State of the Union
President Bush's Plan For Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Tonight, President Bush Will Call On Congress To Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The President believes that America can simultaneously be a lawful, economically dynamic, and welcoming society. We must address the problem of illegal immigration and deliver a system that is secure, productive, orderly, and fair. The President calls on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that will secure our borders, enhance interior and worksite enforcement, create a temporary worker program, resolve – without animosity and without amnesty – the status of illegal immigrants already here, and promote assimilation into our society. All elements of this problem must be addressed together – or none of them will be solved.
1. The United States Must Secure Its Borders
Border Security Is The Basic Responsibility Of A Sovereign Nation And An Urgent Requirement Of Our National Security. We have more than doubled border security funding from $4.6 billion in FY 2001 to $10.4 billion in FY 2007. We will have also increased the number of Border Patrol agents by 63 percent – from just over 9,000 agents at the beginning of this Administration to nearly 15,000 at the end of 2007. We are also on track to increase this number to approximately 18,000 by the end of 2008, doubling the size of the Border Patrol during the President's time in office.
2. We Must Hold Employers Accountable For The Workers They Hire
In A Sharp Break From The Past, The Administration Is Addressing The Illegal Employment Of Undocumented Workers With A Tough Combination Of Criminal Prosecution And Forfeitures. Previously, worksite enforcement relied on a combination of administrative hearings and fines. The fines were so modest that some employers treated them as merely a cost of doing business, and employment of undocumented workers continued unabated.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform Must Include The Creation Of A New, Tamper-Proof Identification Card For Every Legal Foreign Worker So Businesses Can Verify The Legal Status Of Their Employees. A tamper-proof card would help us enforce the law and leave employers with no excuse for violating it. We will also work with Congress to expand "Basic Pilot" – an electronic employment eligibility verification system – and mandate that all employers use this system.
3. To Secure Our Border, We Must Create A Temporary Worker Program
America's Immigration Problem Will Not Be Solved With Security Measures Alone. There are many people on the other side of our borders who will do anything to come to America to work and build a better life. This dynamic creates tremendous pressure on our border that walls and patrols alone cannot stop.
As We Tighten Controls At The Border, We Must Also Address The Needs Of America's Growing Economy. The rule of law cannot permit unlawful employment of millions of undocumented workers in the United States. Many American businesses, however, depend on hiring willing foreign workers for jobs that Americans are not doing.
To Provide A Lawful Channel For Employment That Will Benefit Both The United States And Individual Immigrants, The President Has Called For The Creation Of A Temporary Worker Program. Such a program will serve the needs of our economy by providing a lawful and fair way to match willing employers with willing foreign workers to fill jobs that Americans have not taken. The program will also serve our law enforcement and national security objectives by taking pressure off the border and freeing our hard-working Border Patrol to focus on terrorists, human traffickers, violent criminals, drug runners, and gangs.
The Temporary Worker Program Should Be Grounded In The Following Principles:
4. We Must Bring Undocumented Workers Already In The Country Out Of The Shadows
Comprehensive Immigration Reform Must Account For The Millions Of Immigrants Already In The Country Illegally. Illegal immigration causes serious problems, putting pressure on public schools and hospitals and straining State and local budgets. People who have worked hard, supported their families, avoided crime, led responsible lives, and become a part of American life should be called in out of the shadows and under the rule of American law.
The President Opposes An Automatic Path To Citizenship Or Any Other Form Of Amnesty. Amnesty, as a reward for lawbreaking, would only invite further lawbreaking. Amnesty would also be unfair to those lawful immigrants who have patiently waited their turn for citizenship and to those who are still waiting to enter the country legally.
The President Supports A Rational Middle Ground Between A Program Of Mass Deportation And A Program Of Automatic Amnesty. It is neither wise nor realistic to round up and deport millions of illegal immigrants in the United States. But there should be no automatic path to citizenship. The President supports a rational middle ground founded on the following basic tenets:
5. We Must Promote Assimilation Into Our Society By Teaching New Immigrants English And American Values
Those Who Swear The Oath Of Citizenship Are Doing More Than Completing A Legal Process – They Are Making A Lifelong Pledge To Support The Values And The Laws Of America. Americans are bound together by our shared ideals, our history, and the ability to speak and write the English language. Every new citizen has an obligation to learn the English language and the customs and values that define our Nation, including liberty and civic responsibility, appreciation for our history, tolerance for others, and equality. When immigrants assimilate, they advance in our society, realize their dreams, and add to the unity of America.
New Citizens Need Guidance To Succeed. The Office of Citizenship is creating new guides for immigrants and introducing a new pilot civics examination designed to foster a deeper understanding of civic virtues and the founding ideals. The President's Task Force on New Americans is fostering volunteerism through volunteer.gov and exploring partnerships with local organizations. Public libraries and faith-based and community groups will be encouraged to offer English language and civics instruction to immigrants who are seeking to make America their home.