Speech – Full Text – Libertarians and Authoritarians Disagree Illegal
Immigration – National Guard Troops and ID Card
May 16th 2006
The President’s speech last night appeared to be an effort in appeasing
conservatives that feel illegal immigration is out of control and needs
to be stopped. Of course there will be both Democrats and Republicans
that will attack the President for his strategy. Already some groups
are saying that his plan may lead to amnesty for those already in the
country, while the President denies this.
One of the more controversial measures put forth last night was the use
of National Guard soldiers in aiding Border Patrol agents. Another very
controversial issue was the plan to issue national identification cards
for every legal foreign worker. Libertarians will have a heyday with
these proposals, while authoritarians have no problem at all.
The plan is to deploy 6,000 National Guard troops along the border until
more Border Patrol agents can be trained. The plan is to place 9,000 to
12,000 new agents on the border.
Comment on this article at our Forum
Here is the full text of the speech:
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. I've asked for a few
minutes of your time to discuss a matter of national importance -- the
reform of America's immigration system.
The issue of immigration stirs intense emotions, and in recent weeks,
Americans have seen those emotions on display. On the streets of major
cities, crowds have rallied in support of those in our country
illegally. At our southern border, others have organized to stop illegal
immigrants from coming in. Across the country, Americans are trying to
reconcile these contrasting images. And in Washington, the debate over
immigration reform has reached a time of decision. Tonight, I will make
it clear where I stand, and where I want to lead our country on this
We must begin by recognizing the problems with our immigration system.
For decades, the United States has not been in complete control of its
borders. As a result, many who want to work in our economy have been
able to sneak across our border, and millions have stayed.
Once here, illegal immigrants live in the shadows of
our society. Many use forged documents to get jobs, and that makes it
difficult for employers to verify that the workers they hire are legal.
Illegal immigration puts pressure on public schools and hospitals, it
strains state and local budgets, and brings crime to our communities.
These are real problems. Yet we must remember that the vast majority of
illegal immigrants are decent people who work hard, support their
families, practice their faith, and lead responsible lives. They are a
part of American life, but they are beyond the reach and protection of
We're a nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws. We're also a
nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has
strengthened our country in so many ways. These are not contradictory
goals. America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the
same time. We will fix the problems created by illegal immigration, and
we will deliver a system that is secure, orderly, and fair. So I support
comprehensive immigration reform that will accomplish five clear
First, the United States must secure its borders. This
is a basic responsibility of a sovereign nation. It is also an urgent
requirement of our national security. Our objective is straightforward:
The border should be open to trade and lawful immigration, and shut to
illegal immigrants, as well as criminals, drug dealers, and terrorists.
I was a governor of a state that has a 1,200-mile border with Mexico. So
I know how difficult it is to enforce the border, and how important it
is. Since I became President, we've increased funding for border
security by 66 percent, and expanded the Border Patrol from about 9,000
to 12,000 agents. The men and women of our Border Patrol are doing a
fine job in difficult circumstances, and over the past five years, they
have apprehended and sent home about six million people entering America
Despite this progress, we do not yet have full control of the border,
and I am determined to change that. Tonight I'm calling on Congress to
provide funding for dramatic improvements in manpower and technology at
the border. By the end of 2008, we'll increase the number of Border
Patrol officers by an additional 6,000. When these new agents are
deployed, we'll have more than doubled the size of the Border Patrol
during my presidency.
At the same time, we're launching the most technologically advanced
border security initiative in American history. We will construct
high-tech fences in urban corridors, and build new patrol roads and
barriers in rural areas. We'll employ motion sensors, infrared cameras,
and unmanned aerial vehicles to prevent illegal crossings. America has
the best technology in the world, and we will ensure that the Border
Patrol has the technology they need to do their job and secure our
Training thousands of new Border Patrol agents and bringing the most
advanced technology to the border will take time. Yet the need to secure
our border is urgent. So I'm announcing several immediate steps to
strengthen border enforcement during this period of transition:
One way to help during this transition is to use the National Guard. So,
in coordination with governors, up to 6,000 Guard members will be
deployed to our southern border. The Border Patrol will remain in the
lead. The Guard will assist the Border Patrol by operating surveillance
systems, analyzing intelligence, installing fences and vehicle barriers,
building patrol roads, and providing training. Guard units will not be
involved in direct law enforcement activities -- that duty will be done
by the Border Patrol. This initial commitment of Guard members would
last for a period of one year. After that, the number of Guard forces
will be reduced as new Border Patrol agents and new technologies come
online. It is important for Americans to know that we have enough Guard
forces to win the war on terror, to respond to natural disasters, and to
help secure our border.
The United States is not going to militarize the southern border. Mexico
is our neighbor, and our friend. We will continue to work cooperatively
to improve security on both sides of the border, to confront common
problems like drug trafficking and crime, and to reduce illegal
Another way to help during this period of transition is through state
and local law enforcement in our border communities. So we'll increase
federal funding for state and local authorities assisting the Border
Patrol on targeted enforcement missions. We will give state and local
authorities the specialized training they need to help federal officers
apprehend and detain illegal immigrants. State and local law enforcement
officials are an important part of our border security and they need to
be a part of our strategy to secure our borders.
The steps I've outlined will improve our ability to catch people
entering our country illegally. At the same time, we must ensure that
every illegal immigrant we catch crossing our southern border is
returned home. More than 85 percent of the illegal immigrants we catch
crossing the southern border are Mexicans, and most are sent back home
within 24 hours. But when we catch illegal immigrants from other country
[sic] it is not as easy to send them home. For many years, the
government did not have enough space in our detention facilities to hold
them while the legal process unfolded. So most were released back into
our society and asked to return for a court date. When the date arrived,
the vast majority did not show up. This practice, called "catch and
release," is unacceptable, and we will end it.
We're taking several important steps to meet this goal. We've expanded
the number of beds in our detention facilities, and we will continue to
add more. We've expedited the legal process to cut the average
deportation time. And we're making it clear to foreign governments that
they must accept back their citizens who violate our immigration laws.
As a result of these actions, we've ended "catch and release" for
illegal immigrants from some countries. And I will ask Congress for
additional funding and legal authority, so we can end "catch and
release" at the southern border once and for all. When people know that
they'll be caught and sent home if they enter our country illegally,
they will be less likely to try to sneak in.
Second, to secure our border, we must create a temporary worker program.
The reality is that there are many people on the other side of our
border who will do anything to come to America to work and build a
better life. They walk across miles of desert in the summer heat, or
hide in the back of 18-wheelers to reach our country. This creates
enormous pressure on our border that walls and patrols alone will not
stop. To secure the border effectively, we must reduce the numbers of
people trying to sneak across.
Therefore, I support a temporary worker program that would create a
legal path for foreign workers to enter our country in an orderly way,
for a limited period of time. This program would match willing foreign
workers with willing American employers for jobs Americans are not
doing. Every worker who applies for the program would be required to
pass criminal background checks. And temporary workers must return to
their home country at the conclusion of their stay.
A temporary worker program would meet the needs of our economy, and it
would give honest immigrants a way to provide for their families while
respecting the law. A temporary worker program would reduce the appeal
of human smugglers, and make it less likely that people would risk their
lives to cross the border. It would ease the financial burden on state
and local governments, by replacing illegal workers with lawful
taxpayers. And above all, a temporary worker program would add to our
security by making certain we know who is in our country and why they
Third, we need to hold employers to account for the workers they hire.
It is against the law to hire someone who is in this country illegally.
Yet businesses often cannot verify the legal status of their employees
because of the widespread problem of document fraud. Therefore,
comprehensive immigration reform must include a better system for
verifying documents and work eligibility. A key part of that system
should be a new identification card for every legal foreign worker. This
card should use biometric technology, such as digital fingerprints, to
make it tamper-proof. A tamper-proof card would help us enforce the law,
and leave employers with no excuse for violating it. And by making it
harder for illegal immigrants to find work in our country, we would
discourage people from crossing the border illegally in the first place.
Fourth, we must face the reality that millions of illegal immigrants are
here already. They should not be given an automatic path to citizenship.
This is amnesty, and I oppose it. Amnesty would be unfair to those who
are here lawfully, and it would invite further waves of illegal
Some in this country argue that the solution is to deport every illegal
immigrant, and that any proposal short of this amounts to amnesty. I
disagree. It is neither wise, nor realistic to round up millions of
people, many with deep roots in the United States, and send them across
the border. There is a rational middle ground between granting an
automatic path to citizenship for every illegal immigrant, and a program
of mass deportation. That middle ground recognizes there are differences
between an illegal immigrant who crossed the border recently, and
someone who has worked here for many years, and has a home, a family,
and an otherwise clean record.
I believe that illegal immigrants who have roots in our country and want
to stay should have to pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law, to
pay their taxes, to learn English, and to work in a job for a number of
years. People who meet these conditions should be able to apply for
citizenship, but approval would not be automatic, and they will have to
wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law.
What I've just described is not amnesty, it is a way for those who have
broken the law to pay their debt to society, and demonstrate the
character that makes a good citizen.
Fifth, we must honor the great American tradition of the melting pot,
which has made us one nation out of many peoples. The success of our
country depends upon helping newcomers assimilate into our society, and
embrace our common identity as Americans. Americans are bound together
by our shared ideals, an appreciation of our history, respect for the
flag we fly, and an ability to speak and write the English language.
English is also the key to unlocking the opportunity of America. English
allows newcomers to go from picking crops to opening a grocery, from
cleaning offices to running offices, from a life of low-paying jobs to a
diploma, a career, and a home of their own. When immigrants assimilate
and advance in our society, they realize their dreams, they renew our
spirit, and they add to the unity of America.
Tonight, I want to speak directly to members of the House and the
Senate: An immigration reform bill needs to be comprehensive, because
all elements of this problem must be addressed together, or none of them
will be solved at all. The House has passed an immigration bill. The
Senate should act by the end of this month so we can work out the
differences between the two bills, and Congress can pass a comprehensive
bill for me to sign into law.
America needs to conduct this debate on immigration in a reasoned and
respectful tone. Feelings run deep on this issue, and as we work it out,
all of us need to keep some things in mind. We cannot build a unified
country by inciting people to anger, or playing on anyone's fears, or
exploiting the issue of immigration for political gain. We must always
remember that real lives will be affected by our debates and decisions,
and that every human being has dignity and value no matter what their
citizenship papers say.
I know many of you listening tonight have a parent or a grandparent who
came here from another country with dreams of a better life. You know
what freedom meant to them, and you know that America is a more hopeful
country because of their hard work and sacrifice. As President, I've had
the opportunity to meet people of many backgrounds, and hear what
America means to them. On a visit to Bethesda Naval Hospital, Laura and
I met a wounded Marine named Guadalupe Denogean. Master Gunnery Sergeant
Denogean came to the United States from Mexico when he was a boy. He
spent his summers picking crops with his family, and then he volunteered
for the United States Marine Corps as soon as he was able. During the
liberation of Iraq, Master Gunnery Sergeant Denogean was seriously
injured. And when asked if he had any requests, he made two: a promotion
for the corporal who helped rescue him, and the chance to become an
American citizen. And when this brave Marine raised his right hand, and
swore an oath to become a citizen of the country he had defended for
more than 26 years, I was honored to stand at his side.
We will always be proud to welcome people like Guadalupe Denogean as
fellow Americans. Our new immigrants are just what they've always been
-- people willing to risk everything for the dream of freedom. And
America remains what she has always been: the great hope on the horizon,
an open door to the future, a blessed and promised land. We honor the
heritage of all who come here, no matter where they come from, because
we trust in our country's genius for making us all Americans -- one
nation under God.
Thank you, and good night.
END 8:18 P.M. EDT
Keywords and misspellings: speach imigration
ilegal politics poletics
democrat demoncrat republican repub comentary commentary