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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
January 12, 2004

Interview of First Lady Laura Bush by Telemundo
The Map Room
January 9, 2004

10:27 A.M. EST

Q Happy New Year and thank you for having us.

MRS. BUSH: Thank you. Thanks so much.

Q We are beginning a new year and our soldiers still are on the front in Iraq and in Afghanistan. What would you say to their families?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I hope their families know how strongly the President and I feel about all of them and how much we appreciate the sacrifice of our military men and women who are serving in Iraq and in Afghanistan and in other places around the world, and how much we think about the families. And we understand the special burden that are on the families of military men and women, as they worry and are anxious and as they're away from their loved ones.

So this New Years, I want to send them our special wishes, good wishes, and love.

Q How was when the President, your husband, received the phone call announcing the -- Saddam's capture?

MRS. BUSH: We actually heard it on the Saturday afternoon before it was announced, and we were at Camp David for the weekend. And when he got the phone call, he was -- he and I were both very cautious. We didn't know for sure, and Secretary Rumsfeld said, you know, we're not positive. So we waited to see. And then we were really, really glad that he was captured.

Q It's worth the war in Iraq, even though the hundreds of the lives have been taken?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think the freedom of the Iraqi people is very, very important. It's just like the freedom of the people of Afghanistan, who suffered under the Taliban. Women, for instance, and little girls were not even allowed to go to school. And now it's up to both of those countries.

And Afghanistan is doing a really good job. They've had a struggle, as they -- their Loya Jirga met to come up with their constitution. But they have gotten through that step and now it's up to the Iraqi people, as well, to build their country, to seize this moment when they don't have a dictator, after all these years of suffering under a brutal dictator, and build their country and build a democracy. And I hope that's what they'll do.

Q Your husband already proposed an immigration plan. But some people think that it's not good to allow illegal people to work here in the United States. What do you think?

MRS. BUSH: I think it's really very important. I'm very proud of his immigration plan that he's come up with. It's terrible for people who are illegal here. They can suffer a lot of exploitation if they are involved in any way in -- if they are exploited in any way, it's very difficult for them to go to the authorities in the United States, because they're illegal here.

So I think it's a very important move to give workers who are here who are employed a chance to have a temporary employment visa and be able to work here. And then that allows them to go back and forth to their homes, wherever their homes are, without fear of not being able to get back into the United States after their vacation or their visit with their family. So I think it's a very important step and I hope the Congress will work with the President to come up with an immigration policy that's safe for immigrants, for people who come to the United States, as well as economically beneficial for American employers.

Q You are going to Mexico next week.

MRS. BUSH: That's right. I'm going on Monday. I'm really looking forward to it.

Q Do you have your own agenda with the First Lady --

MRS. BUSH: That's right. Mrs. Fox is going to talk about women's issues with all the First Ladies. We like to get together, this group of women in our hemisphere, meet -- or spouses, I should say, because of course they're not all women. But we meet once a year by ourselves.

We were hosted last year in the Dominican Republic, last spring in the Dominican Republic, and Marta Fox has hosted us before. So this time, when we're there with the leaders, with the Presidents of all of our hemisphere, we'll also have a chance to get to be with each other. We love to hear what everyone else is working on in their countries. We also have so much in common because of the lives we live, being married to leaders around our hemisphere. So we enjoy getting to know each other personally, as well as working with each other to help in our hemisphere.

Q And how is your relationship with Marta Fox?

MRS. BUSH: Very good.

Q You talk on the phone --

MRS. BUSH: Very good. We're quite friendly. We have known each other since both of our husbands became President of their countries. And I enjoy her very much, so I look forward to seeing her again.

Q President Fox and President Bush was a little bit separated before the war and after the war. That has been the same with you and Mrs. Fox?

MRS. BUSH: Not really, and I wouldn't say that about them either, about the two Presidents. Mexico is our closest neighbor. Our relationship with Mexico is very, very important. We're from a state that shares a very long border with Mexico, and I think we really have a special relationship, particularly my husband, with Mexico because of our long history of our state and the country of Mexico.

Also, of course, President Fox was a governor at the same time my husband was governor of Texas, and they had a relationship that started before each of them became President.

Q This proposal, immigration proposal, is going to be really good for Mexico.

MRS. BUSH: Well, I hope so. I think it will be really good for the United States. And that's the point. But we're going to need to work very closely with our Congress to make sure that this immigration policy passes. There's a long road ahead still. And it's important for all of us to work together on this.

Q You have asked American people to be vigilant for possible terrorist attacks. How can we feel safe in this country?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think we can feel safe. I mean, I think people do feel safe. We need to go about our business and certainly, I think, Mayor Bloomberg in New York City proved on New York City proved on New Year's Eve that a big group of people can be together and be safe.

But at the same time, there are heightened threat alerts and it's very important for people to pay attention. And that's really all it is, just pay attention to your surroundings, pay attention, call the authorities if you see something you think is suspicious.

This will pass. It's a very anxiety-provoking time in our country, and I understand that. But we all know that eventually we'll get to the other side of it and this is just the challenge that we have to face in this year.

Q The last question is, supposedly your husband is going to propose next week a permanent human settlement in the moon. Do you see the White House in the moon? (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: No, I don't, actually.

Q Do you have anything on that?

MRS. BUSH: I'm not sure he's actually going to propose that, but we'll see.

Q Okay. Thank you very much, Mrs. Bush.

MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much.

END 10:36 A.M. EST

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