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US official fights for guest worker program

US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, said immigration policy is a vital weapon against terrorism, and pledged on July 13 to tighten border security. He also called on the US Congress to approve a guest worker program that would make it easier for foreign workers to enter the country legally.

"We must gain full control of our borders to prevent illegal immigration and security breaches," Chertoff said.

But, he added, "control of the border will also require reducing the demand for illegal border migration" by channeling needed workers through a new legal system. Implicit in the guest worker program would be an increase in the number of legal immigrants.

Chertoff vowed to carry his campaign for a guest worker program as well as other changes to Capitol Hill in the weeks ahead.

By linking the controversial subject of immigration policy to the popular goal of thwarting terrorists, Chertoff's plan could give new life to President Bush's stalled proposal for an expanded guest worker program and enhanced border security.

And, by linking the guest worker plan to calls for tougher border controls, the plan could mollify those conservative Republicans in Congress who had opposed such programs on grounds that enforcement must come first.

Revamping immigration has been a difficult issue for the Bush administration politically. It pits many business-oriented Republicans, who favor ready access to immigrant workers, against social conservatives, who express outrage at the ease with which immigrants evade U.S. laws.