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Chertoff: Immigration law needed this year

Legislation 'final tool' to secure borders, security chief says

From Justine Redman
CNN Washington Bureau

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George W. Bush
Michael Chertoff
Crime, Law and Justice

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said Thursday that the problem of illegal immigration into the United States will worsen if Congress does not pass immigration reform measures before the end of the year.

"Congress has an opportunity and it has a responsibility to act this year to tackle this problem," he said in a speech in Washington. "The president has used the tools of the so-called 'bully pulpit' to speak very aggressively and clearly about the comprehensive solution he thinks is appropriate. ... That is the way presidents move Congress."

Immigration legislation has stalled in Congress with the House and Senate favoring widely different proposals. Last week House Republicans announced plans to have a series of immigration hearings around the country, a move critics say makes it unlikely any bill will pass this year.

Chertoff predicted that the number of border patrol agents in the United States will more than double during President Bush's time in office, reaching 18,000 by the end of 2008. Fences, vehicle barriers, roads, and sophisticated equipment such as sensors, unmanned aircraft and satellites will be added to their artillery, he said.

However, Chertoff said that measures must be complemented by a temporary worker program "that is not an amnesty but that does allow people to get themselves square with the law if necessary, if they've violated the law, and then work in this country temporarily."

"By doing this we will have given our border patrol and our other law enforcement agents the final tool they need to do the job we have asked them to do," he said.

Chertoff said the goal of border patrol is to capture and return to their countries of origin 100 percent of illegal immigrants, dissuading others from attempting to cross the border.

"When you look at where we are now as compared to where we were in the past, we have people crossing the desert because they can't come across San Diego anymore. That is one example of a real, measurable result," he said. "The reality is the more people are forced to endure difficult challenges in crossing the border ... because we're closing off the easier routes."

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