WASHINGTON — Following months of increasing interest in immigration and a three-day state visit by Mexican President Vicente Fox, Democrats asked Saturday that Americans set aside fears of change and loosen regulations on immigration.
Rep. Ed Pastor of Arizona used the Democrats' weekly radio address to emphasize the party's support of a revamped immigration policy in response to the nation's changing needs.
"Attracting ambitious workers from all over the globe is a sign of our national strength, not a weakness," he said.
The focus of the issue should be redirected "to take advantage of, rather than fear, the economic and cultural evolution of our nation," said Pastor.
On Friday, business leaders told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that the nation's economy will have an estimated 161 million jobs by 2008, and only 154 million Americans available to fill them.
Labor leaders also suggested that forcing immigrants to accept substandard pay and working conditions will in time only create the same situation for American workers.
Parts of the issue have crossed party lines. A bill passed by the Senate Thursday night — extending the deadline for illegal immigrants to apply for visas — also has the support of President Bush and House Republican lawmakers. But Pastor said his party's goal includes much more, such as expanding limits on some immigrant visas and exempting Canada and Mexico from limits entirely.
"There are millions of resident undocumented immigrants in this country . . . ," he said. "This is their home, and they are not going anywhere."