U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has called for millions of illegal immigrants in the United States to be given some sort of legal status short of citizenship. The New York Times says the proposal hints that the Bush administration might revive an ambitious legalization plan that was sidetracked after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
At a town hall meeting Tuesday in Miami, Ridge said, “The bottom line is, as a country, we have to come to grips with the presence of 8 to 12 million illegals, afford them some kind of legal status some way.” He suggested that the government might consider legalizing illegal immigrants already in the country on a one-time basis.
Aides said Ridge’s comments were not approved by the White House but that they reflected a growing view in the administration that the federal government needed to find a way to register illegal immigrants. Brian Roehrkasse, Ridge’s spokesman, said, “The secretary acknowledges that we have several million people here illegally, and he understands that for homeland security reasons, at some point in time, there needs to be a better way to identify those who may be a threat to our country.”
Ridge said the issue of legalization needed to be revived, but that the protections would not include citizenship. “I’m not saying make them citizens, because they violated the law to get here,” he said. “So you don’t reward that type of conduct by turning over a citizenship certificate.”