Tucson Citizen
Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Kerry proposes major immigration changes

The Associated Press

PHOENIX - Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said yesterday he would make wide changes to immigration policies to help reduce the suffering of illegal immigrants crossing hostile terrain to find work in the American labor market.

Kerry said his plan would give some illegal immigrants a chance to earn citizenship and let relatives reunite with family members who are working in the United States.

He said he also would try to make the Southwestern border more secure by working with Mexico to remove the economic incentives for illicit border crossings.

"You can't do any one piece of this alone, and that's what often happens in immigration reform," Kerry told thousands of Hispanics at the convention of the National Council of La Raza, a group dedicated to promoting Latino issues.

Danny Diaz, a spokesman for President Bush's re-election campaign, said the Massachusetts senator doesn't have a strong record on immigration policies.

Bush has proposed allowing immigrants to obtain renewable three-year labor visas to work here and would offer an alternative to using people smugglers.

Illegal immigration has caused a mass of problems along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, especially in Arizona, the nation's busiest border crossing point for the past three years.

Hundreds of illegal immigrants die each year from exposure to extreme weather, dehydration and accidents along the border.

Kerry said he would propose a comprehensive immigration package in his first 100 days as president.

It would let illegal workers who stay out of trouble and pay taxes a shot at earned citizenship, Kerry said.

He said the plan also would eliminate backlogs and delays that keep families separated from relatives working in the United States.

Diaz said Kerry's attention to immigration is disingenuous. "He comes out West to speak to an issue that he has hardly spoken about in 20 years" in the Senate.