Bush renews push for 'comprehensive' immigration bill
'All elements must be addressed together, or none will be solved'
Society need not choose between compassion and the law, President Bush said.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush reiterated his support for a guest worker program Thursday during a Cinco de Mayo event in the White House's East Room.
Bush has a scheduling conflict and will not be able to attend an event set for Friday, so the White House celebration was held a day early.
"Our nation does not have to choose between being a compassionate society and a lawful society," the president said. "I support strengthening our borders, and I support a temporary worker program that would match willing workers with American employers."
Bush added that he believes in the need for "a secure and legal channel for people to come to our country" and pressed for "comprehensive" immigration reform rather than a piecemeal approach.
"All elements must be addressed together, or none will be solved at all," he said.
Bush's remarks come in the midst of controversy over immigration reform and a series of mass demonstrations by immigrants.
Immigration reform has stalled in Congress, primarily because the majority Republicans are deeply divided over what to do about the millions of illegal immigrants already in the country.
The Senate is considering a proposal that would allow illegal immigrants to obtain legal status, and eventually citizenship, by working for six years, paying a fine, undergoing a background check and learning English. Supporters of the idea call it "earned citizenship," but opponents -- including many conservatives in the GOP base -- denounce it as "amnesty."
When the House passed immigration reform in December, it took a much tougher line. The House bill contains no mechanism for illegal immigrants to earn legal status, and, in addition to making illegal immigration a felony, also calls for building 700 miles of security fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The House bill has sparked a wave of protests by immigration supporters, particularly because of the provision making illegal immigration a felony. However, GOP leaders have indicated they are likely to drop that provision when House and Senate negotiators hash out details of a final bill.
On Monday, throngs of immigrants and their advocates took to the streets of many U.S. cities to protest proposed immigration laws. (Full story)
Among the locations were: New York; Washington; Las Vegas, Nevada; Miami, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; Los Angeles, California; San Francisco, California; Atlanta, Georgia; Denver, Colorado; Phoenix, Arizona; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Organizers of the nationwide event, dubbed "A Day Without Immigrants," asked those opposing tighter restrictions on immigration -- namely immigrants themselves -- to flex their economic muscle by boycotting all aspects of commerce, including work and school.
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