Bush reaches out to critics of immigration proposal


Washington : US President George W. Bush took time out from meetings with European leaders to appeal to critics back home who have effectively killed an immigration bill seen as a major component of the president's domestic agenda.

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In his weekly radio address to air Saturday, Bush acknowledges critics of the immigration legislation, including many within his own Republican Party.

"I believe we can express our feelings, disagree on certain elements and still come together on a solution," Bush said, admitting the bill is "not perfect" but stressing it was the best solution to address problems with current immigration law.

The legislation hailed as a historic immigration reform appeared to die late Thursday in the US Senate, where a vote to end debate failed badly despite the support of the leadership of the Democratic majority. Without an end to debate, the measure is effectively dead.

Bush called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring the bill back for another vote and urged senators from both parties to support it.

The bill would overhaul immigration laws, providing for an expanded "guest worker" programme and a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million or more people living illegally in the US.

Thursday's vote was a setback for the fragile compromise, hammered out between Bush's conservative White House and leading Democrats in Congress.

The bill has been at the top of Bush's domestic agenda for years but he was unable to convince fellow centre-right Republicans, who controlled both chambers of Congress from 2003-07, to back his pro-immigration approach to reform.

In the radio address, Bush tried to confront concerns by fellow Republicans that the government would not sufficiently boost border security and that the bill would grant "amnesty" to those in the country illegally.