Bush II's First Task: Immigration

Come January 2005, both Congress and President Bush are expected to start work on some unfinished business from the intelligence-reform law that was finally approved this week.

Left out of that sweeping measure, which was aimed primarily at consolidating the nation's spy work, were tough steps to block foreign terrorists from entering and operating in the US. Too many holes remain in the nation's immigration policies to keep terrorists out. Mr. Bush promised advocates of such measures that they would get a high priority in the new Congress.

The reform package did include a few immigration provisions, such as adding 10,000 border patrol agents over the next five years and more remotely piloted aircraft over the southwest border. In addition, minimum standards will be established for using state driver's licenses as IDs to board airplanes.

But what was rejected in the final days of wrangling over the bill were provisions to deny driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, to make it tougher for immigrants to win asylum, and to allow easier deportation of people who are in the country illegally.

The Senate balked at those House-passed measures. But Bush's promise to throw his political capital behind them should help them pass.

The president also plans to introduce more general immigration legislation next year, such as a temporary legal "guest worker" program. This is aimed at stemming the flow of some 750,000 illegal migrants across the Mexican border each year. But this proposal shouldn't hinder the more urgent steps left out of the intelligence-reform bill, which are aimed at preventing another Sept. 11 attack.

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