The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
January 12, 2004

Interview of First Lady Laura Bush by Univision
The Diplomatic Reception Room
January 9, 2004

10:38 A.M. EST

Q Mrs. Bush, we understand that in Mexico you are going to meet with Mrs. Fox and have a day's worth of conversations on women's issues. What is your priority on this subject and how do you plan to advance it in Mexico?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think that all of us, all of the women who will be meeting together, the spouses of foreign -- of our hemisphere's Presidents, have a particular interest in women's issues. And I think because of the way we saw in Afghanistan, where the Taliban actually didn't allow girls to be educated, or women to leave their homes without a male family escort, that all those women's issues have really been brought to the forefront for all of us.

In our countries, fortunately, there are a lot of laws that protect women and give women equal rights. But, at the same time, we need to really make sure that those laws are enforced and we need to figure out ways that women can support themselves if they need to support themselves, if they are a single parent. We need to figure out all the ways we can help women in our hemisphere because we know that democracies work better if every member of the community, men and women, participate. We know that our economies are better if women are educated and have the chance to participate in the economy as well. So I look forward to discussing this with these women.

Q Do you bring any specific point or program that you favor or --

MRS. BUSH: Yes, education. Because I think education is, by far, the most important point. If we know that women have the opportunity and the encouragement to really become educated, including going on to university, if possible, that women will be able to be a better participant in society, both economically and in government.

Q In the minds of many of these First Ladies in this meeting will be your husband's, the President's, latest proposal for immigration. If you will, because this is an issue for millions of immigrant women in this country, if you put yourself in the position of an immigrant worker, a mother of two, she has two kids in school, she has two jobs, and her only goal is that these two kids receive an American education.

MRS. BUSH: A good education, sure.

Q Why would you register with the government for a temporary visa for three years if you might risk that, at the end of this you, all of you, might be deported?

MRS. BUSH: Well, actually, the temporary visas would be -- in the proposal, you could renew those visas. But there are a lot of reasons that you should register if this proposal is passed by the United States Congress. And that is, it protects you from exploitation. If you have suffered in any way, if you have been exploited in any way or a crime has been committed against you, you could go to the authorities. Which now, if you're illegal, you would feel like you couldn't go to the police because you would be deported.

It gives you the chance to go to your child's school and to be an advocate for your child at their school, and to not be afraid that somehow, when you went up to talk to the teacher, that you might have a chance of being turned in as an illegal.

All of those things really would protect women and men who are working in the United States. It gives you the chance to look for better working conditions. If there's anything about your working conditions that are bad, you can't complain about it now if you're illegal working in the United States.

So in many ways, my husband's proposal is very, very compassionate to -- with people, women and men, who are working in the United States but are illegal.

Q So your advice to the perhaps hundreds of thousands of women who are watching us is to go and register?

MRS. BUSH: Yes, that's right. Although this program is not set up. They can't do that yet. And it's going to require a lot of work with the United States Congress to get a program through like this. So, yes. But, yes, I would.

And I also really want to encourage women who are working in the United States, for whatever reason, if they're citizens, if they have a green card, if they're illegal, to be an advocate for their children in school, and to go up to their children's schools and to make sure they're helping their child in every way they can. Ask the child's teacher, what can I do to make sure my child gets a really good education?

Q As we begin the presidential campaign, how do you see your role in this campaign? Where can you best help your husband and how? Are you psyched up? What's your state of mind right now?

MRS. BUSH: I am. I mean, I feel like we won't really begin the campaign until the primaries let us know who we're running against in the Democratic primaries. But I am, I've already done fundraisers around the United States for Bush Cheney '04, and I enjoy that. I enjoy seeing friends all over the country, and of course that's really what politics is. Politics is a people business. And when you're out campaigning you have the chance to see people that we know, that are friends, all over the country. But we also have the chance to meet a lot of new friends.

Q So you're going to be --

MRS. BUSH: So I look forward to that, and I'll be doing that.

I also like to travel with my husband. We seldom travel together now because we -- I'll be doing some event somewhere and he's doing it somewhere else. But during the campaign, I did travel with him a lot and so I look forward to doing that again.

Q As we begin the year again, given the continued danger in Iraq, what would be your message to the mothers, the wives, the daughters of our soldiers there?

MRS. BUSH: Once again, I want to thank all the families of military men and women for the special burden that I know is placed on them, because their loved ones are deployed in Afghanistan or in Iraq or around the world. It's difficult especially for mothers. It's very anxiety provoking, and I know that. I know they worry and they pray for their child who is overseas. And I just want them to know that the President and I also do the same thing, and that we send them our special best wishes and our special love.

Q I'm going to give you just -- we have just a few seconds. But going back to the campaign, if you had the power to write a commercial for your husband, what would be your slogan? Vote for President Bush because?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I'm proudest of him because he's so steady and because he's very, very strong. And these are difficult times right now that our country faces. We've faced a lot of challenges since September 11, 2001. And I think he really has the character and the strength to be the kind of leader that we need right now.

Q Okay, that's your free commercial for the year. (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: Right -- thanks so much. I really appreciate it.

END 10:47 A.M. EST

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