Bush Immigration Comments in Press Conference and Full Transcript
QUESTION: Mr. President, since early in your first term you've talked about immigration reform. But yet people in your own party on the hill seem opposed to this idea and you've got an opposition, even on the other side. Do you plan to expend some of your political capital this time to see this through?
BUSH: Yes, I appreciate that question. First of all, welcome. I'd like to welcome all the new faces -- some prettier than others, I might add. But... (LAUGHTER) Yes, I intend to work with members of Congress to get something done. I think this is an issue that will make it easier for us to enforce our borders. And I believe it's an issue that will show the -- if when we get it right, the compassion and heart of the American people. And no question, it's a tough issue, just like some of the other issues we're taking on. But my job is to confront tough issues. And to ask Congress to work together to confront tough issues.
Now, let me talk about the immigration issue. First we want our Border Patrol agents chasing crooks and thieves and drug runners and terrorists, not good-hearted people who are coming here to work. And, therefore, it makes sense to allow the good-hearted people who are coming here to do jobs that Americans won't do a legal way to do so. And providing that legal avenue, it takes the pressure off the border. Now, we need to make sure the border is modern and we need to upgrade our Border Patrol. But if we expect the Border Patrol to be able to enforce a long border, particularly in the south -- and the north, for that matter -- we ought to have a system that recognizes people are coming here to do jobs that Americans will not do. And there ought to be a legal way for them to do so. To me that, is -- and not only that, but once the person is here, if he or she feels like he or she needs to go back to see their family, to the country of origin, they should be able to do so within a prescribed -- the card and the permit would last for a prescribed period of time. It's a compassionate way to treat people who come to our country. It recognizes the reality of the world in which we live. There are some jobs in America that Americans won't do and others are willing to do.
Now, one of the important aspects of my vision is that this is not automatic citizenship. The American people must understand that, that if somebody who is here working wants to be a citizen, they can get in line like those who have been here legally and have been working to become a citizenship (sic) in a legal manner. And this is a very important issue, and I look forward to working with members of Congress.
I fully understand the politics of immigration reform. I mean, I was the governor of Texas, right there on the front lines of border politics. You know, I know what it means to have mothers and fathers come to my state and across the border of my state to work. Family values do not stop at the Rio Grande river, is what I used to tell the people of my state. People are coming to put food on the table. They're doing jobs Americans will not do. And to me, it makes sense for us to recognize that reality and to help those who are needing to enforce our borders, legalize the process of people doing jobs Americans won't do, take the pressure off of employers so they're not having to rely upon false I.D.s, cut out the coyotes who are the smugglers of these people, putting them in the back of tractor-trailers in the middle of August in Texas, allowing people to suffocate in the back of the truck, stop the process of people feeling like they got to walk miles across desert in Arizona and Texas in order just to feed their family, and they find them dead out there, you know. I mean, this is a system that can be much better. And I'm passionate on it because the nature of this country is one that is good-hearted and compassionate. Our people are compassionate. The system we have today is not a compassionate system. It's not working. And as a result, the country is less secure than it could be with a rational system.
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