US President George W Bush has again stressed the need for agreement in Washington on immigration reform.
Visiting a border post in Arizona, Mr Bush said the US needed a system that secured its frontiers while honouring its history as a nation of immigrants.
President Bush said he believed the atmosphere was conducive to agreement in the Democratic-led Congress. Mr Bush's past attempts at immigration reform have been thwarted, partly by opponents in his own Republican party. The president's policy aims to tighten border security while offering illegal immigrants already within the US the status of guest-workers. But conservative critics of his plans say the guest-worker programme amounts to an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, Hispanic and immigrants rights groups have attacked Mr Bush's efforts to tighten border security. Speaking at a newly-built outpost along the Mexican border in Yuma, Arizona, Mr Bush praised latest moves to deter migrants. After viewing new surveillance technology and a reinforced border fence, he said progress had been made at curbing illicit crossings. "The number of people apprehended for illegally crossing our southern border is down by nearly 30% this year," he said. "This is a matter of national interest, and it's a matter of deep conviction for me," the president said, adding that he hoped, "Congress can pass a comprehensive bill and I can sign it into law this year." There are believed to be about 12 million illegal immigrants in the US.