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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 28, 2005
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En route Tucson, Arizona
1:28 P.M. MST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everyone, let me begin with the President's day. He had his usual intelligence briefing this morning. Then he participated in a National Security Council meeting on Iraq. Joining him via videoconference were Generals Casey and Abizaid, from the theater -- or from Iraq -- and then Ambassador Khalilizad, and Secretary Rumsfeld was on from D.C.
Following that, the President called Congressmen Murphy and Marshall, who were on a plane returning from -- I believe they had been to Germany and they were returning from Germany to the United States. And he also called Congressman Skelton, who was still in Germany being treated for some injuries that he received. And the President called to express his concern about them and wish them all a speedy recovery from the injuries they suffered.
Q In Iraq? Injured in Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, the three congressmen were in an accident, the car accident from over the weekend, so the President called to wish them a speedy recovery.
When we arrive at the Air Force Base in Arizona, the President will receive a briefing. The briefing will be led by our border patrol head, David Aguilar. Joining him in Arizona, too, will be Secretary Chertoff and Attorney General Gonzales. And you all will be there to cover part of that briefing that the President will receive.
Then following that, the President will make remarks on border security and immigration reform. Just to give you a little bit of a preview of the speech, the President believes that we need to take a comprehensive approach to addressing our immigration problems, so the President will be talking about his comprehensive strategy for immigration reform. And there are really three parts to it.
One, improving border security. Two, robustly enforcing our immigration laws in the interior. And, three, creating a temporary worker program to help relieve pressure on the border and meet an important economic need. The President today in his remarks will really focus on strengthening our border enforcement; so that's where he'll spend a good bit of his time in his remarks.
Let me just highlight a few things for you -- we'll have a fact sheet here for you shortly, we're finalizing that up, I had hoped to be able to get out an advanced copy of his text, but the President is still reworking some of his remarks a little bit, so I don't know if that's going to happen, but we'll get the fact sheet to you as soon as we can.
Just to mention a couple of things, since we have been in office we have increased funding for border security 60 percent. The President will highlight some of the actions that we've been taking, as well as talk about some additional steps that he'll be calling on Congress to take to move ahead on immigration reform. There are a number of congressional leaders that we've been talking with about how to move forward in a comprehensive way to reform our immigration system, and the President will talk about how this is a high priority for the administration and that he will be pressing Congress to act on this next year and get him a good piece of legislation next year that he can sign into law.
As I mentioned, the President will talk about how comprehensive immigration reform begins with securing our borders, and the President will talk about how -- I guess, really, three different aspects of that. First, that we must promptly return illegal immigrants who are crossing our border, and he will highlight how we're working to expand what we refer to as "interior repatriation." This is where illegal immigrants from Mexico -- and they make up about 85 percent of the illegal immigrants crossing our border on the southwest -- coming into the country are not only returned back across the border to Mexico, but returned to their home towns within Mexico, and that makes it more difficult for them to try and return again. It's been a very successful program that's been used in some instances and we're expanding the use of that.
The President will also talk about how we're moving to end the catch-and-release policy and move to a catch-and-return policy, as well. And some of that he talked about in his recent bill signing on the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill. And the President will talk about the additional resources that we're providing, in terms of increased border patrol agents -- an increase in border patrol agents, and also the advanced technology that we're deploying, including the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to detect people --
Q Unmanned what?
MR. McCLELLAN: Unmanned aerial aircraft, aerial vehicles. So, really, the three aspects are, first, promptly returning people that are illegally coming into this country. Secondly, working with Congress to strengthen our immigration laws. That means ending senseless rules that we have in place now, and he'll talk about one of those in his remarks. And, thirdly, acting to stop people from coming across the border in the first place, and that means increasing manpower along the border and using that advance technology.
And then he'll talk some about improving enforcement of our immigration laws within the United States. And then he'll touch on the temporary worker program, as well. And, again, the temporary worker program that he has outlined is not about amnesty; it doesn't create an automatic path to citizenship. It does meet an important economic need and it does help us relieve pressure on the borders so that we can focus on resources where they need to be focused -- on those who are coming here for the wrong reasons. And that's really kind of the summary of his remarks for today.
And then when we go to Phoenix he'll make remarks at the Kyl re-election fundraiser, as well, and you all will be there to cover that. And we'll over night in Phoenix. And that's really all I have to begin with.
Q Any congress people with the President, like John McCain, anybody like that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. In fact, I think both senators are expected to be there. I think the governor is supposed to be there. There's some additional congressman, and I can get you the list of those names, I didn't bring them with me.
Q Since the President wants a comprehensive solution, what does he think about the House going ahead this year with a bill that just addresses border security?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think he may touch on that in his remarks at well. I mean, the House is moving forward, as you point out, on a bill that focuses on border security. The senate is taking a more comprehensive approach. And I think what we are going to continue emphasizing is that we really need a comprehensive approach. It begins with securing our borders, and that's what the President is highlighting in his remarks today. But we want to continue to work with Congress and move forward in a comprehensive way to reform our immigration system. It is broken and it needs to be fixed and the President believes that it must be done in a comprehensive way.
Q In his discussions with Generals Abizaid and Casey this morning, what was the message about the Iraqi troop readiness?
MR. McCLELLAN: This was a classified NSC meeting, one of a number that he has on a regular basis. I'm not going to get into reading out any of that discussion.
Q In advance of his speech on Wednesday, is that a theme that he plans to discuss there?
MR. McCLELLAN: I didn't hear the first part?
Q In advance of his speech on Wednesday, is that something --
MR. McCLELLAN: What was the "something" you were referring to? I didn't hear.
Q Iraqi troop readiness.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm not going to preview the speech today. I expect that we will do some more previewing tomorrow for the speech for Wednesday; today, we're going to stay focused on immigration reform. But I think you can expect that the President -- between now and the upcoming elections in Iraq, I think you can expect that the President will spend a good bit of time talking about our plan for victory in Iraq and talking about the different aspects of that. And one aspect of that is the training of Iraqi security forces.
Q Is this another aspect, the plan for bringing American troops home?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as we've said, that's going to be conditions-based. We've made it -- and our commanders have stressed the importance of that, as well. But, again, I'll talk more tomorrow about Wednesday's speech. I don't want to jump ahead right now.
Q Scott, the President must be aware of the business community's concerns about his new focus on punitive measures for immigrants -- it's tightening the borders, as opposed to really highlighting the guest worker program. How much have they weighed-in recently? Has the White House been in contact with a number of business --
MR. McCLELLAN: On work side enforcement?
Q I'm talking about the fact that they feel that the focus has shifted from producing a guest worker program to more of the enforcement and more of the border control.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, no, I wouldn't agree with the idea that it's shifted, as you say that. I mean, I think that, in terms of our communications, we believe that it's important to emphasize both, and we were emphasizing one over the other previously. I think that was from a communications standpoint. But we have been acting to better secure our borders from very early on. And that has been an important element of our approach to reforming our immigration system. And we have taken a number of steps, which the President will highlight in his remarks, to secure our borders. And that includes providing additional manpower along the border, in terms of increasing the number of border patrol agents; it includes deploying advanced technology, and the fact that the -- in the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill that he just signed, I think it's $139 million additional funding for deploying advanced technology along the border to help the secure the border.
And so we believe it's important to emphasize both, and we also believe it's important that the approach must be comprehensive. And the temporary worker program aspect of it will help really bring people out of the shadows of society and reduce pressure on the borders.
Q Will it be acceptable to the White House if it has to be done one at a time?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're going to continue working with Congress to get this done, and we believe the approach ought to be comprehensive.
Q Do you have support for that?
MR. McCLELLAN: What's that?
Q Do you have the support for --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- discussions with congressional leaders about moving ahead on immigration reform, and I think that -- and the President is optimistic about getting this done next year.
Q -- the main senators who come around --
MR. McCLELLAN: He'll talk about -- he'll talk about some in his remarks, from Senator McCain and Senator Kyl, to House members, as well --
Q -- around?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- Sensenbrenner and others. What's that?
Q From around?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, that we've been talking to about the importance of moving ahead on immigration reform and building upon the steps that we've already taken. There are a number of steps that we've already taken. The President is going to continue to press for additional steps, as well.
Q If he got a bill that did not include a guest worker program, would he sign it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's early in this process right now. We've had good discussions, and both the House and Senate are working to move ahead on immigration reform, and we look forward to them doing that next year. I think at this point, it's premature to speculate about the final piece of legislation. We're pleased that leaders in both parties, as well as both chambers, are committed to immigration reform, and we look forward to working with them to get something done next year.
Q You mentioned the increase in funding for border security already. Are you contemplating further increases in the budget you send to the Hill next year? Or do you think it's at an adequate level now?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are additional steps that the President believes we need to take, and one of the things that -- we had already increased the number of border patrol agents prior to this recent appropriations bill being signed. In that legislation, it increased the number of border patrol agents even more. The President will talk about those numbers in his remarks. He also expanded the number of beds that we have available in order to make sure that we're not catching and releasing people, that we can have a catch and return policy by detaining those individuals rather than just releasing them while they await their hearing.
Q But I guess what I'm saying is, are the current levels of funding adequate to do everything that the President thinks needs to be done for border security?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're in the process of looking at the budget for next year right now, and I don't want to jump ahead of that at this point.
But, listen -- I think listen to the President's remarks, and you'll hear more from him.
Q Were you guys invited to tonight's event, or did you suggest that you're in town and you could come by?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we were invited. I'm pretty sure we were. I can double check that --
Q Are we going to see --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- I imagine we were invited.
Q Are we going to see a lot more fundraising, now that we're inside a year for the midterm elections?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this -- I think he's already done events for Senators Santorum and Talent. And this is an additional event he's doing today, and then one tomorrow. Our political affairs shop receives, on virtually a daily basis, requests for the President to come and participate in events for candidates running for office next year. And the President looks forward to campaigning on behalf of those who support his agenda to make America stronger and safer.
Q And one more, do you have any comment on Ramsey Clark joining Saddam Hussein's defense team?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think the -- Saddam Hussein is facing Iraqi justice for his crimes against humanity, and that's the way it should be. And there should be due process afforded to all leaders of the regime. And we've worked with the Iraqi special tribunal to set up a legal process and have assisted them from a technical standpoint. And this is an Iraqi justice system. And the Iraqi people -- Saddam Hussein and his regime leaders will face Iraqi justice.
Q So it doesn't bother you that there's an American over there defending Saddam Hussein?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's not something I've discussed with the President. I'll see if there's anything more.
Q Okay. Thank you.
END 1:44 P.M. MST