Bush vows new push for guest workers - East Valley Tribune: News

Bush vows new push for guest workers

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Posted: Monday, November 22, 2004 5:43 am | Updated: 4:44 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

SANTIAGO, Chile - President Bush wrapped up a weekend summit with Asia-Pacific leaders on Sunday, vowing to press a guest worker plan to give temporary legal status to millions of Mexicans illegally in the United States.

In a meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox, Bush said he would urge Congress to take up the proposal, opposed by some who fear it could invite a wave of illegal immigration from south of the U.S. border.

Bush defended the plan, though, saying it would not open the floodgates to illegal migration.

‘‘It’s not an amnesty program. It’s a worker program,’’ Bush said in a press conference with Chilean President Ricardo Lagos.

‘‘I think it’s necessary,’’ Bush said. ‘‘I’m going to find supporters on the (Capitol) Hill and move it.’’

Bush and Fox met on the sidelines of the annual summit of leaders from the 21-nation Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Bush used the summit, his first since winning re-election, mainly to press his second-term diplomatic and security agenda in a spate of one-onone meetings with leaders from Russia, China, Japan, Mexico and several other member nations.

Bush and Lagos pushed aside their differences over the Iraq war, which Chile, a member of the United Nations Security Council, has opposed.

‘‘Most of the time we will be in agreement, sometimes we won’t, but that’s life,’’ Lagos said.

Bush highlighted Chile’s willingness to send troops to stand alongside U.S. forces in peacekeeping missions in Haiti and Bosnia.

On Iraq, Bush said, ‘‘President Lagos didn’t agree with my decision, and I respect that. He’s still my friend.’’

Diplomacy was trumped by discord, though, when Bush jumped into a security scrum to retrieve a protective agent held up by Chilean guards at a formal dinner Saturday night.

A Secret Service detail accompanies Bush at all times in ways that are routinely worked out well in advance of foreign trips. U.S. officials chalked up Saturday’s incident as a misunderstanding.

The Chilean press, however, played it as though Bush sought special treatment and his agents bullied Chile’s respected national police force, the green-uniformed Carabineros.

‘‘George Bush’s Gorillas Clash with ’Greens,’ ’’ trumpeted the Sunday edition of ‘‘La Cuarta,’’ a popular national newspaper that referred to Bush as ‘‘the gringo sheriff.’’

‘‘The president is someone who tends to delegate,’’ White House spokesman Scott McClellan joked with reporters, ‘‘but every now and then he’s a hands-on kind of guy.’’

Statecraft and security collided once more when a postsummit dinner for Bush hosted by Lagos was downsized from a grand social function to a private working session after disputes over the level of protection the American president would receive.

White House agents wanted the 250 invited dignitaries to undergo a full security sweep, including passing through metal detectors, when they arrived at the 18th century presidential palace, La Moneda. Saturday afternoon, though, both sides agreed to scrub the social soiree and trim the dinner to just Bush, Lagos and senior aides.

Both incidents played out against a backdrop of national pride and lingering mistrust of U.S. intentions among Chileans. Many harbor bitter memories of the U.S.-backed military coup in 1973 that overthrew a democratically elected president, Salvador Allende.

A socialist, Allende died in La Moneda when it came under attack by troops under the command of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. He seized control of the government and ruled for 15 years, staving off political opposition through the widespread use of torture, murder and intimidation in one of the darkest chapters of modern Chilean history.

The summit leaders agreed to a series of small-bore steps aimed at countering global terrorism: Helping to protect aircraft by tightening controls on stockpiles and shipments of shoulder-fired missiles, for example, and complying, by the end of next year, with new international rules meant to prevent commercial nuclear programs from being used to make weapons.

They also discussed ways to reinvigorate global trade talks aimed at reducing trade barriers between wealthy countries and developing states.

In Sunday’s bilateral meeting, Fox and Bush agreed to revive a guest worker initiative both leaders discussed in Washington days before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The attacks shunted the proposal into the shadows of an agenda that focused on homeland security and war against Afghanistan and, later, Iraq.

Instead of pressing to liberalize immigration policy, the administration did an aboutface, stressing ways to better control the 2,000-mile-long border the United States shares with Mexico and to monitor foreigners in the United States.

‘‘One way to make sure the border is secure is to have reasonable immigration policies,’’ Bush said Sunday. ‘‘We want people from Mexico treated with respect and dignity.’’

Mexicans make up more than half of the estimated 8.5 million illegal foreigners in the United States.

Bush travels today to Colombia, to meet with President Alvaro Uribe for talks centered on efforts to counter narco-trafficking. He continues on from there to Texas, where he plans to spend Thanksgiving at his ranch.

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