President Bush was at the U.S./Mexico border to talk about his immigration reform plan. The President stressed four key elements: more border security, better enforcement of immigration laws, especially laws against the hiring of undocumented workers. He also spoke about a temporary-worker program to address labor shortages. And last, resolving without amnesty, the status of the millions of illegal immigrants that are here now.
It's been a tough task for national lawmakers to decide what to do about the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. They must figure out how to uphold the law without disrupting lives, eroding the workforce and risking political upheaval.
President Bush says some of his previous reforms, including additional troops along the border, are already responsible for curbing some illegal immigration. "I've been working to bring Republicans and Democrats together to resolve outstanding issues so that Congress can pass a comprehensive bill and I can sign it into law this year," said President Bush.
KLTV 7's Oralia Ortega reports on the details of the President's plan and what it could mean for East Texas.
"It would create two types of visas: a Y visa and a A visa," said immigration attorney Jose Sanchez. Sanchez says the Y visa is for temporary workers. "It would be a two-year visa. Then you would go back six months. Then you can renew it wo times, which is a total of six years," said Sanchez. Under the plan, the worker would not be able to bring his or her family over.
The other plan is the Z visa, which Sanchez says gets to the heart of the immigration debate. "You have the hard-core Republicans who don't want anything related to the a word amnesty and you have the Democrats that are a little more, 'We can't physically send all these people back because there are too many of them. Let's just let them pay a fine'," said Sanchez.
Undocumented workers can apply for temporary residence status for a $2,000 fine. The can re-new this every three years for $1,500.
District 6 Representative Leo Berman, an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration says he thinks the President's plan will help ease the tax burdens on Texans. "We have 1.5 million illegal immigrants in Texas and it's costing you and I, not the state, but individual tax payers, three billion dollars each year," said Berman.
Another provision of the President's plan would allow those who want to apply for a green card, instead of a Z visa. "What you have to do is, you have to go back to your country and re-apply for a permanent green card and pay a $10,000 fine," said Sanchez.
Lawmakers will take up the immigration debate the last two weeks of may. Both Sanchez and Berman expect to know before then whether this plan will be approved. Berman says if the proposal passes, it would probably take years for the effects of it to be seen.