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January 5, 2002

President Discusses Immigration at Town Hall Meeting
Excerpt from Presidential Remarks

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President George W. Bush holds the microphone for a boy during a town hall meeting in Ontario, Calif., Jan. 5. The President spoke about and listened to comments concerning the economy, immigration and the war in Afghanistan. White House photo by Eric Draper.

Q Jorge -


Q For those of you who don't speak English, it's George. I have a question. As an American Mexican, we face the problem with immigration.


Q I'm very concerned. And I want to ask you what we can do to help to solve this problem, not only with the illegal immigration, but with the millions of people living in the United States with the proper papers to work.

THE PRESIDENT: Right. A couple of things. First, short-term, is to make sure that the INS functions; that the INS is able to expedite the paperwork for people who are legitimately here in the country, and expedite the paperwork necessary for families to reunite. If you believe in family values, you've got to have families together, it seems like to me. And yet, we're too bureaucratic when it comes to the INS, and we need to streamline it and make it work. (Applause.)

Secondly, we've got to understand that in the past, at least, there have been people who were trying to hire people and people willing to work. And it makes sense to me to have a system that matches willing employer with willing employee.

Thirdly, the long-term solution is for Mexico to grow a middle class so that people don't feel like they have to come here to work. (Applause.) The long-term solution -- family values don't stop at the Rio Bravo. If there's somebody who has got children to feed, somebody, a mom or a dad who has got little ones to take care of, and they make fifty cents in a state in Mexico, or they could make $5 in America, they're going to come to America if they believe in their children, if they have the same values you and I have.

Values don't stop. And so, therefore, it seems like to me the best thing we can do is to have a strong relationship with Mexico, a free trading relationship with Mexico so that Mexico is more likely to grow a middle class, which means that person who is willing to walk miles across Texas desert to work to feed her children will be able to find work close to home.

That's why I said one of the most important foreign policy relations we have is with Mexico. The stronger Mexico is, the less pressure on our border; the stronger Mexico is, the more prosperity there will be in both our countries.

Listen, thank you all for coming. God bless, and God bless America. (Applause.)