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Bush pushes for immigrant worker plan

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President Bush delivers a radio address that touts the economy and his proposal to give illegal immigrant workers a chance to keep their jobs. (January 10)
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George W. Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Saturday his program to allow illegal immigrants to work in the United States legally for up to three years was designed to put "willing foreign workers" in jobs that Americans are "not willing" to do.

The president, in his weekly radio address, said such a move would strengthen an economy that is "strong and getting stronger" and called on Congress to make permanent his tax cuts "for the sake of economic expansion."

"If Congress fails to act, this tax relief will disappear and millions of American families and small businesses would see tax hikes starting in 2005," Bush said.

"Every American who pays income taxes got a tax cut," he said. "They should keep that tax cut in the future."

The president said the tax cuts have led more Americans to own homes, increased manufacturing, given businesses cash to invest, raised the stock market and lowered the unemployment rate.

But Democrats questioned Bush's commitment to American families, workers and small businesses. On Friday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called "extremely disappointing" the Bureau of Labor Statistics announcement that only 1,000 jobs were created in December, that 26,000 manufacturing jobs were lost, and that November's job growth had been revised downward.

"We had all hoped that the holiday shopping season would encourage retailers to hire more employees, and the Bush administration had promised that 200,000 jobs would be created," the California Democrat said. "Clearly, it is time for President Bush to get serious about creating jobs."

Also Friday, the Small Business Administration suspended its popular start-up loan program for women and minorities, an act Democratic National Committee chief Terry McAuliffe called an "outrageous decision."

"It is a disgrace that while President Bush has repeatedly told small business owners that he considers them the main creators of jobs in America, his administration is making such an outrageous decision that will cut off their access to capital," McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe also said the move is not the administration's first assault on the program. In his first budget, McAuliffe said, Bush pushed to include new taxes on all program participants, and caps announced last year took billions of dollars out of the economy.

"Women and minority entrepreneurs need this program for the survival of their businesses. Our nation needs this program to generate much-needed jobs," he said.

Bush, however, looked elsewhere for his economic boosts.

"We must continue to take other steps to promote growth and job creation throughout our economy," he said. "We must promote free and fair trade, reform our class action system, and help businesses and their employees address the problem of rising health care costs."

Immigration law changes are another way to strengthen the economy, he said, referring to the controversial plan he announced this week that would revamp those laws and allow some eight million illegal immigrants to obtain legal status as temporary workers.

The program, he said, "would match willing foreign workers with willing American employers, when no Americans can be found to fill the jobs."

"If an American employer is offering a job that American citizens are not willing to take, we ought to welcome into our country a person who will fill that job," he said.

"It will help strengthen our economy, return order to our immigration system, and secure our homeland."

Pelosi said Democrats have a more sure plan.

"We should pass the bipartisan manufacturing bill that creates jobs here at home, not overseas," she said. "We should expand the child tax credit for working families and extend unemployment benefits. And, we should pass a highway bill that creates jobs."

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