WASHINGTON – President Bush will address the nation on immigration reform Monday night from the Oval Office.
"This is crunch time," Tony Snow, the new White House press secretary said Friday at his first off-camera, or informal, briefing. The address will begin at 8 p.m. EDT and is expected to last about 20 minutes.
The White House said this is the first time it has requested network time for a presidential address on a specific domestic issue.
Watch FOX News Channel Monday night for full coverage of Bush's address.
Meanwhile, The Minuteman Project, a group of volunteers that patrol the border for illegal immigrants trying to enter the United States, rallied at the nation's capitol Friday as it wrapped up a 13-day tour to push Congress to act on immigration legislation and border security.
"This is the place where we salute the red, white and blue — not the red, white and green," said Steve Eichler, executive director for the Minuteman Project. "We shall not allow our nation to be invaded and we shall not allow our freedom to be given away."
John Clark, a congressional liaison for the American Immigration Control Foundation, a nonprofit research and education group, told supporters near the Capitol that illegal immigrants marching in the streets "should be rounded up and deported." There have been mass protests throughout the country in recent weeks in opposition to tougher illegal immigration enforcement.
"We have to get this under control," Clark said. "This is the occupation of the United States of America by a foreign country. We have to put a stop to it."
Jim Gilchrist, Minuteman Project co-founder, tried to counter a small but vocal group of protesters at the event who shouted phrases such as "you forgot your hood," telling them to “go to hell.”
During his address Monday, Bush will lay out an immigration proposal on how to deal with the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States. The president has been a strong advocate of some type of guest-worker program, where immigrants would come to the United States to work for a few years — with the proper paperwork — then would have to return to their respective home countries at some point. Critics have called such a program nothing short of amnesty for people who are breaking the law.
Bush, who has called the immigration issue an "emotional debate," wants to provide immigrants the opportunity to get jobs Americans won't do on a temporary basis. The president says he opposes the idea of automatic citizenship but supports allowing an illegal immigrant to get in line and meet requirements for citizenship.
Since Bush took office, more than 6 million illegal immigrants have been stopped at the border and repatriated.
Legislation to address the controversial issue has suffered many setbacks in Congress, but lawmakers hope to reach a deal by Memorial Day.
An immigration reform bill will head back to the Senate Monday after Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Minority Leader Harry Reid reached an agreement over how to proceed on amendments to the bill and which senators will work to negotiate a compromise with House lawmakers.
Frist and Reid announced on Thursday their deal after about a month stalemate when negotiations failed in the Senate.
The bill would strengthen border security, create a guest worker program and give eventual citizenship to illegal immigrants currently in the United States.
But the Senate bill will have to be reconciled with the one passed by the House last December, which was an enforcement-only bill that would bring felony charges against those illegal immigrants in the United States, as well as deportation.
Frist said the Senate will send 14 Republicans and 12 Democrats to negotiate with the House, with seven of the Republicans and five Democrats coming from the Judiciary Committee. The remaining seven Republicans will be chosen by Frist and remaining seven Democrats chosen by Reid.
The movement in Capitol Hill comes at a time when the debate over illegal immigration has reached a near-boiling point.
Local police along border states are grappling with overflowing jails as they try to arrest illegal immigrants, and some authorities — such as those in Maricopa County, Ariz. — are now using federal human smuggling laws to round up illegal immigrants and turn them over to federal authorities.
Congress is considering putting more border fences along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, which already has 83 miles of such barriers. The approved House bill would put fences at immigrant- and drug-smuggling corridors in all four southern border states. At an estimated cost of $2.5 billion, the fences would cover 850 miles of border — roughly one-fifth the length of the Great Wall of China — though it would not be one continuous wall.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is looking at ways the military can help secure the nation's southern border. The House voted 252-171 to allow Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to assign military personnel under certain circumstances to help the Homeland Security Department perform border security.
Paul McHale, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense, asked officials this week to come up with options for the use of military resources and troops — particularly the National Guard — along the border with Mexico, according to defense officials familiar with the discussions.
Officials told FOX News that there are ongoing discussions between the White House and lawmakers over the use of military and the National Guard to protect the border. White House adviser Karl Rove met with southern lawmakers this week about border security and the concept of using the National Guard.
Elsewhere in Washington Friday, The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps — another group of volunteers that monitors border traffic — held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington Friday to draw attention to their claim that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has tipped off the location of civilian border patrols to Mexican authorities.
"We're basically asking for a congressional investigation to this situation which not only endangers our volunteers, but could lead to national security risk even more than we already have," said Chris Simcox, president of the group.
Border Patrol is a subdivision of the Homeland Security Department; homeland security officials have denied Simcox's group's claims, saying they are required under international law to inform the Mexican government of alleged incidents of abuse against their citizens.
The U.S. government provides time, date and location of the alleged incident to Mexican officials for their investigation. FOX News has learned that there are no current substantiated abuse claims against the Minutemen.
FOX News' Wendell Goler and Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.