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May 15, 2006
Immigration Speech Preview (UPDATE: Full Speech Preview)

The White House has released excerpts from the speech which George Bush will give tonight, and it looks like Bush may try to play his cards as broadly as possible. For the optimists, his speech contains something for everyone -- border security, normalization, ID cards, prosecution of employers, and so on. For those who have adopted a more glass-half-empty approach -- understandable, given the lack of action thus far -- the attempt to find a consensus will look like more of a capitulation and will probably leave them unconvinced.

Bush will start out by reminding the nation of the steps he has already taken to secure the border, but admit that it has not been enough to do the job properly:

Since I became President, we have increased funding for border security by 66 percent, and expanded the Border Patrol from about 9,000 to 12,000 agents. . . .we have apprehended and sent home about six million people entering America illegally. Despite this progress, we do not yet have full control of the border, and I am determined to change that. Tonight I am calling on Congress to provide funding for dramatic improvements in manpower and technology at the border.

Bush has to hope that this admission will establish some credibility among border-security proponents, especially in the House. It certainly helps, and his solution also sounds like a good start, if not a comprehensive plan. Bush received criticism this weekend for his plan and for his conciliatory message to Vicente Fox regarding the non-military function of the National Guard at the border, but there is a good reason for his diplomacy. Nations that see rapid military deployments at their borders get understandably anxious about the intentions of their neighbors; usually the second nation will match the military deployment to preclude an invasion. Proper diplomatic manners call for Bush to inform Fox that the force will not have a military mission but instead a support mission for US Border Patrol.

Bush will also talk about his opposition to amnesty, but this is where he will have the most trouble convincing the skeptics. Hard-liners consider any program that does not prosecute or at least deport people who have entered the country illegally to be an amnesty program. Bush wants to argue for the notion of a broad middle ground between amnesty and full prosecution, a message that likely aims for the more moderate of the border-control crowd.

However, from the initial release, it does not appear that Bush will get into specifics about how the normalization program will work, which will cause even more skepticism. The president has tried to let Congress take the lead on this issue, especially in devising the specifics of the program, and he doesn't appear to be changing tactics tonight. If that is the case, he will be making a mistake, perhaps a very damaging one. Right now, with his polling dropping, he needs to look like a leader and not an ethereal visionary. Part of the reason this issue has split Congress and the GOP is precisely because Bush has been loathe to get more specific on his desires. This address gives him the opportunity to play to his strength -- leadership -- and if he doesn't grasp the reins and give a clear path to a compromise for consensus, this speech will leave his intended audience flat.

I will be live-blogging the speech if I can -- the FM is in dialysis and the timing may be difficult -- and will definitely have more analysis later.

UPDATE: I have now seen the full speech, and it has its high points as well as some clunkers. First, the high points:

* The fence: it looks like it will get constructed, at least in the high-traffic urban areas. The rural areas will get "barriers" and the deployment of high-tech surveillance and intercept equipment.

* Expansion of detention facilities to curtail the catch-and-release program.

* An open commitment to use Guard troops for support while the Border Patrol gets beefed up. The one-year commitment is for 6,000 troops, but they will only get released from the assignment as their need decreases.

Now for the big clunker: the temporary worker program. That will not make hardly anyone happy, with the possible exception of ConAgra. Immigration activists want unfettered immigration, hard-liners want strictly regulated immigration, but no one I know is arguing for the European model. Giving a "temporary" pass to immigrants only means we will have to spend billions in finding them when their visas expire.

As I predicted, Bush will stake out the middle ground, and insist that such a position exists. He may get enough consensus to move forward, and his speech has more specifics than the previews revealed. However, I suspect that the temporary worker program will not get much support from conservatives or liberals, and moderates will remain more focused on normalization for those already here. I predict a very mixed reaction to this speech.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 15, 2006 6:00 PM

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» The President’s Immigration Speech from Flopping Aces
So now the left is giddy with the anticipation of their takeover in Congress and hell, it looks like they won’t have to fight too hard since the right is going batty with nonsensical solutions to a problem we have had for decades. ... [Read More]

Tracked on May 15, 2006 8:33 PM

» On The Speech from Blue Crab Boulevard
Here's a link to the entire speech, courtesy of Instapundit. Here's the text. And here's the problem, President Bush. While the speech was actually quite a lot better than I feared, it will not placate the hardliners on this issue... [Read More]

Tracked on May 15, 2006 9:39 PM


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