IMAGE: Fence along U.S. border
Sandy Huffaker  /  Getty Images file
Mexican nationals peer through the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border at Border Field State Park in San Ysidro, Calif., on Aug. 24.
updated 10/4/2006 3:20:13 PM ET 2006-10-04T19:20:13

President Bush on Wednesday signed a law that will pay for hundreds of miles of new fences along the U.S.-Mexico border, a move against illegal immigration that Republicans had sought before next month’s congressional elections.

Bush had hoped to address the illegal immigration issue in a comprehensive way that would have brought beefed-up border security as well as a temporary guest worker program allowing the immigrants to work legally in the United States.

He spent months advancing the idea but failed to overcome doubts from many Republicans on Capitol Hill who derided the guest worker program as an “amnesty” that would give illegal immigrants a route to citizenship.

Under the legislation, about $1.2 billion would be spent during the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 for southwest border fencing and other barriers. The money is part of a $33.8 billion package for domestic security programs that are being bolstered following the Sept. 11 attacks.

An estimated 12 million illegal immigrants live in the United States, many of whom entered through the porous border with Mexico.

Mexico had strongly objected to the fence, which it saw as a slap in the face to efforts during President Vicente Fox’s near completed six-year term to negotiate an agreement with Washington on immigration.

Campaign issue
Republicans, hoping to hang on to their control of the U.S. Congress in Nov. 7 elections, have been pushing border security in reaction to anger by voters, who say in some places immigrants are taking away jobs and swamping health and education services.

In a signing ceremony in Arizona, where illegal immigration is a grave concern, Bush said he still wanted a guest worker program in order to relieve pressure on the border with Mexico.

“The funds that Congress has appropriated are critical to our efforts to secure this border and enforce our laws. Yet we must also recognize that enforcement alone is not going to work. We need comprehensive reform that provides a legal way for people to work here on a temporary basis,” Bush said.

The legislation will also fund increased nuclear detection equipment at U.S. ports and raise security standards at chemical plants.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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