The immigration debate has been the subject of a prime-time address by President Bush, sparked demonstrations in the streets of several major cities, and last year played a key role in a number of congressional races. It is constantly on the lips of pundits and political commentators, and is already a factor in the presidential race as well. It has occasionally turned ugly, with accusations of racism on one side and anti-Americanism on the other, leaving many policymakers uncertain where to turn or exactly how to allay what they sense as growing public unease.
The debate has been especially divisive within the Republican party. Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado has launched a presidential run on a platform of tight border control and opposition to any form of amnesty for illegal aliens, whom he calls “a scourge that threatens the very future of our nation.” The President, meanwhile, is pushing in essentially the opposite direction, campaigning to “normalize” the status of illegal immigrants who have lived in America for years and proposing a temporary-worker program to allow more foreigners to come here legally. The nation’s immigration policy, Bush has asserted, must take heed of “the reality that there are many people on the other side of our border who will do anything to come to America to work and build a better life.”