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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Michael P. Jackson
Deputy Secretary
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
June 23, 2006

Michael P. Jackson

Good afternoon everyone. President Bush has made securing our borders and reforming the immigration system a top priority of his administration. By doubling the size of the border patrol, harnessing cutting-edge technologies like sensors and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and strengthening enforcement within our country, this Administration is making great progress towards strengthening the border.

The President has also proposed a Temporary Worker Program that rejects amnesty, connects willing workers with willing employers, and reduces the strain along our borders.

I'm glad to be here to discuss these important issues, and I look forward to taking your questions.

Meri, from Kosovo writes:
I would like to immigrate to USA but in a legal manner. Can you tell me how it possible to do that?

Michael P. Jackson
America has a great legacy as a welcoming country for legal immigrants. Recently Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff announced a vision for maintaining that welcoming tradition while meeting our security objectives. The Rice-Chertoff Initiative, among other things, seeks to improve business and temporary worker visa processing, incorporate the latest technological advances into our screening process, and create a welcoming environment for foreign visitors at our airports. Programs like US-VISIT have enabled us to find the right balance between stronger security and facilitating travel.

Of course, the visa process begins with the U.S. Department of State. They have a very good web site ( that explains the visa application process. Also, if you have a family member in the United States that can sponsor you, that family member can contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to begin the process to apply for an immigrant visa. Or, if you have an employer who can sponsor you in the United States, please have them contact USCIS to begin the process to apply for an immigrant visa.

Jim, from Port St Lucie Fl writes:
Why can't the US just enforce the laws we already have ?

Michael P. Jackson
The short answer is, we do. On a typical day, Homeland Security processes more than 1.1 million passengers and pedestrians, executes more than 135 arrests at ports of entry and over 3,000 arrests between ports of entry. Since President Bush took office, agents have apprehended and sent home more than 6 million people entering the country illegally – including more than 400,000 with criminal records. However, there is more to be done. We need Congress to support comprehensive immigration reform that will improve border security by adding manpower, technology and infrastructure to the border, strengthen interior enforcement and create a temporary worker program that rejects amnesty and meets the demands of our economy.

Jesse, from San Jose, California writes:
Does the United State of America realize that we need immigrants to perform many jobs the average American does not like to do? I feel government officials are out of contact with the common folk and true immigration issues. Who will replace farm workers who pick fruits and vegitibles of the California fields? Immigrants have been working in the United States for many, many years, contributing to the economy and filling jobs others don't necesarily fill. Trully, analize the situation not just with numbers, but with a human perspective as well.Thank you.

Michael P. Jackson
Jesse, you bring up good points on the labor force and the economy. The Administration understands the positive impact immigrants have on the economy. This is why we need a temporary worker program to provide a regulated, legal channel for those looking for work to enter the U.S. and perform the jobs that our economy needs. This program will also reduce the number of people attempting to cross the border illegally and will make the immigration system more rational, orderly and secure. America has always been a nation of immigrants, and we will continue to welcome those who obey our laws and seek an opportunity for a better life.

Jeff, from Ely, Nevada writes:
What is the Homeland Security Department doing to secure the Canadian Border if the focus is primarily on securing the Mexican Border?

Michael P. Jackson
Thanks for asking, Jeff. There is a substantial amount of work being done to secure our northern border, often in very close partnership with our Canadian counterparts.

Since 9/11, the number of Border Patrol Agents along the northern border has almost tripled from 340 agents in 2001 to 980 agents today. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has more than doubled the number of inspectors at the northern border from 1,615 to 3,391.

Before 9/11, there were no CBP Air and Marine branches along the northern border. Since that time, two have opened in Washington and New York, and preparations are underway to establish more branches by the end of 2007.

Coast Guard districts in the Pacific Northwest and Great Lakes have 3,500 active duty military personnel, 19 cutters, and 38 small boat stations serving along northern border waterways.

We’ve also made substantial investments in security equipment at the northern border since 9/11, including more than $122 million in technology, $8.7 million in tactical communications, $60 million in Radiation Portal Monitors, and $40 million in other large-scale non-intrusive detection devices.

joann, from arizona writes:
I was wondering why the united states as a whole including officials are wanting to keep mexico nationals out of the USA. This once was mexico and I believe that united states is based on immigration and it should be easy to become american.

Michael P. Jackson
The President this year has actually asked Congress to increase the number of immigrant visas available to Mexicans who would like to enter the United States.

I encourage any legal permanent resident interested in becoming an American citizen, to contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ( for information on how to begin the application process.

linda, from missouri writes:
the president states his goal is to secure the us borders. how then does he justify signing the security and prosperity partnership with canada and mexico, which will open our borders and undermine the working man, by allowing goods to come to ports in mexico where there are no protected waged longshoremen and then transport the goods to the us and canada bypassing our teamster drivers,whithout any oversight and or approval by congress or the american people?when the us loses its borders it no longer is a sovereign nation.

Michael P. Jackson
Our nations share a common goal – to foster legitimate travel and trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico, while not impeding our border economies or our national security objectives. Additionally, economic evidence shows that free and fair trade is a net creator of jobs and benefits all three countries. Through the Security and Prosperity Partnership, signed by President Bush, President Fox, and former Prime Minister Martin, we are working closely with Canada and Mexico to build upon our security advances and strengthen our competitiveness in a global economy. All three countries are considering programs to reduce transit times and border congestion by expanding trusted traveler programs to additional ports of entry and partnering with public and private sector stakeholders to establish “low-risk” ports of entry for the exclusive use of those enrolled in our trusted trade and traveler programs. In the 21st century, security and prosperity go hand-in-hand, and the initiatives identified in this partnership will only help our countries to realize these shared goals.

Fred, from Irvine, CA writes:
Hi, Mr. Jackson:Thanks for your service. I continually hear that the number of actual employer sanction cases has dropped dramatically during the last 10 years. Can you tell me if that is correct? Do you think that the easy availability of jobs is the driving force in bringing illegals here? Why can't you do something about it? Thanks. Fred

Michael P. Jackson
Thank you, Fred. Effective worksite enforcement is a key pillar of Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s internal enforcement strategy. ICE has made a strategic shift in the way it approaches worksite enforcement investigations to focus on high impact cases. Between October 2005 and April 2006, ICE has already arrested more than 2,100 individuals as a result of targeted worksite enforcement investigations. Furthermore, ICE has seized millions in cash and assets from unscrupulous employers this fiscal year as a result of worksite enforcement investigations. This year, ICE has made 16 times as many criminal arrests as the INS did in 1999.

Michael P. Jackson

It was a pleasure to be with you today. For more information on our Department's efforts, including the Secure Border Initiative, please visit our website at

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