President Bush urges a civil discussion on the topic.

President Bush urges a civil discussion on the topic.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mexican-born Juan Hernandez looked out at the crowd of more than 10,000 people that filled the streets of his adopted hometown of Milwaukee Thursday, protesting efforts in Congress to crack down on illegal immigrants.
The turnout of people waving American, Mexican and other flags showed the high emotions of the debate that the Senate plans to take up next week.
"We came to work, not to be discriminated against," Hernandez declared. "We want to be equal."
Hernandez, 38, works at the Omega Family Restaurant, which gave him and more than a dozen other employees permission to join the protest. Such businesses say they need cheap immigrant labor and are behind competing legislation that would make it easier for foreigners to work legally in the United States.
They have the support of President Bush, who urged lawmakers Thursday to avoid pitting groups against each other.
"When we discuss this debate, it must be done in a civil way," Bush said after he, Vice President Dick Cheney and top strategist Karl Rove met with groups allied with him in the debate. "It must be done in a way that brings dignity to the process. It must be done in a way that doesn't pit people against one another."
Different ideas
But Bush and the leader of his party in the Senate are starting out with different ideas about the best way to address the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country.
Bush wants Congress to create a program to allow foreigners to gain legal status for a set amount of time to do specific jobs. When the time is up, they would be required to return home without an automatic path to citizenship.
Bush said his message to foreigners is: "If you are doing a job that Americans won't do, you're welcome here for a period of time to do that job."
Immigration is a divisive issue for the country and the Republican Party. It splits two main GOP constituent groups -- businesses and social conservatives.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., says he understands the economic concerns being expressed by businesses, but his focus is on the main concern voiced by the social conservatives -- national security.
"The most important thing is that we keep our borders safe, we keep America safe," said Frist spokeswoman Amy Call. "It's obvious there are drugs, there are criminals coming through those borders. There are also people from known terrorist organizations coming through those borders."
Public's opinion
The public appears to be more on the side of tougher border control. Three-quarters of respondents to a Time magazine poll in January said the United States is not doing enough to keep illegal immigrants from entering the country. Roughly the same amount said they favor a guest worker program for illegal immigrants, but 46 percent said those workers should have to return first to their native countries and apply. About 50 percent favored deporting all illegal immigrants.
Frist's bill sidesteps the question of temporary work permits and would tighten borders, add Border Patrol agents and punish employers who hire illegal immigrants. He has left open the possibility of replacing his legislation with a measure being drafted by the Senate Judiciary Committee that includes a guest worker program.
"We've scheduled two weeks of debate," his spokeswoman said, underscoring the divisiveness of the issue. "We need all two weeks."
Will try to thwart it
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., backed by labor unions, has said he will do all he can, including filibuster, to thwart Frist's legislation. So has Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., who said legislation seeking to criminalize undocumented immigrants is not in line with Republicans' stated support for faith and values and "would literally criminalize the Good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself."
While the Senate Judiciary Committee considers the issue Monday, Bush plans to attend a citizenship ceremony in Washington.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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