Congress renewed fierce debate over illegal immigration Tuesday, with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff insisting that “brute enforcement” without immigration reform will do little to solve America’s border problems. Meanwhile, Southern California Republicans remained equally adamant that Congress needed to beef up patrols, enforce sanctions against employers who hire illegal immigrants and cut off benefits to undocumented immigrants before considering any kind of guest-worker plan. “History has shown that enforcement provisions are ignored and underfunded while guest worker and amnesty provisions are always implemented,” more than 80 lawmakers told President George W. Bush in a letter. Included among the letter-signers were Reps. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita; Gary Miller, R-Brea; and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week In a separate letter to Bush, Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Thousand Oaks, said “a guest worker program may be necessary to serve a demonstrated need; however, without a believable and proven enforcement record it will be difficult if not impossible to pass any such program through Congress.” Chertoff, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, pledged to end a policy that has freed more than 118,000 non-Mexican illegal immigrants from federal and local detention centers because of the costs of detaining them. “Our goal at DHS is to completely eliminate the ‘catch and release’ enforcement problem, and return every single illegal entrant; no exceptions,” he said. But, Chertoff also told the committee, “We’re going to need more than just brute enforcement. We’re going to need a temporary worker program as well.” In the clearest explanation of what may lie ahead for illegal immigrants under Bush’s guest worker plan, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said undocumented immigrants would have no chance of obtaining a green card or citizenship without first returning to their native country. The plan – which Bush proposed last year, but which remains short on detail – calls for illegal immigrants to come forward, pay a substantial fine or penalty, and in return be given a three-year temporary work visa. That visa could be extended for another three years, but then the worker would have to leave the country for at least a year before applying for a new work permit or other U.S. residency, Chao said. “Those who come forward will not be offered an automatic pass to citizenship,” she said. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein called Bush’s guest worker plan “unrealistic.” Feinstein said she favors an “earned transition” for agricultural workers under which those who have already been in the United States for a certain number of years could work toward a green card provided they first commit to working an additional three years in the agriculture sector. “It seems to me all the talk about the guest worker program actually spurs illegal immigration,” Feinstein said. “I have seen no guest worker proposal that would not be a major magnet.” Lisa Friedman, (202) 662-8731 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!