In a press conference on Monday, December 20, President Bush was asked about his agenda on immigration reform. His answer received little coverage in the United States but was front page news in El Salvador. Here is his answer from the transcript of the press conference:
"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 her family, to the country of origin, they should be able to do so within a prescribed -- in other words, and the card, 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 people -- 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 citizen in a legal manner.
And this is a very important issue, and it's a -- and I look forward to working with members of Congress. I fully understand the politics of immigration reform. I was the governor of Texas right there on the front lines of border politics. 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 IDs; 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 trucks; stop the process of people feeling like they've got to walk miles across desert in Arizona and Texas in order just to feed their family, and they find them dead out there. 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."