U.S. News

U.S. immigration defeat frustrates workers' dreams

PHOENIX (Reuters) - For day laborers seeking work in a sun-baked parking lot on Thursday, defeat of U.S. President George W. Bush’s plans for an immigration overhaul has set back their dreams of a normal life.

The bill, which sought to give legal status to many of the 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, failed to get enough support in a make-or-break vote in the U.S. Senate.

Workers standing around in searing heat outside a building materials store in Phoenix said hopes of an aboveboard life in this country of immigrants had crashed following news of the morning vote.

“Bush wanted to do something good, but the Senate wouldn’t let him. It’s disappointing,” Miguel Gonzalez, 37, who has been in the United States for five year, said in Spanish.

“I have heard nothing but proposals and more proposals since I arrived ... but they all get thrown out for one reason or another,” the Mexican national added with a shrug.

Bush has sought an overhaul of U.S. immigration laws for years and this bill may have been his last chance for a significant domestic legislative victory before leaving office at the end of his second term in January 2009.

It tied tough border security and workplace enforcement measures to a plan to legalize illegal immigrants and create a temporary worker program sought by business groups.

For Juan Carlos Esquivel, 36, a day laborer from Mexico City with a wife and three children, the defeat made no sense.

“There’s work to be done, we want to do it, and now we can’t. So how can that be a victory?” he said, standing in the shade of a mesquite tree in a straw sombrero. “Everybody loses, and the economy will suffer.”


Bush was unable to overcome fierce opposition from fellow Republicans who said the measure would reward an estimated 12 million immigrants for taking up residence in the United States illegally.

In Los Angeles, Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony, a key supporter of immigration reform on the West Coast, expressed regret about the Senate’s decision.

“Without reform, our current system will continue to permit the exploitation of workers, the separation of families, and will handicap efforts to secure our nation’s borders,” he said in a statement

Janet Napolitano, the Democratic governor of the border state of Arizona, said she was “sorely disappointed” by the Senate’s failure to act on the issue.

“By leaving it unattended, Congress is shirking its responsibility to not only Arizona, but the entire country,” she said.

Back in the parking lot, where the temperature hit 107 F (42 C) in the shade, day laborer Bonifacio Sosa said the Senate’s move would keep him on the margins of society and on the run from police.

“We are illegals, we are just trash to them, and we’ll just have to carry on here in the shadows hiding from everyone,” said Sosa, 58, who has raised four children since arriving in the United States 14 years ago.

“I have neither a voice or a vote, except when I pay fines or taxes,” he added as traffic roared by in the street.

Additional reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix