Immigration and Refugees
Since the early 1800's, immigration has been both a crucial component of America's growth and a periodic source of conflict, and in recent years it has become one of the most contentious issues on the nation's political agenda.
In 2003, President Bush called for a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, the first since the mid-80's. His proposal focused on creating a guest worker program that would allow immigrants to legally enter the country temporarily to fill jobs that employers say would otherwise go unfilled. The plan was overshadowed by the opening of the Iraq war and was set aside during the campaign season of 2004.
By the time legislation had worked its way through to the floor of the House of Representatives in late 2005, it was clear that the mood had shifted on immigration, particularly among Republicans. In December 2005 the Republican-controlled House passed a bill that rejected Mr. Bush's plan for a guest worker program, and instead called for the deportation of all illegal immigrants and proposed making it a felony to offer them any assistance.
Church groups and organizations representing immigrants and Hispanics reacted angrily, and organized large demonstrations through the spring of 2006.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators reached an agreement on a bill that would create a guest worker program and give many illegal immigrants a path toward citizenship. President Bush gave his support, but the effort collapsed after many conservative Republicans denounced it as an "amnesty" plan.
Negotiations resumed in the spring of 2007, with members of the Senate, now controlled by Democrats by the slimmest of margins, discussing a plan that would focus on the national security concerns and law-enforcement concerns raised by conservatives first, before moving on to elements addressing guest workers and creating a route for illegal immigrants to gain legal status.
The plan, the product of a bipartisan...