President Bush urged Congress to pass
comprehensive immigration reform legislation to help secure
the U.S. border from illegal immigrants and called for a temporary
worker program that would allow some immigrants to work openly
in the United States for a fixed period of time.
President George W. Bush meets with U.S. Customs
and Border Protection officials following his
address Monday, Nov. 28, 2005 at the Davis-Monthan
Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, speaking
on the importance of border security and the
issue of immigration reform.
Speaking November 28 in Tucson, Arizona,
Bush said the United States “has always been a compassionate
nation that values the newcomer and takes great pride in
our immigrant heritage,” but he said illegal immigrants
were violating U.S. law.
“The American people should not have
to choose between a welcoming society and a lawful society.
We can have both at the same time,” he said.
The president urged that a new temporary
worker program be established that would allow some immigrants
to register to work legally for a fixed period of time before
returning home. Such a measure, he said, would reduce pressure
on the border and “bring workers from out of the shadows.”
But, he said, the program “would not
create an automatic path to citizenship,” and would
not provide amnesty to those who have illegally entered
the United States.
“This program would help meet the
demands of a growing economy, and it would allow honest
workers to provide for their families while respecting the
law,” he said.
According to press reports, approximately
11 million illegal immigrants currently are living and working
in the United States.
Illegal immigration presents a “serious
challenge,” Bush said, because it puts pressure on
schools and hospitals and strains law enforcement and emergency
service resources. The president also said some smugglers
and gangs who have brought immigrants across the border
“also bring crime to our neighborhoods and danger
to the highways.”
The president outlined a three-part plan
to reform U.S. border and immigration practices. Bush called
for an expansion of efforts quickly to repatriate illegal
immigrants to their home countries, including expediting
the legal process and increasing the capacity of detention
He also called upon Congress to “correct
weak and unnecessary provisions in our immigration laws,”
such as those that have required some illegal immigrants
to be released if their home countries do not take them
back within a certain period of time, and others that permit
endless litigation, which has overly burdened federal courts,
The president also called for an increase
in personnel and technology along the U.S. border “to
stop people from crossing the border illegally in the first
Bush said that, by the end of 2006, he will
have increased the number of border patrol personnel to
12,500, an increase of more than 30 percent from the time
he took office.
He also called for better worksite enforcement,
saying, “American businesses have an obligation to
abide by the law, and our government has the responsibility
to help them do so.”
Following is the transcript of President
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
November 28, 2005
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON BORDER SECURITY
AND IMMIGRATION REFORM
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base
2:40 P.M. MST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be
seated. Thank you for the warm welcome. It is such a pleasure
to be back in Arizona, and it's great to be here in Tucson.
The last time I was here I think there was probably about
a 50-degree temperature differential. (Laughter.) It's an
honor to stand here with the men and women of Davis-Monthan
Air Force Base. (Applause.) As well, to be here with the
men and women of the Customs and Border Protection Agency,
and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, as well.
Securing our border is essential to securing
the homeland. And I want to thank all of those who are working
around the clock to defend our border, to enforce our laws,
and to uphold the values of the United States of America.
America is grateful to those who are on the front lines
of enforcing the border. (Applause.)
I appreciate so very much the Governor joining
us today. Governor, thank you for being here. I'm honored
you are here. I appreciate Senator John McCain joining us
today. Senator. (Applause.) As well as Senator John Kyl.
(Applause.) I appreciate three members of the congressional
delegation from Arizona -- Congressman Shadegg, Flake and
Franks -- for joining us, as well. (Applause.) Two members
of my Cabinet are here with us, the Attorney General of
the United States, Al Gonzales -- (applause) -- and the
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Mike Chertoff.
I want to thank the United States Attorney
from the District of Arizona, Paul Charlton, for joining
us today. I appreciate David Aguilar, who is the Chief of
the Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border Protection of
the Department of Homeland Security; Mike Nicely, who is
the Chief Patrol Agent, Tucson Sector; Ron Colburn, Chief
Patrol Agent, Yuma Sector; Martin Vaughan, Director of Air
Operations. But most of all, I want to thank those who wear
the uniform for doing such a fine job. Thank you all. (Applause.)
Finally, I want to thank General Schmidt for welcoming me
today. He's the Commander of the 12th Air Force, U.S. Southern
Command, based right here at this base. (Applause.)
I have a solemn duty, and so do the members
of the United States Congress, to protect our nation, our
Constitution, and our laws. Our border and immigration security
officers devote themselves to those same missions every
America has always been a compassionate
nation that values the newcomer and takes great pride in
our immigrant heritage; yet we're also a nation built on
the rule of law, and those who enter the country illegally
violate the law. The American people should not have to
choose between a welcoming society and a lawful society.
We can have both at the same time. And to keep the promise
of America, we will enforce the laws of our country. (Applause.)
As a former governor, I know that enforcing
the law and the border is especially important to the communities
along the border. Illegal immigration puts pressure on our
schools and hospitals -- I understand that. I understand
it strains the resources needed for law enforcement and
emergency services. And the vicious human strugglers --
smugglers and gangs that bring illegal immigrants across
the border also bring crime to our neighborhoods and danger
to the highways. Illegal immigration is a serious challenge.
And our responsibility is clear: We are going to protect
the border. (Applause.)
Since I've taken office we've increased
funding for border security by 60 percent. Our border agents
have used that funding to apprehend and send home more than
4.5 million people coming into our country illegally, including
more than 350,000 with criminal records. Our Customs and
Border Protection agents can be proud of the work that you're
doing. You're taking control of this border. And we have
more work to do, and that's what I want to talk to you about
today. We're going to build on the progress we have made.
We have a comprehensive strategy to reform
our immigration system. We're going to secure the border
by catching those who enter illegally, and hardening the
border to prevent illegal crossings. We're going to strengthen
enforcement of our immigration laws within our country.
And together with Congress, we're going to create a temporary
worker program that will take pressure off the border, bring
workers from out of the shadows, and reject amnesty. (Applause.)
Our strategy for comprehensive immigration
reforms begins by securing the border. Now, let me talk
to you about a three-part plan. The first part of the plan
is to promptly return every illegal entrant we catch at
the border, with no exceptions. More than 85 percent of
the illegal immigrants we catch are from Mexico, and most
of them are escorted back across the border within 24 hours.
To prevent them from trying to cross again,
we've launched an interesting program, an innovative approach
called interior repatriation. Under this program, many Mexicans
caught at the border illegally are flown back to Mexico
and then bused to their hometowns in the interior part of
the country. By returning these illegal immigrants to their
home towns far from the border, we make it more difficult
for them to attempt to cross again. Interior repatriation
is showing promise in breaking the cycle of illegal immigration.
In a pilot program focused on the west Arizona
desert, nearly 35,000 illegal immigrants were returned to
Mexico through interior repatriation. Last year only about
8 percent of them were caught trying to cross the border
again, a much lower rate than we find among illegal immigrants
who are escorted directly across the border.
We're going to expand interior repatriation.
We want to make it clear that when people violate immigration
laws, they're going to be sent home, and they need to stay
at home. (Applause.)
We face a different set of challenges with
non-Mexicans that we -- who we catch crossing the border
illegally. When non-Mexican illegal immigrants are apprehended,
they are initially detained. The problem is that our detention
facilities don't have enough beds. And so, about four of
every five non-Mexican illegal immigrants we catch are released
in society and asked to return for a court date. When the
date arrives, about 75 percent of those released don't show
up to the court. As a result, last year, only 30,000 of
the 160,000 non-Mexicans caught coming across our southwest
border were sent home.
This practice of catch and release has been
the government's policy for decades. It is an unwise policy
and we're going to end it. (Applause.) To help end catch
and release, we need to increase the capacity in our detention
facilities. Last month at the White House I signed legislation
supported by the members of the Arizona delegation that
will increase the number of beds in our detention facilities.
We're also working to process illegal immigrants through
the system more quickly, so we can return them home faster
and free up bed space for others.
One of the most effective tools we have
in this effort is a process called expedited removal. Under
expedited removal, non-Mexicans are detained and placed
into streamlined proceedings. It allows us to deport them
at an average of 32 days, almost three times faster than
usual. In other words, we're cutting through the bureaucracy.
Last year we used expedited removal to deport more than
20,000 non-Mexicans caught entering this country illegally
between Tucson and Laredo. This program is so successful
that the Secretary has expanded it all up and down the border.
This is a straightforward idea. It says, when an illegal
immigrant knows they'll be caught and sent home, they're
less likely to come to the country. That's the message we're
trying to send with expedited removal.
We're also pursuing other common-sense steps
to accelerate the deportation process. We're pressing foreign
governments to take their citizens back promptly. We're
streamlining the paperwork and we're increasing the number
of flights carrying illegal immigrants home. We recently
tested the effectiveness of these steps with Brazilian illegal
immigrants caught along the Rio Grande Valley of the Texas
border. The effort was called Operation Texas Hold 'Em.
(Laughter.) It delivered impressive results. Thanks to our
actions, Brazilian illegal immigration dropped by 90 percent
in the Rio Grande Valley, and by 60 -- 50 percent across
the border as a whole.
With all these steps, we're delivering justice
more effectively, and we're changing the policy from catch
and release to the policy of catch and return.
The second part of our plan is to strengthen
border -- to strengthen border enforcement is to correct
weak and unnecessary provisions in our immigration laws.
Under current law, the federal government is required to
release people caught crossing our border illegally if their
home countries do not take them back in a set period of
time. That law doesn't work when it comes time to enforcing
the border and it needs to be changed. Those we we're forced
to release have included murderers, rapists, child molesters,
and other violent criminals. This undermines our border
security. It undermines the work these good folks are doing.
And the United States Congress needs to pass legislation
to end these senseless rules. (Applause.)
We need to address the cycle of endless
litigation that clogs our immigration courts and delays
justice for immigrants. Some federal courts are now burdened
with more than six times as many immigration appeals as
they had just a few years ago. A panel of the 9th Circuit
Court of Appeals in San Francisco declared that illegal
immigrants have a right to relitigate before an immigration
court as many times as they want. This decision obviously
would encourage illegal immigrants who have been deported
to sneak back into the country and to re-argue their case.
Congress needs to put an end to this cycle of needless litigation
and deliver reforms necessary to help us secure this border.
The third part of our plan to strengthen
border enforcement is to stop people from crossing the border
illegally in the first place. And we're increasing manpower.
We're increasing technology and infrastructure across this
border. We're integrating these resources in ways we have
never done before.
Since 2001, we've hired 1,900 new Border
Patrol agents. I just signed a bill last month that will
enable us to add another thousand Border Patrol agents.
When we complete these hires, we will have enlarged the
Border Patrol by about 3,000 agents from 9,500 the year
I took office to 12,500 next year. This is an increase of
more than 30 percent, and most of the new agents will be
assigned right here in the state of Arizona. (Applause.)
And to help the agents, we're deploying
technologies. Listen, technology can help an individual
agent have broader reach and more effectiveness. When agents
can take advantage of cutting-edge equipment like overhead
surveillance drones and infrared cameras, they can do a
better job for all of us.
In Tucson, agents on the ground are directing
unmanned aerial technology in the sky, and they're acting
rapidly on illegal immigration or illegal activities they
may see from the drones. In the months since these unmanned
flights began, agents have intercepted a lot of drugs on
the border that otherwise -- and people -- that otherwise
might have made it through.
The legislation I signed last month provides
$139 million to further upgrade the technology and bring
a more unified, systematic approach to border enforcement.
Again, I want to thank the members of the Congress. (Applause.)
In some places, the most effective way to
secure the border is to construct physical barriers to entry.
The legislation I signed last month includes $70 million
to install and improve protective infrastructure across
this border. In rural areas, we're funding the construction
of new patrol roads to give our agents better access to
the border, and new vehicle barriers to keep illegal immigrants
from driving across the border.
In urban areas, we're expanding fencing
to shut down access to human smuggling corridors. Secretary
Chertoff recently used authority granted by the Congress
to order the completion of a 14-mile barrier near San Diego
that had been held up because of lawsuits. By overcoming
endless litigation to finish this vital project we're helping
our border agents do their job, and making people who live
close to the border more secure.
Our actions to integrate manpower, technology
and infrastructure are getting results. And one of the best
examples of success is the Arizona Border Control Initiative,
which the government launched in 2004. In the first year
of this initiative -- now, listen to this, listen how hard
these people are working here -- agents in Arizona apprehended
nearly 500,000 illegal immigrants, a 42-percent increase
over the previous year. We've captured a half-million pounds
of marijuana, prosecuted more than 400 people suspected
of human smuggling, and seized more than $7 million in cash.
You've got some good folks here working hard to do their
job, and I appreciate it very much. (Applause.)
As we work to secure the border, comprehensive
immigration reform also requires us to improve enforcement
of our laws in the interior of the country. Catching and
deporting illegal immigrants along the border is only part
of the responsibility. America's immigration laws apply
across all of America, and we will enforce those laws throughout
our land. Better interior enforcement begins with better
work site enforcement. American businesses have an obligation
to abide by the law, and our government has the responsibility
to help them do so. (Applause.)
Enforcing our immigration laws in the interior
of the country requires a sustained commitment of resources.
Since I took office, we've increased funding for immigration
enforcement by 44 percent. We've increased the number of
immigration and customs investigators by 14 percent since
2001. And those good folks who are working hard, too. Last
year, the -- this year, federal agents completed what they
called Operation Rollback. It's the largest work site enforcement
case in American history. This operation resulted in the
arrest of hundreds of illegal immigrants, criminal convictions
against a dozen employers, and a multi-million dollar payment
from one of America's largest corporations.
Our skilled immigration security officers
are also going against some of the most dangerous people
in our society -- smugglers, terrorists, gang members and
human traffickers. In Arizona, we have prosecuted more than
2,300 smugglers bringing drugs, guns and illegal immigrants
across the border. As a part of Operation Community Shield,
federal agents have arrested nearly 1,400 gang members who
were here illegally, including hundreds of members of the
violent Latin American gangs like MS-13.
Since the Department of Homeland Security
was created, agents have apprehended nearly 27,000 illegal
immigrant fugitives. Thanks to our determined personnel,
society is safer. But we've got more work to do. The legislation
I signed last month more than doubled the resources dedicated
to interior enforcement. We understand that border security
and interior enforcement go hand in hand. (Applause.) We
will increase the number of immigration enforcement agents
and criminal investigators.
We're confronting the problem of document
fraud, as well. When illegal workers try to pass off sophisticated
forgeries as employment documents, even the most diligent
businesses find it difficult to tell what's real and what's
fake. Business owners shouldn't have to act like detectives
to verify the legal status of their workers. So my administration
has expanded a program called Basic Pilot. This program
gives businesses access to an automated system that rapidly
screens the employment eligibility of new hire against federal
records. Basic Pilot was available in only six states fives
years ago; now this program is available nationwide. We'll
continue to work to stop document fraud, to make it easier
for America's businesses to comply with our immigration
As we enforce our immigration laws, comprehensive
immigration reform also requires us to improve those laws
by creating a new temporary worker program. This program
would create a legal way to match willing foreign workers
with willing American employers to fill jobs that Americans
will not do. Workers would be able to register for legal
status for a fixed period of time, and then be required
to go home. This program would help meet the demands of
a growing economy, and it would allow honest workers to
provide for their families while respecting the law.
This plan would also help us relieve pressure
on the border. By creating a legal channel for those who
enter America to do an honest day's labor, we would reduce
the number of workers trying to sneak across the border.
This would free up law enforcement officials to focus on
criminals, drug dealers, terrorists and others that mean
to harm us. Our plan would create a tamper-proof identification
card for the temporary legal worker, which, of course, would
improve work site enforcement.
Listen, there's a lot of opinions on this
proposal -- I understand that. But people in this debate
must recognize that we will not be able to effectively enforce
our immigration laws until we create a temporary worker
program. The program that I proposed would not create an
automatic path to citizenship, it wouldn't provide for amnesty
-- I oppose amnesty. Rewarding those who have broken the
law would encourage others to break the law and keep pressure
on our border. (Applause.)
A temporary worker program, by contrast,
would decrease pressure on the border. I support the number
of -- increasing the number of annual green cards that can
lead to citizenship. But for the sake of justice and for
the sake of border security, I'm not going to sign an immigration
bill that includes amnesty. (Applause.)
I look forward to continue working with
the United States Congress on comprehensive immigration
reform. In the House of Representatives, your Arizona congressmen
are building strong support for border enforcement among
their colleagues. Judiciary Committee Chairman Sensenbrenner
and Homeland Security Chairman King are moving bills that
include tough provisions to help secure this border. The
House plans to vote on this legislation soon; I urge them
to pass a good bill.
The Senate is continuing to work on border
legislation, as well. This legislation improves border security
and toughens interior enforcement and creates a temporary
worker program. Senators McCain and Kyl have taken the lead.
It's two good men taking the lead, by the way. I'm confident
something is going to get done that people of Arizona will
like, with these two Senators in the lead. (Applause.)
Majority Leader Frist and Judiciary Committee
Chairman Specter said they're going to take action in early
2006. See, we have a chance to move beyond the old and tired
choices of the immigration debate, and come together on
a strategy to enforce our laws, secure our country, and
uphold our deepest values.
We make good progress, but you know like
I know, there's a lot more to be done. And we've got to
continue to work together to get that done, and I'm optimistic
that Congress will rise to the occasion. By passing comprehensive
immigration reform, we will add to this country's security,
to our prosperity, and to justice.
Our nation has been strengthened by generations
of immigrants who became Americans through patience and
hard work and assimilation. In this new century, we must
continue to welcome immigrants, and to set high standards
for those who follow the laws to become a part of our country.
Every new citizen of the United States has an obligation
to learn our customs and values, including liberty and civic
responsibility, equality under God and tolerance for others,
and the English language. (Applause.) We will continue to
pursue policies that encourage ownership, excellence in
education, and give all our citizens a chance to realize
the American Dream.
I appreciate once again being here with
the Border and Immigration Security officers who have volunteered
for a difficult and urgent assignment. I appreciate their
courage. By defending our border, you're defending our liberty,
and our citizens, and our way of life. I'm proud to stand
with you today, and the American people stand with you,
as well. May God bless you all, and may God continue to
bless our country. (Applause.)
END 3:06 P.M. MST