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Bush praises senators for work on bipartisan immigration deal

CRAWFORD, Texas -- Thankful for a breakthrough, President Bush yesterday praised senators of both parties for delivering a potential deal to overhaul US immigration policy.

The compromise aims to grant legal status to millions of people in the country unlawfully, stiffen border security, and create a program for temporary workers. It also would reshape requirements for new immigrants and take measures to prevent illegal workers from getting jobs.

"I realize that many hold strong convictions on this issue, and reaching an agreement was not easy," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

"I appreciate the effort of senators who came together to craft this important legislation," he said. "This bill brings us closer to an immigration system that enforces our laws and upholds the great American tradition of welcoming those who share our values and our love of freedom."

Passage of the bill is far from assured. The proposal must get through the Senate, where debate begins tomorrow, and the prospects of such a plan are also uncertain in the House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that she was not pleased with the agreement.

Speaking to reporters after giving a commencement address at the University of San Francisco, Pelosi, Democrat of California, told reporters that it would make it more difficult for some relatives of immigrants to get visas.

Spouses and minor children of legal residents and citizens could still get green cards, but other relatives would have to qualify under a point system that rewards advanced skills and education.

"A point system for unification undermines our family values that we espouse in our country," said Pelosi.

An unlikely alliance of liberal and conservative lawmakers championed the proposal, which was announced Thursday after months of private talks among senators and the White House.

The president used his radio address to tout the deal and build momentum for it without expressly lobbying lawmakers to vote for it. For Bush, approval of a comprehensive plan to improve immigration would be a signature second-term achievement.

The package faces opposition from both sides.

Conservatives say it is too lenient on those who have broken the law; liberals warn that it would be unworkable and unfair to migrant families.