The president's high-profile visit to Yuma and the address to an audience of 350 border agents, National Guard personnel and local law enforcement officials, is part of a White House pitch to convince House and Senate Democrats, once natural allies of the president's combined approach of enforcement and citizenship, to sign on again.
Intense behind-the-scene negotiations over the last two weeks have produced a flurry of leaked proposals.
Conceding that the issue is "emotional," Bush called for a "serious and civil and conclusive debate" over his plan.
It envisions five elements: border security; a temporary worker program for immigrants to "do jobs Americans aren't doing"; sanctions against employers who knowingly hire illegals; a "practical solution" to the problem of illegal immigrants short of either amnesty or deportation; and requirements that immigrants learn English and American history "to honor the tradition of our melting pot."
But rumors about the details of the White House plan -- which includes a proposal that illegal immigrants return to their countries and apply for a green card at a cost of 10,000 U.S. dollars each -- brought an estimated 7,000 protesters to the streets of Los Angeles last Saturday, demanding a renewed push for citizenship.
Democratic leaders in the Congress have told Bush they will not pass a bill with Democratic votes alone, forcing the administration to work Republicans.
In addition to wanting to get a comprehensive immigration bill passed before the presidential campaign season overwhelms any instincts for bipartisanship, Bush, who grew up in Midland, Texas, has a personal history with the issue.