Former President Bush supported comprehensive immigration reform. Some of his proposals included: resolve the status of the millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States, encourage illegal immigrants to assimilate to the U.S. and learn English, enhance border security, introduce a temporary guest worker program, and penalize employers for willingly hiring illegal immigrants. Bush also believed that in order for the immigration problem to be solved, all these issues must be dealt with simultaneously. The Bush administration did make progress in enhance border security. For example, border security funding increased from nearly $5 billion in 2001 to over $10 billion in 2007. The number of border patrol agents has also increased from 9,000 to almost 15,000 during the same time span. By the end of next year, there should be approximately 18,000 border patrol agents. Six-thousand National Guard troops have been called to temporarily assist the Border Patrol with such duties as intelligence analysis and improving infrastructure and patrol roads. In addition, investments in more advanced border technology continue. The increase of availability of detention beds has reduced the “catch and release” policy previously employed due to the shortage of beds. Now, however, more illegal immigrants can now be detained. Other changes include increased deportations of illegal immigrants (especially those with criminal backgrounds) due to a quicker “expedited removal” process. In addition, there is now greater cooperation among local and state local law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security to prevent illegal immigration.

Former President Bush's Proposed Immigration Legislation

On June 29th the United States Senate squashed the proposed comprehensive immigration legislation, ending chances for President George W. Bush to pass his immigration reform plan--a centerpiece of the president's domestic agenda. Immigration reform supporters garnered just 46 of the 60 votes needed to conclude debate and proceed to final passage. Sixty senators, including 37 of Bush's fellow Republicans, voted against it. Most senators said they had no plans to try to overhaul immigration law before the 2008 presidential election, so it is unlikely that any major immigration bill will become law until 2009. The biggest obstacle was to convince conservatives that the path to citizenship for illegal aliens is not Amnesty. The bill's bitter end has a deeper meaning, as it demonstrated that conservative Americans’ vision for US immigration reform should not include any type of amnesty or legalization for undocumented workers.

"This vote effectively kills comprehensive immigration legislation in the 110th Congress" - said Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren, head of a House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration.

The measure, the biggest rewrite of U.S. immigration law since 1986, would offer 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship while tightening the border with Mexico and creating a guest-worker program to help employers fill low-paying jobs.

President Bush, who had lobbied Republican senators to support the legislation, acknowledged defeat, saying that - "Congress's failure to act on it is a disappointment." The Bush administration is still interested in finding the solution to the problem of illegal immigration, said Michael Chertoff, Bush's homeland security secretary who helped draft the legislation. The Bush administration also aggressively targeted employers who knowingly hired illegal immigrants. While there has always been laws prohibiting the hiring of illegal immigrants, these laws have not been consistently enforced. In the past, employers who hired illegal immigrants, at best, faced a modest fine. They often continued to hire illegal immigrants, even after paying a fine. Enforcement has increased, however, and last year alone over 4,000 arrests were made; a number seven times greater than the arrests made in 2002. Enforcement funding was doubled and special task forces were created to dismantle criminal rings specializing in counterfeit documents, such as falsified Social Security information that could be used to gain employment. The Department of Homeland Security is also proposing a “no-match” regulation. This electronic system, would make employers more easily aware if they hired someone who provided an inaccurate Social Security number. It would also remind them that they could be held liable for hiring these employees. Other proposed legislation includes introducing a standardized ID card for legal foreign workers that would show their legal status so that employers could easily identify them. Many also feel that a temporary worker program would help to alleviate issues regarding border security. The reasoning behind this is that if companies are legally permitted to hire the workers they need, there would be substantially less pressure on immigration enforcement officials. Border Patrol officials could then focus on targeting drug dealers, terrorists, and other criminals instead of individuals who desire to come to the United States solely to work. The program would be temporary and violators would be denied the opportunity to become permanent residents and citizens. In addition, American workers would be given priority to positions, and only after positions remained unfilled would the jobs be made available to temporary workers. The number of temporary guest workers would be determined by the market.

Another issue that has to be addressed is dealing with the undocumented immigrants already residing in the United States. There are many illegal immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for many years, and besides not having proper immigration documentation they represent what one would consider a hardworking, trustworthy lifestyle. Many immigrants come to the United States to worked hard, and are often considered to be a “good resident.” According to the former President Bush, they should be taken “out of the shadows” and given the opportunity to not be looked down upon. Regarding his immigration reform plan, the former President also was quick to state that illegal immigrants should not be granted automatic permanent residency or amnesty since this would be unfair to those who have been patiently waiting for years to obtain residency and to enter the U.S. legally. Illegal immigrants given the opportunity to a path towards citizenship would be required to: learn English, pay a substantial fine, have a job for “x” years, clear a background check and pay their taxes. In addition, they would not be given preference in the application process and would go to the end of the application line. Bush's immigration reform plan also addressed the assimilation of illegal immigrants into American society. He believed it to be crucial for all immigrants to learn English and understand American culture and values. By assimilating, immigrants would be more equipped to achieve their dreams, advance in their careers, and contribute to the cohesiveness of America. To better help immigrants assimilate, volunteer organizations would provide assistance by offering courses in English and civics among others.

TUCSON - This is about economics. It's about morality. It's about overcoming stereotypes - but not the ones you think.

What's more, solving the problem of illegal immigration has as much to do with getting Republicans to remember their ideological roots as it does with getting Democrats to act on their idealistic rhetoric.

And it wouldn't hurt to get everybody to "look in the mirror," as Mike Wilson recently told the Arizona Immigration Solutions Conference here.

The people standing behind you in that mirror, he said, are your immigrant ancestors.

"See how hungry they look. See the hope in their eyes," he said. "How dare we, as an immigrant nation, vilify and demonize the brown-skinned immigrant?"

Wilson is a member of the Tohono O'odham Nation, which includes great stretches of southern Arizona desert where illegal border crossers frequently die trying to get to jobs or family in the United States. He has gotten crosswise with his tribal leadership for putting out water for the migrants, and he does not exclude himself from the immigrant class.

"We are all standing on the humble shoulders of immigrants," he said.

It was a remarkable comment - especially considering the Native American experience with European immigration.

But Wilson's comment was not the only challenge to the ruling stereotypes.

GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain may get applause for proposing a lethal-force electric fence on the southern border. But the GOP wasn't always that way.

During a 1980 presidential forum, candidates George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan were asked whether the children of undocumented immigrants should be allowed to attend public schools for free.

Bush talked about the need for a solution "that would be so sensitive and so understanding about labor needs and human needs that that problem wouldn't come up; but today, if those people are here, I would reluctantly say I think they would get whatever it is that ... society is giving their neighbors."

He warned that "we are creating a whole society of really honorable, decent family-loving people that are in violation of the law."

Reagan called for a better understanding of Mexico.

"Rather than ... talking about putting up a fence," he said, "why don't we work out some recognition of our mutual problems, make it possible for them to come here legally, with a work permit, and then, while they are working and earning here, they pay taxes here?"

That glimpse back at a very different GOP was brought to the conference via a YouTube clip by Daryl Williams, a commercial litigation attorney and a proud Arizona Mormon.

So, knock out another stereotype: Williams cites his church as the source of moral arguments against such things as SB 1070, the Arizona law that was considered the meanest in the nation until Alabama went after schoolkids.

Williams said people have an "obligation and a duty" to oppose the kind of anti-immigrant rhetoric that has been around since the days when Ben Franklin warned against the pernicious influence of non-English-speaking German immigrants.

"I hope you all understand your responsibility to be moral about issues like this," the attorney said.

Williams, who says, "I'm to the right of Genghis Khan," questioned why the current immigration solutions, which involve more government regulation, "with all of its inefficiencies," were being put forward by those "who call themselves conservatives."

The Oct. 15 conference at which Williams spoke was the fourth of five meetings around the state designed to broaden the conversation about immigration. The conferences are sponsored by Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform, Real Arizona Coalition and One Arizona/Interfaith Leaders Coalition. The final conference will be held in Yuma on Nov. 12.

Dan Griswold of the libertarian Cato Institute, told the Tucson group that the enforcement-only policies of the recent decades have not worked for the same reason that Reagan's 1986 immigration reform did not work: They do not include a mechanism for migrants to enter the country legally to do work that the aging and increasingly well-educated American workforce rejects. They ignore economic realities.

But one thing about that 1986 reform did work. Amnesty was a success.

Research shows the wages of previously undocumented workers rose dramatically following legalization, according to Ral Hinojosa-Ojeda of UCLA. Once these folks became part of the mainstream, they began to invest in their own human capital, taking GED and English classes to make themselves more employable. In a ripple-up effect, wages for native-born Americans also rose, he said.

Economic arguments also come from the left,

Democratic Rep. Ral Grijalva told the conference his call for a boycott of Arizona after the passage of SB 1070 was done in "anger and very defensively." He renounced it.

Going forward, Grijalva said, "the meeting ground is going to be the economic ground." He is sponsoring a broad border infrastructure-improvement bill, HR 3049, that sees the U.S.-Mexican border not just as a source of trouble but as an economic engine.

The bill focuses on enhanced trade and port security. It offers an approach with wide appeal that can "break the ice," recast the arguments about immigration reform and make Arizona part of the solution, he said.

So, we have a conservative lawyer talking about weighing immigration reform on a morality scale. We have a progressive lawmaker looking at the border from an economic perspective. We have a Native American identifying with immigrants. We have Ronald Reagan arguing against fences. And we have the widow of a Phoenix policeman who should hate illegal immigrants but doesn't.

Julie Erfle, whose husband, Nick, a Phoenix police officer, was killed by an illegal immigrant in 2007, told the conference that she is "one of thousands and thousands of people whose lives have been shattered by a broken system."

But Erfle rejected the attempt to make her husband's death a rallying cry for the enforcement-only approach. She created a blog called Politics, which she uses to argue for solutions that go beyond "that danged fence."

"We all need to be the ones taking the microphone away from the bullies," she said.

She reserved special criticism for some elected officials - many of them Democrats: "We need to take to task politicians who say they favor comprehensive reform but do nothing."

The stereotype busters at this conference showed there is a lot more to talk about than the tired, old get-tough venom.

Immigration reform is about economics. It's about morality.

What does the Campaign to Reform Immigration for America stand for?

We are a united voice for just and humane immigration reform. Our campaign supports the following principles

Immigration reform must promote economic opportunity. We must renew our commitment to helping all low-income Americans improve their job prospects and move up the economic ladder towards the American Dream.

Immigration reform must be comprehensive. Unless we tackle the broken immigration system as a whole, we will fail to solve the problem at hand.

Long-term reform requires long term solutions. The factors shaping immigration are not just domestic; the issue transcends our borders. As such, how we as a country approach our relationships with other nations matters. We must deal with the domestic aspect of this issue and work in partnership with other countries over time to develop long-term strategies.

Congressman Luis GutierrezA reform package that works for all communities and families in America should include the following

A rational and humane approach to the undocumented population. We must address the more than twelve million undocumented immigrants living in this country by creating a rigorous registration process that leads to lawful permanent resident status and eventual citizenship.

Protect U.S. and immigrant workers. Immigration reform is a component of building real economic security, contributing to a shared prosperity agenda that maintains and improves wages and working conditions in the United States and in other countries. We must protect all workers’ rights, regardless of whether they were born in the United States or abroad, and any employment verification system should determine employment authorization accurately and efficiently while protecting workers and good-faith employers.

Allocate sufficient visas to close unlawful migration channels. One of the great failures of our current system is that the level of legal immigration is set arbitrarily by Congress—as a product of political compromise. The allocation of employment visas to workers should be depoliticized and placed in the hands of an independent commission that can assess labor shortages and determine the number and characteristics of foreign workers to be admitted, with Congress’s approval.

Enhance our nation’s security and safety. A sensible enforcement strategy will keep America safe, protect due process and human rights, make the most effective use of the tools and policies already available in a fair and reasonable manner, and be fiscally responsible. Such a strategy would prioritize enforcement actions to target genuine threats, violent individuals, unscrupulous employers; traffickers and drug smugglers, and those that might exploit the immigration system to do the country harm.

Establish a strategic border enforcement policy that reflects American values. A border strategy that prioritizes the safety and security of border communities and consults with these communities in the process is the best way to ensure that our border policies protect our national security, while balancing enforcement with economic development and human and civil rights.

Keep American families together. Our outdated family immigration channels, which keep close family members separated for decades, must be reformed to restore our commitment to promoting family unity.

Promote immigrant integration.

The federal government must help new immigrants learn our language and laws, ensure equal opportunity for immigrants to participate in programs and services, and support state and local governments’ efforts to help integrate these new Americans.

Protect fundamental rights for all. Congress must restore basic civil liberties and reaffirm Constitutional protections for all individuals in this country and renew our commitment to core American values of fairness and justice.