Immigration reform: Republicans demand guest worker program

At a bipartisan meeting yesterday at the White House on immigration reform, Republicans including John McCain said that a reform bill must include a guest worker program. The New York Times article Obama’s first public meeting on immigration:
Guest Worker Program Poses Obstacle for Obama on Immigration Push
By Jeff Zeleny
President Obama said on Thursday that he was committed to passing a comprehensive immigration plan, but Republicans attending a bipartisan meeting at the White House expressed skepticism a deal could be reached unless Mr. Obama endorsed a guest worker program that Democratic-leaning labor unions oppose.
“What I’m encouraged by is that after all the overheated rhetoric and the occasional demagoguery on all sides around this issue,” Mr. Obama said, “we’ve got a responsible set of leaders sitting around the table who want to actively get something done and not put it off until a year, two years, three years, five years from now.”
In the State Dining Room, Mr. Obama met with nearly three dozen Democratic and Republican lawmakers for the first substantive discussion on immigration since he took office five months ago. Mr. Obama named a working group to be led by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.
Mr. Obama singled out his former Republican rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona, for his commitment to changing the nation’s immigration system.
“I want to specially commend John McCain who is with me here today,” Mr. Obama said at the end of the closed-door meeting when reporters were briefly allowed inside. “He has already paid a significant political cost for doing the right thing. I stand with him.”
Mr. McCain, speaking to reporters outside the White House, said comprehensive immigration reform has a fresh urgency because of the surge in violence along the border with Mexico. But he suggested a bigger sticking point could be the guest worker program, which he said must be part of any immigration bill.
“I can’t support any proposal that doesn’t have a legal temporary worker program and I would expect the president of the United States to put his influence on the unions in order to change their position,” Mr. McCain said. “Without a commitment to a legal temporary worker program for our high-tech community and agriculture sector, there is no such thing as comprehensive immigration reform.”
As he walked to a waiting car, Mr. McCain said the president needed to stand up to labor unions and show leadership, saying: “That’s why he was elected president.”
With unemployment rising, several labor unions have opposed a temporary guest worker program. The president made no commitments, according to several participants in the room, but has signaled that he is open to discussing such a program. Several Republicans told Mr. Obama that they had taken political heat in their own parties and it was time for him to do the same.
“We’ve got one more chance to do this,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “If we fail this time around, no politician will take this up for a generation.”

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