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Bush for immigration overhaul in 2007

world Updated: Apr 10, 2007 11:27 IST

United States President George W Bush has called for an overhaul of US immigration law in 2007, focusing on a rare bright spot in his grim relations with Democrats fiercely opposed to the Iraq war.

On the US-Mexico border, Bush inspected the construction of a fence and other measures meant to stem the tide of undocumented immigrants into the United States and urged lawmakers to approve sweeping reforms this year.

"This is a matter of national interest, and it's a matter of deep conviction for me," he said in a speech on Monday, adding he hoped "that Congress can pass a comprehensive bill and I can sign it into law this year".

If the issue drags into next year, it risks stalling as the 2008 White House race goes into high gear.

The embattled president's proposals include the creation of a temporary guest worker programme and clearing the way for some undocumented immigrants to become US citizens, coupled with a series of tougher security measures.

His ideas divide his party, with many Republicans saying they want to see tougher enforcement of border controls and deriding his guest worker program as an improper "amnesty".

Bush's Democratic critics, who took control the US Congress in January, are generally more receptive, though some with close ties to US unions worry that immigration puts downward pressure on wages.

The US Congress in late May is expected to take up the debate on what to do about the estimated 12 million documented immigrants in the United States, according to a congressional source.