WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats urged Saturday that visas be given to Canadian and Mexican immigrants with job or family ties to the United States.
Rep. Ed Pastor of Arizona, in his party's weekly radio address, said reform must start by lifting caps on family- and employment-based immigration "and exempting Canada and Mexico from these limits entirely."
"Making more visas available will not only reunite families that have been separated for many years but also provide an incentive for immigrants to come legally rather than illegally," he said.
Pastor commended President Bush for promising to push for sweeping immigration reform at the request of Mexico's President Vicente Fox. Fox wrapped up a three-day visit to the United States this week.
"But more than talk is needed, and Democrats are ready to move forward on this issue in Congress," he said. Bush, Fox and many Democrats agree that migrant workers play a critical role in the U.S. economy.
Fox urged Congress to legalize the status of an estimated 3 million undocumented Mexicans working in the United States--a tall order amid indications that the U.S. economy could continue to weaken.
Several key Republicans in Congress--including House Judiciary Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin and the head of the panel's immigration subcommittee, Rep. George W. Gekas of Pennsylvania--oppose any legalization of undocumented immigrants. In the Senate, Republican opponents include Jon Kyl of Arizona and Phil Gramm of Texas, who view legalization as tantamount to rewarding lawbreakers.
Pastor said the Democrats' goal is to "shift the focus of our immigration policies to take advantage of, rather than fear, the economic and cultural evolution of our nation."
"It is time to embrace reality, overcome our fear of change and allow deserving immigrants to pursue their dreams without constant fear of losing their families, their freedom and even their lives."