Bush to Renew Immigration Push

In Yuma, Ariz., today, President Bush hopes to jump-start stalled immigration reform. He'll view construction of a border fence and be briefed on the latest measures used to secure the area and drive down illegal crossings.

The White House says the president is committed to seeing immigration reform this year.

"The one person who continues to be extremely passionate about this is the president," said White House communications director Kevin Sullivan, "so we're still driving it hard and believe that this is an issue that we can get over the goal line this year."

But Senate Democrats say the White House is hindering efforts to reach a bipartisan deal.

Last week, two White House emissaries -- Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez -- presented a new immigration proposal to key Senate leaders.

Democrats say the proposal is more conservative than the deal senators reached at the end of the last session. Among its proposals: Guest workers would not be allowed to bring immediate family with them into the United States; those already here would have to return to their home countries and pay a $10,000 fine before re-entering legally.

It's a deal Democrats won't accept.

A senior aide to President Bush insists the presentation was just a starting point and says there is room for negotiation.

But political observers wonder how far the president is willing to push conservatives on immigration -- in light of his low approval numbers and declining support for the war.

"The events of the recent days have suggested that the White House may be engaged in a strategy of the war comes first," said David Gergen, who has served as a top adviser to both Republican and Democratic presidents. "The president's main objective right now is to save or salvage his position with Republicans on the war. And he may be willing to trade off his prospects for getting an immigration bill."

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., says he's committed to a bipartisan bill and plans to begin debate on the Senate floor in late May. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., is expected to introduce a Senate bill in a matter of weeks.

Reps. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., have already introduced a proposal in the House, the STRIVE-Act. Flake will accompany Bush on his Arizona tour today.

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