The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
May 16, 2006

Interview of the Vice President by Rush Limbaugh, The Rush Limbaugh Show
Via Telephone

1:32 P.M. EDT

Q Once again, we are thrilled and honored to have with us the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney. Mr. Vice President, welcome back. As always, great to have you here.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, good afternoon, Rush.

Q All right, question: Is the President -- are you and the President, the administration aware of the dissatisfaction on the whole issue of illegal immigration that exists not just within the Republican base, but within the country at large?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, we are, I think, Rush. In my travels out around the country I've found for a long time now immigration -- illegal immigration, in particular -- to be a big issue. And it's true no matter what part of the country you go to. Of course, you find it down along the border in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico. But I also was out in the Seattle area the other day and talked to several folks out there, and it was a significant issue up there, too.

It takes different forms different places around the country, but it's a tough issue. It's complicated. It's important. So there are, I think, legitimate concerns out there on the part of a lot of folks.

Q Why do you think so many people -- and I'm just judging from telephone calls I've had, and when I make trips to California like you just mentioned, I can't get away from the subject. It's all anybody wants to talk about, particularly in Southern California. Why is it that so many people don't think that the steps the President is outlining and has outlined over the years will address the seriousness of the problem?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think part of it is that a lot of folks aren't aware of what's already being done. I mean the President pointed out in his speech, for example, that since we got to office, we have arrested, turned back, sent back across the border some 6 million illegals. That's a huge number. I mean, there's a huge amount of effort that's gone into that.

We've had a very significant increase in resources. It's just that the problem is so big, there's still a lot more to be done. And to date, we've not yet been successful in getting a comprehensive approach out of the Congress that would allow us to address some of these issues. So we've been doing what we could administratively. We've been doing what we could with appropriations bills. But in terms of basic legislation, we've still got a ways to go. The House has acted. The Senate has not yet acted, and then of course, we'll have to get something out of conference. And what the President did last night was lay out a fairly precise program in terms of what he'd like to see.

Q Well, let's talk about what's going on in the Senate. There are a number of bills there. The compromise bill we're being told is Hagel-Martinez, two Republicans proposing this bill. Robert Rector at Heritage and Senator Sessions, who I know you respect, both did joint analyses of this bill and what they project using conservative estimates is anywhere from over the next 20 years, 110 million to 217 million legal immigrants entering the country, and illegals as part of that number, being granted legal status. What is the public policy purpose for doing that in these kinds of numbers?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I haven't seen their analysis, Rush. And at this point, of course, what you have in the House bill is specifically a border enforcement bill. What you've got in the Senate bill is a bill that goes after border enforcement but also in the -- you've got Hagel-Martinez, and there's a Kennedy-McCain. There are a lot of proposals kicking around. The Senate has not finalized its package yet, so we don't know what's going to come out of the conference. Obviously, we're going to want to look at it very carefully to make sure it does achieve the objectives the President has talked about.

Q Well, if you haven't seen it, let me give you the bare essentials. Senator Sessions did his own analysis. It's a 614-page bill. I know it's got to be conference, but this is a pretty radical starting point. They have anywhere from 117 million to 217 million legal Americans -- that's two-thirds of the population -- over the next 20 years if this bill were to become law, and if the President signed it as is.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: These are people who would attain legal status?

Q No, this is a combination of both. This is an increase in the number of legal immigrants, as well as added to illegals who would then be made legal over that 20-year time frame. And it also allows for exponential growth because these people would be allowed to bring in their family members, as well.

And one of the big concerns here is the strain this would put on an already stretched social safety welfare net and this sort of thing. And these numbers are just striking to me. Add two-thirds of the country's population in 20 years -- I don't think we can handle that financially and certainly not in an assimilation way.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right. Well, if that's the case, I would hope that would inform the debate and that Congress will consider those kinds of impacts very carefully before they finally pass something. We'll certainly weigh in on it.

Q Well, Senator Sessions is -- I think his floor debate today is he spent some time really working the numbers. And he thinks most senators aren't even aware of these numbers. And he's going to do his best to make them aware during the debate. So hopefully that's true.

Now, let's talk about the National Guard. Six thousand Guardsmen, what's the length of time that it is expected they will be needed?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the total proposal is to run for one year in terms of using the National Guard. And over that period of time -- we've added some 3,000 Border Patrol since we got here; we're going to increase that by an additional 6,000. That's a 50-percent increase in the Border Patrol over where we are today.

And the National Guard would be, in effect, to supplement what's there already in terms of the Border Patrol during that period of time while you recruit and train additional Border Patrol officers. The Guardsmen is a temporary measure. Units, it is expected, would go down as part of their regular training rotation. And this would be for up to 6,000 at any one time. The way they'd handle their annual training exercise, would be go down in support of the Border Patrol themselves.

Q Let me ask you this on behalf of my audience, simply because of the number of emails. People don't think that this number of 6,000 -- which probably will add up to 2,000 or 3,000 on duty at any given time -- is actually going to make much of an impact. What would you say to them?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I'd say it's not just about the National Guard. You've already got a large number of folks working down there under the auspices of the Border Patrol. We've got big investments going in now in terms of additional technology, in terms of sensors and aerial vehicles -- unmanned aerial vehicles and so forth, as well as fences.

One of the very useful things the Guard can do is what they did there in San Diego a few years when they installed a section of fence there, that's turned out to be a very effective -- that particular section has been very effective. Basically it was built by Guard troops.

So there are a lot of things they can do to support the effort and to beef up the effort that's already underway. And I think that's the intention with respect to the Guard. It's not a be-all and end-all of the operation. I think a lot of our folks who sign up for military service don't sign up to go stand on the border for two or three years of active duty. But this is a way to use the resources of the National Guard to support the professionals who are otherwise involved in that activity. We think it makes sense. It has been done before to some extent in the counter-narcotics area. It's not a new concept to have the Guard working the border in support of federal officials.

Q As all of you in the administration discuss the issue and inform to your plan, do you ever -- has it ever -- has a wall, an actual wall ever been given serious consideration?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: It is given serious consideration -- not a wall, for example, from ocean to ocean. There are a lot of places out there where it doesn't make sense. There are other places where it does. I'm told -- I'm not an expert in this by any means -- but that when you get into built-up urban areas, fences -- security barriers might be a better word for it -- are, in fact, an important part of the overall plan and need to be part of it.

There are other areas where you got vast spaces out there where you need other kinds of arrangements. You need roads to be able to patrol. You can use remote cameras. You can use unmanned aerial vehicles. It's partly a matter of getting technology to it, as well, too. But it is a very complicated problem. We're talking just about one piece of it, just the border security part of it. But you've also got to address, I think, some of the basic economic incentives that attract people in the first place, all those folks who want to come here for the jobs that they can find working in the United States for a lot more than they can make in Mexico or someplace in Central America.

We think you've got to address all those aspects and facets of the problem. And where appropriate, fences or security barriers make good sense. But I think the experts got to go through and figure out what's the best technique or procedure for each part of the border.

Q Let me ask you a quick political question, two prongs to it. The Dubai Ports deal, American people spoke out loudly against it, "we don't want any part of it," it got killed. The illegal immigration deal is generating just as much negative response, but the American people are not getting the reaction -- the same reaction from government to that, that they got on the Dubai Ports deal -- a little confused, asking questions, "what's different here, we're still talking security."

Second thing is, Democrats, Mr. Vice President, are, frankly, getting away with being total bystanders and spectators on this. They offer no solution themselves, yet they continue to sit around and criticize the administration and the Republicans over this. Is there a plan to deal with them politically on this?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we're -- it is a very tough issue. There's no question about it. You mentioned the Dubai Ports deal, Rush. That was -- created a firestorm of controversy. And so Congress quickly backed provisions that would have made it impossible to go forward. And of course, the folks at Dubai Ports withdrew their proposal.

The fact is that -- from the perspective of the United Arab Emirates and so forth, I've worked closely with those folks. They've been very good allies of ours. And I don't want to go back and redo the whole Dubai Ports operation, but the fact of the matter is, I thought there was a very strong emotional reaction there. I can understand the emotional reaction, but it didn't bear much resemblance to the basic fundamental facts.

What we have here -- I suppose there's a difference between trying to govern and solve a major problem, which is what the President and those of us who work for him are trying to do, versus the Democrats in this case who don't have any responsibilities, or at least aren't willing to take any responsibilities. They want to sit on the sidelines and take potshots. This is an important problem for us to deal with. We got some 11 million or 12 million illegals in the country. It is a national security problem. It's also an economic problem. If you could round all those folks up tomorrow and put them back over the border, you'd have a big hole in your work force.

It is not an easy, simple proposition. If it was, it would have been solved a long time ago. It's one of those tough, intractable problems where you're going to make progress three yards and a cloud of dust. We need to get started. We need to get the border secured. That's our top priority, but then we need to also deal with these other aspects of the problem.

Q Mr. Vice President, thanks for your time. I wish we had a little bit more, but I know you're on a tight schedule. And it's a thrill with whatever time we have with you whenever. So thanks very much for being with us now, and we look forward to the next time.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right, it's good to talk to you, Rush. You render a great service out there by hosting these debates.

Q Thank you, sir, very much.

END 1:45 P.M. EDT

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