congress for increased funding, Chertoff said.