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John King: Mexican immigrants, Bush Europe trip

John King is CNN's senior White House correspondent.

CNN: Good morning John King. Welcome all to Political Week in Preview chat.

KING: Hello and happy Monday.

CNN: President Bush is considering granting residency to nearly three million undocumented Mexicans living in the U.S. What are some of the options?

KING: This is an issue the president promised to consider during his first meeting with President Fox in February. One proposal is amnesty and legal status for the more than three million Mexicans in the U.S. illegally. Another is a new guest worker program in which Mexicans could come into the U.S. and work for up to three years, and perhaps even have payroll deductions like our taxes here. However, the money would not go to the U.S. government but instead into a savings program so they could have money when the visa expired and they were required to return to Mexico. Obviously immigration can be a very contentious issue, so whatever the president decides to recommend will be the beginning of a spirited debate.

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CHAT PARTICIPANT: Why are the Mexicans getting this special treatment? There are other illegal aliens in this country who may have had even more reason to come here.

KING: Well, that will of course be part of the debate. There are more Mexicans than any other group, and Mr. Bush wants to have a good relationship with President Fox, but if he opens the door to amnesty for Mexicans, there certainly will be those who argue either for a more broad-based amnesty or against the proposal on grounds it is unfair.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Does that mean that 3,000,000 Mexicans will vote for Bush next election?

KING: Well it would mean certainly that the president would have an issue on which he could seek the goodwill and support not only of any illegal immigrants who gained legal status but also perhaps of the many more Mexican-Americans who are here legally. So some will say this is a political decision -- but remember the president is receiving the report this week and has yet to make any specific recommendations.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Does Bush alone have the power to grant citizenship or does the House have to vote, too?

KING: The Congress would have to approve any changes to U.S. immigration laws. So there would be a debate.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Is President Bush focusing on Mexican issues to the detriment of U.S. relationship with Russia, China, Saudia Arabia, and other hot spots in the world?

KING: The administration would say no; that the president is not ignoring any vital U.S. interests. But Mr. Bush also signaled early on that he wanted to elevate the relationship with Mexico.

CNN: Some members of Congress making rounds on talk shows vowed that campaign finance reform isn't dead yet. How likely is it that it'll get back on the agenda this year?

KING: Hard to say -- but supporters are determined to try to get it back on the House calendar and there are some parliamentary moves they could try. So we will have to keep watching and see whether they can find a way to bring it back to the floor.

CNN: How strong is constituent support for changes in campaign finance? Are Americans speaking out strongly to their Congress people in support of reform?

KING: It is an issue that tests high in the polls -- people say they want reform. But it does not test high when you ask people to list their top three or four concerns; the economy, education health care tend to top the list. So many of those who oppose the proposals that supporters label as "reform" do not believe there is a groundswell out in the country for this issue to be addressed.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: What is a way to enforce reform while getting the information on the candidates to the people?

KING: Some argue the best way is to take advantage of the technology we are enjoying at this moment and require instant disclosure of donations on the Internet. Others argue for free or reduced-rate radio and TV time for candidates. All of this is done knowing that the Supreme Court would likely be the final arbiter of many of the disputes because of free speech issues. So there are a number of proposals and what some consider to be reform others consider to be unconstitutional or too restrictive -- which is why it is so hard to get an agreement on this issue.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: The president travels to Europe this week-- do you think he'll try to put on a different face this time?

KING: Well, he faces again tough questions over missile defense and global warming. He won't be able to escape those. He will try to focus some attention on the U.S. role in trying to alleviate poverty and AIDS and debt for developing countries, but he has a lot to do in dealing with questions about views that are out of sync with many key U.S. allies.

CNN: What are the highlights of the president's second trip to Europe this week?

KING: He goes to London first to see Prime Minister Blair. Then Rome, where he meets with the Pope. And then to Genoa for the G8 summit - where he will see President Putin again and as many as 100,000 anti-globalization protesters are expected. And he will stop in Kosovo before coming home to greet U.S. peacekeeping troops.

CNN: Any final thoughts for us today, John?

KING: The decision to move ahead with missile defense has Mr. Bush in a difficult position as the Russians and U.S. allies in Europe worry about the ABM treaty and arms control overall. So the president has an interesting stretch just ahead as he tries to negotiate with the Russians to change the "strategic framework" of US-Russia relations.

CNN: Thanks for joining us today John King. Talk to you again next week.

KING: Thank you. Take care everyone.

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