THE WHITE HOUSE, Office of the Press Secretary: For Immediate Release March 27, 2006
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 27, 2006
Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Securing Our Border, Enforcing Our Laws, And Upholding Our Values
Today’s Presidential Action
Today, President Bush Attended A Naturalization Ceremony And Discussed His Vision For
Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The President supports comprehensive immigration
reform to secure our border, improve enforcement of our laws, and uphold our values. The
President also discussed his proposal for a temporary worker program that rejects amnesty, allows
foreign workers to fill jobs no American is willing to do, and reduces smuggling and crime at the
America’s Immigrant Heritage Continues To Shape Our Society. Our Nation is bound
together by liberty and a conviction that all people are created with equal dignity and value.
Through the generations, Americans have upheld that vision by welcoming new citizens from
across the globe. Immigrants have helped shape our identity and sustain our economy.
The President Strongly Believes America Is Stronger And More Dynamic When New
Citizens Are Welcomed. The President has called on Congress to increase the number of
green cards that can lead to citizenship. He supports increasing the number of visas available
for foreign-born workers in highly skilled fields. The President signed legislation creating a new
Office of Citizenship at the Department of Homeland Security to promote knowledge of
citizenship rights and procedures; the Office of Citizenship created a new official guide for
immigrants, and the Administration is working with faith-based and community groups to offer
civics and English-language courses. In July 2002, the President signed an Executive Order
making foreign-born members of our military immediately eligible for citizenship. Over the past
four years, more than 20,000 men and women in uniform have become citizens.
Every New Citizen Makes A Lifelong Pledge To Support The Values And Laws Of
America. New citizens have an obligation to learn the customs and values that define our
Nation – including liberty and civic responsibility, equality under God, tolerance for others, and
the English language.
The President Welcomes A Civil And Dignified Debate On Comprehensive Immigration
Reform. Congress is now considering immigration reform proposals. Immigration is an emotional
topic, and we need to maintain our perspective as we conduct this debate.
To Keep The Promise Of America, We Must Enforce The Laws Of America. President Bush’s Proposal For Comprehensive Immigration Reform Includes Three Critical Elements – Securing The Border, Strengthening Enforcement Inside The Country, And Creating A Temporary Worker Program. These elements depend on and reinforce one another. Together, they will give America an immigration system that meets 21st century demands.
The First Element Is Securing Our Border. Since President Bush took office, funding for border
security has increased by 66 percent. The Border Patrol has been expanded to more than 12,000
agents, an increase of more than 2,700 agents, or nearly 30 percent. The President’s FY07 budget
funds another 1,500 new agents. Agents are being provided with cutting-edge technology like
infrared cameras, advanced motion sensors, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Protective
infrastructure, such as vehicle barriers and fencing in urban areas, is being installed. Manpower,
technology, and infrastructure are being integrated in more unified ways than ever before.
The Administration’s Border Security Strategy Is Getting Results. Since President Bush
took office, agents have apprehended and sent home more than 6 million people entering the
country illegally – including more than 400,000 with criminal records. Federal, State, local, and
tribal law enforcement are working together. More than 600,000 illegal immigrants were
apprehended through the Arizona Border Control Initiative last year – an increase of more than
50 percent increase over the previous year. The men and women of our Border Patrol have
made good progress – but we have much more work ahead, and we will not be satisfied until
our agents have full control of our border.
The Administration Is Ending The Practice Of “Catch And Release.” The President has
set a goal to end “catch and release” over the next year. Most illegal immigrants from Mexico
can be returned to Mexico within 24 hours. Non-Mexican illegal immigrants present a different
challenge. For decades, government detention facilities did not have enough beds for the non-
Mexican illegal immigrants caught at the border – so most were released back into society.
They were each assigned a court date, but virtually no one showed up. The Administration is
ending the practice of “catch and release” by increasing the number of beds in detention
facilities by 12 percent this year; the President’s FY07 budget proposes increasing that number
by another 32 percent. The Administration is expanding the use of “expedited removal,” which
allows us to send non-Mexican illegal immigrants home more quickly.
We Are Making Progress In This Effort. Last year, it took an average of 66 days to
process a non-Mexican illegal immigrant. Now, the process is taking only 21 days. This
has helped us end “catch and release” for illegal immigrants from Brazil, Guatemala,
Honduras, and Nicaragua caught crossing our Southwest border. Since last summer, the
total number of non-Mexican illegal immigrants released into society has been cut by more
than a third. There is more work ahead, and the Administration will work with Congress to
close loopholes that make it difficult to process illegal immigrants from certain countries
and will continue pressing foreign governments like China to take back their citizens who
enter our country illegally.
The Second Element Is Strengthening Enforcement Of Our Laws In The Interior Of Our
Country. Since President Bush took office, funding for immigration enforcement has increased by
42 percent. These resources have helped agents bring to justice smugglers, terrorists, gang
members, and human traffickers. For example, through Operation Community Shield, Federal
agents have arrested nearly 2,300 gang members who were in America illegally, including violent
criminals like the members of the “MS-13” gang.
Better Interior Enforcement Requires Better Worksite Enforcement. Last year, President
Bush signed legislation to more than double the resources dedicated to worksite enforcement.
Next month, the Administration will launch new law enforcement task forces in 11 cities to
dismantle document fraud rings.
The Third Element Is Creating A New Temporary Worker Program That Would Not Provide
Amnesty. A temporary worker program would make the system more rational, orderly, and secure
by providing a legal way to match willing foreign workers with willing American employers to fill jobs
that no American is willing to do. Workers would be able to register for legal status on a temporary
basis. If workers decided to apply for citizenship, they would have to get in line. This program
would help meet the demands of our growing economy and allow honest workers to provide for
their families while respecting the law.
A Temporary Worker Program Is Vital To Securing The Border. Creating a separate, legal
channel for those entering America to do an honest day’s labor would dramatically reduce the
number of people attempting to sneak back and forth across the border. That would help take
pressure off the border and free up law enforcement to focus on the greatest threats to our
security – terrorists, drug dealers, and other criminals. The progra
m would also improve
security by creating tamper-proof identification cards that would allow authorities to keep track
of every temporary worker who is in America on a legal basis and help authorities identify
those who are here illegally.
A Temporary Worker Program Should Not Provide Amnesty. Granting amnesty unfairly
allows those who break the law to jump ahead of people who play by the rules and wait in the
citizenship line. Amnesty would also encourage future waves of illegal immigration, increase
pressure on the border, and make it more difficult for law enforcement to focus on those who
mean us harm. For the sake of justice and the sake of border security, the President firmly
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