The Bush administration announced plans today to crack down on illegal immigration in several ways. MSNBC.com is one of the many media outlets reporting the basics of the new policies. Here are excerpts from their article:

The latest measures mainly involve tighter enforcement of existing laws – posing a challenge to the many US employers now reliant on migrant workers.

“The message we are conveying today is pretty simple: we are serious about immigration enforcement,” said Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary.

Mr Bush made immigration reform a priority of his second term, backing bipartisan legislation that aimed to strengthen border security while offering a path to citizenship for the estimated 12m illegal immigrants already in the US.

But the bill collapsed in June amid fierce opposition from grassroots Republicans, who accused Mr Bush of offering an amnesty to those who entered the US illegally.

The measures announced on Friday reflected the pressure on Mr Bush to get tough on the highly charged issue of illegal immigration.

The White House acknowledged there was little chance of Congress passing immigration legislation in the foreseeable future. “Until Congress chooses to act, we’re going to be taking some energetic steps of our own,” said Mr Chertoff.

One rule proposed on Friday would mandate employers to sack workers unable to verify their legal status within 90 days. Employers who failed to comply would face possible criminal fines and sanctions. “We’re going to continue to clamp down on employers who knowingly and wilfully violate the laws,” said Mr Chertoff.

Carlos Gutierrez, the commerce secretary, promised to streamline existing visa rules to help industries, such as agriculture and hospitality, that rely on migrant labour. “We will use every available tool to provide America’s farmers, ranchers and small businesses with a legal workforce, to stay in business and keep our economy strong,” he said.

Edward Kennedy, the Democratic senator who helped craft the failed immigration bill, said the proposals were no substitute for comprehensive reform.

“Without strong new laws, the administration’s plan will do little to enhance our security and will hurt millions of immigrant families who are contributing so much to our communities and our economy,” he said.

Chuck Grassley, a Republican senator who opposed the bill, said the measures were not tough enough. “I won’t be happy until I see action that’s more than just a press conference and words on a piece of paper.”