Amid heated debate on illegal immigrants, U.S. President George W. Bush on Saturday promoted his guest-worker plan, trying to make a compromised approach on the highly controversial issue.
"America is a nation of immigrants, and we're also a nation of laws," Bush said in his weekly radio address, days before the U.S. Senate takes up debate on the subject.
The president favors the guest-worker plan, which will issue temporary work visas to illegal immigrants who are already in the United States while enhancing border control.
However, conservative Republicans view the plan as a back-door amnesty for illegal immigrants and prefer an approach that focuses solely on toughening border security and cracking down on illegal immigration.
Meanwhile, some Democrats, such as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, criticized the approach as being unsympathetic to immigrants.
Thousands of people across the country protested Friday against the conservative Republicans' heavy-handed approach on the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
Demonstrators in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Atlanta staged school walkouts, marches and work stoppages.
In Saturday's radio address, Bush urged all sides of the debate to tone down their rhetoric, said securing borders was a top priority of immigration reform but invoked the country's history as "a nation of immigrants" to argue for a balanced approach.
"Comprehensive immigration reform requires a temporary worker program that will relieve pressure on our borders," Bush said.
"As we debate the immigration issue, we must remember there are hardworking individuals, doing jobs that Americans will not do, who are contributing to the economic vitality of our country," he added.
Bush views the guest-worker program as way of courting Hispanic voters in key states like Arizona, New Mexico and Florida.
His compromised approach on the issue is backed by U.S. business leaders who want legislation to let some immigrants stay in the country and work for a set period of time.