Bush Administration announces Immigration Crackdown

by Steve Handlesman

NBC News

Immigration reform was defeated in Congress months ago, but on Friday the Bush administration announced a crackdown using current law to make it tougher for employers who hire illegal immigrants.

The new plan targets U-S employers in agriculture, and the hotel and restaurant business where estimates are as many as half the workers are in the U-S illegally.

President Bush's point men on immigration say they want to weaken a magnet.

"The magnet that brings most economic migrants into this country is work, and if we have worksite emforcement directed at illegal employment,  we strike at that magnet," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

The crackdown will require businesses to be sure that their workers have valid Social Security cards.

State governments will be asked to help cross match with driver's licenses.

Employers caught with undocumented workers will pay larger fines.

At the same time, existing programs will be revived to grant temporary visas to much needed seasonal workers.

"It's not the perfect program but its a lot better than what we have today," said Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.

Meanwhile, at the border U-S officials say more fencing and more u-s guards have reduced the flow of illegal immigrants.

Still, it's dangerous.

A border patrol agent shot and killed a suspected human smuggler in Texas Wednesday.

Mexico is protesting.

At the same time the governor of Arizona is protesting President Bush's decision to pull some National Guard troops from border duty.

The message to Congress is mixed.

President Bush said existing immigration law is unacceptable, but now says he can make it work.