Reinventing The Border

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Vicente Fox wants the whole enchilada, but George W. Bush must decide how much to give. Fox wants amnesty for all illegal Mexican immigrants and a new guest-worker program. Pressure from Republicans could force a more limited solution--or none. More than half the U.S.'s estimated 9 million illegals are Mexican.

Amnesty
THE PLAN
Fox and Bush are talking about giving legal status to the estimated 4.5 million Mexican illegals currently working in the U.S., allowing them to apply to be citizens or guest workers.

THE UPSIDE
Mexican workers who already make up a key part of the American economy would enjoy full legal protection. By proving employment, they could work toward permanent status.

THE DOWNSIDE
Previous amnesty attempts (Reagan tried one in 1986) have led to a flood of new immigrants trying to qualify. Democrats question giving legal status only to Mexicans.

Guest Workers
THE PLAN
Fox's proposal would create a new class of immigrants, protected by labor laws, to work in low-wage industries. The immigrants can travel back to Mexico or seek permanent legal status.

THE UPSIDE
Fox believes more Mexicans would return home seasonally, provided they can re-enter the U.S. And unions like the AFL-CIO are looking to protect laborers' rights.

THE DOWNSIDE
Some proponents, like Senator Phil Gramm, question letting current illegals participate and want to limit the totals. And Tom Daschle asks, What about non-Mexican immigrants?

Status Quo
THE PLAN
Conservatives say, Go slow. Add more security to the border while speeding up the citizenship-application process and easing restrictions for illegal immigrants already here.

THE UPSIDE
Keeps the conservative wing of Bush's party happy--Senate G.O.P. leader Trent Lott and others were riled by the amnesty trial balloon the White House floated last week.

THE DOWNSIDE
A tighter border has led to more Mexicans dying while crossing at increasingly remote desert stretches--and current illegals would gain no new protections.