US President George W. Bush, in a nationally televised speech tomorrow, is expected to propose tougher immigration enforcement measures along US-Mexico border, including the use of additional troops, US media reported on Friday.
The New York Times and other media reported that the president is likely to discuss the deployment of national guard troops -- a move governors in US border states have advocated for some time.
The reports came on the same day that US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld held talks in Washington with his Mexican counterpart General Clemente Ricardo Vega on border issues.
"We have many important things to coordinate with Mexico, for example the border, the war against narcotics trafficking, joint training," said Pentagon spokesman Jeff Gordon.
Bush is expected to propose tomorrow measures for tougher border enforcement as part of his comprehensive immigration reform plan, which until now had focused almost entirely on putting in place a guest worker program that could legalize the status of the roughly 11.5 million illegal immigrants in the US.
White House spokesman Tony Snow said on Friday that the president would offer revisions to his past immigration proposals. Snow declined, however, other than in the most general terms, to say what Bush would say in the speech.
"The president will be laying out his comprehensive proposal for immigration reform," said Snow, Bush's new chief spokesman.
His remarks tomorrow will come on the same day the Senate is expected to renew its debate on immigration reform and legalizing the status of illegal immigrants, which has been stalled for more than a month.
Bush will give the speech at 8pm tomorrow from the White House.
"The president at this point is more focused on trying to tackle such issues as immigration," said Snow, who said Bush's decision to make a speech on the issue was influenced at least in part by the legislative schedule.
"The Senate has agreed to take this up," Snow said. "This is crunch time on the issue."
Bush has called for the creation of a temporary guest worker program for illegal immigrants, but popular sentiment is in favor of strengthening border patrols to stem the inflow, some polls have shown.
Senate Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist on Friday gave his backing to the deployment of new troops on the border with Mexico.
"I would support that," Frist told CNN television, when asked about the idea.
Frist said that the federal government should use "their resources -- it could be national guard -- to come in to secure those borders."
An official said the Pentagon is one step ahead of him.
"We already have the National Guard on the border working with the governors" of the US states where they are stationed, Pentagon spokesman aid Jeff Gordon said.
"In Arizona, they work with Governor Janet Napolitano and not with the federal government," he said.
Meanwhile, a protest on Friday near the Congress building against illegal immigration turned into a shouting match when it met supporters of undocumented workers.
Separated by dozens of police officers, about 50 members of the Minuteman Project yelled, "Go home" to counter demonstrators who replied in Spanish, "We are here and we're not leaving."
The Minutemen launched last year its own patrols on the US-Mexico border. The group claimed that the government had failed in its duty to protect its citizens from the influx of illegal Mexican workers.