THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week, my Administration reached an agreement with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate on immigration reform. I thank the leaders in both parties who worked hard to produce legislation that will secure the border, restore respect for the law, and meet the legitimate needs of our economy.
This legislation includes all the elements required for comprehensive immigration reform. It will improve security at our borders. It will give employers new tools to verify the employment status of workers and hold businesses to account for those they hire. It will create a temporary worker program. It will help us resolve the status of millions of illegal immigrants who are here already, without animosity and without amnesty. And it will honor the great American tradition of the melting pot by strengthening our efforts to help new arrivals assimilate into our society.
Here's how the bill works: First, it will require that strong border security and enforcement benchmarks are met before other elements of the legislation are implemented. These benchmarks include completing our plan to double the number of Border Patrol agents, improving border infrastructure, and maintaining enough beds in our detention facilities so that all those apprehended at the border can be held and returned to their home countries. We will also improve work site enforcement by implementing an effective system to verify worker eligibility using tamper-resistant identification cards, and by imposing stiffer penalties on companies that knowingly violate the law. Once these benchmarks are met, they will trigger other provisions of comprehensive reform.
The legislation will create a new temporary worker program. Such a program will help our economy and take pressure off the border by providing foreign workers with a legal and orderly way to enter our country to fill jobs that Americans are not doing. To ensure that this program is truly temporary, workers will be limited to three two-year terms, with at least a year spent outside the United States between each term. Temporary workers will be allowed to bring immediate family members only if they demonstrate that they can support them financially, and that their family members are covered by health insurance.
This legislation will also help resolve the status of illegal immigrants who are already in our country without amnesty. Those who come out of the shadows will be given probationary status. If they pass a strict background check, pay a fine, hold a job, maintain a clean criminal record, and eventually learn English, they will qualify for and maintain a Z visa. If they want to become citizens, they have to do all these things, plus pay an additional fine, go to the back of the line, pass a citizenship test, and return to their country to apply for their green card.
This legislation will also strengthen our efforts to help new immigrants assimilate. The key to unlocking the full promise of America is the ability to speak English. This bill affirms that English is the language of the United States. And it provides new opportunities for immigrants to learn English and embrace the shared ideals that bind us as a nation.
In addition, this legislation will clear the backlog of family members who've applied to come to our country lawfully, and have been waiting patiently in line. This legislation will end chain migration by limiting the relatives who can automatically receive green cards to spouses and minor children. And this legislation will transform our immigration system so that future immigration decisions are focused on admitting immigrants who have the skills, education, and English proficiency that will help America compete in a global economy.
I realize that many hold strong convictions on this issue, and reaching an agreement was not easy. I appreciate the effort of Senators who came together to craft this important legislation. This bill brings us closer to an immigration system that enforces our laws and upholds the great American tradition of welcoming those who share our values and our love of freedom.
Thank you for listening.
The preceding is the full text of President Bush's Saturday radio address of May 19, 2007.
Last Update: 10:45 AM ET May 19, 2007
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a GOP candidate for president in 2008, said, "This package will confirm to the world that the U.S. does not really mean what it says when it comes to immigration enforcement...As a result of the citizenship benefits included in this legislation, and despite the fine print, we will see a stampede across our borders as people seek to attain legal status in the U.S." Hunter has said he is "fiercely disappointed in seeing history repeat itself” in another law neither political party, nor government branches or agencies intend to enforce. This plan didn't work twenty-one years ago; there is no reason for anyone to believe the results will be any different now.
Edmundo Bermudez from Durango, Mexico, waited at the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey, which issues more tempoary work visas than anywhere else in the world. Bermudez was quoted by Traci Carl of the Associated Press in the Orange County Register print edition (this part of the quote was excised from all on-line stories) saying, "...the plan rewards those who have already entered the United States illegally, while shutting out those who stayed home hoping to gain illeagl passage."
Gilberto Escalante, from Topolobampo, Sinaloa, Mexico legally comes to the U.S. to work the Mississippi fish and shrimp boats. He prefers the current guest worker program because, he says, it allows Mexicans the ability to freely cross the America/Mexico border without giving-up their lives in Mexico and being forced to choose one country or the other. Escalante said, “We don't want the house or the latest car in the U.S. We want to go and work so that our families can have a good life in Mexico.”
[Indigo Red gag]
Senator Ted Kennedy was a driving force behind the Amnesty/Immigration Reform Compromise. Shortly after the announcement of the agreement, Kennedy was asked by a reporter what would be done in twenty years after another wave of 12.5 million illegals have crashed the gates.
Kennedy replied, "Well, ah, we'll drive off that bridge, ah, when we, ah, come to it."
The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.