Hailing it as the most comprehensive change in more than 50 years in the way the United States accepts newcomers, President Bush signed a landmark immigration bill that is "good for America."

The Immigration Act of 1990 seeks to increase the influx of doctors, scientists and other skilled workers, unite immigrant families and streamline the process for deporting illegal aliens convicted of crimes in this country."This bill is good for families, good for business, good for crime fighting and good for America," Bush said at a White House signing ceremony. "We welcome both it and the generation of future Americans who it will bring in to strengthen our great country."

The new immigration bill overhauls current law that stresses unification of immigrant families over admitting immigrants with needed skills, which critics say has worked against Europeans. Currently, about 85 percent of all immigration comes from Latin America and Asia.

The new law will increase total immigration from 540,000 per year in 1989 to 700,000 per year in 1992-94. Of that total, 520,000 visas during each of the three years would be reserved for immigrants with family members in the United States.

Beginning in 1995, annual immigration levels will be set at 675,000, with 480,000 visas set aside for family reunification.

Bush also signed into law Thursday an anti-crime bill that was watered down by a Congress unable to reach agreement on the death penalty, appeals by condemned prisoners and gun control.

"I must note my deep disappointment over many provisions noticeably absent from the legislation," the president said in a statement.

Bush pushed for an expansion of the death sentence to cover mail bombings and terrorist attacks, and favored a reduction of what he described as seemingly endless appeals by inmates on Death Row.

Although the president opposed a ban on semiautomatic weapons, he requested tougher penalties for criminal use of a firearm. Congress failed to reach an agreement on a ban or on stiffer penalities.

The measure lawmakers passed raises funding of local law enforcement and federal agencies such as the FBI, increases penalties for child abuse, and provides prison alternatives such as house arrest.