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Inside Politics

Democrats: Bush immigration plan not enough

Lieberman: 'Too little and three years too late'

Rep. Dick Gephardt calls the Bush proposal
Rep. Dick Gephardt calls the Bush proposal "a greater emphasis on political positioning than serious policy solutions."

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CNN's Kathleen Koch on the Bush proposal to make illegal immigrants 'guest workers.'
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CNN's Lisa Sylvester reports on President Bush's new plan.
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Workers in the United States illegally join a temporary labor program.

Those now-illegal immigrants then can apply for permanent residence but get no preferential consideration.

Employers hiring these workers must show they cannot find U.S. laborers to fill their jobs.

These undocumented workers get guaranteed wage and employment rights.

These workers receive a temporary three-year visa, renewable once. They are expected to return to their countries of birth once their visas expire.

Congress is urged to increase current annual limit of 140,000 "Green Cards.".

The Department of Homeland Security is to administer the program.
Democratic Party
George W. Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Even before President Bush unveiled his new immigration policy that includes creation of a guest worker program to bring illegal immigrants out of the shadows, key Democrats who support allowing undocumented immigrants to earn legal status criticized the proposal Wednesday as insufficient.

"The administration's long-delayed re-involvement in the immigration debate is very disappointing," said Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts. "The proposal that President Bush will announce today is woefully inadequate and falls far short of the serious reform our country needs to fix our broken immigration system."

Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, a 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, said Bush's plan places "a greater emphasis on political positioning than serious policy solutions."

"President Bush's proposal to grant temporary worker status to undocumented immigrants is, at best, a half measure that has the potential to do more harm than good," he said in a statement.

Another presidential hopeful, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, released a statement calling Bush's proposal an "election-year conversion" that is "too little and three years too late."

"George Bush's plan leaves foreign workers as fodder for our fields and factories, without giving them a path to legalization and a fair shot at the American dream," he said.

Bush planned to unveil the broad outlines of his proposal Wednesday afternoon. Administration officials said he will propose that illegal immigrants already working in the United States be allowed to apply for a guest worker program, which would allow them to stay legally for three years. (Full story)

Guest workers would be able to apply for permanent residency, although they would have to compete for a limited number of slots with people outside the United States who are applying to immigrate. If they do not win permanent residency, they would have to leave the country when their guest worker visa expires.

Both Lieberman and Gephardt have sponsored bills that would allow all illegal immigrants in the country to earn legalization, if they have been in the country working for five years and pass a background check.

That "earned legalization" approached is also endorsed by the front-runner in the Democratic president race, Howard Dean.

"My view is if you've lived here for a significant period of time -- whether you're undocumented or documented -- and you have contributed to your community, you have never been arrested or gone to jail or any of that stuff, and you've paid your taxes and worked hard, that you ought to have a path to earn legalization of citizenship and so forth," Dean said at an appearance in Iowa.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, said he "absolutely" supported the goal of legalizing undocumented workers.

He also said he was concerned that wages paid to guest workers might pull down the wages of American workers. (Related story)

"I think it's critical that we offer minimum wage limits to all these jobs," Daschle said.

CNN's Steve Turnham contributed to this report.

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