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U.S. Department of
Homeland Security

Remarks by Secretary Ridge to Veterans of Foreign Wars

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Office of the Press Secretary
March 11, 2003
For Immediate Release

Omnishore Hotel
Washington, D.C.

11:10 A.M. EST

[ ... ]

So what we're going to do is reorganize to create strength and new capacity at our borders.  As part of our restructuring, we're going to move all border and immigration enforcement duties into just two bureaus -- the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection -- and that's going to deal with those attempting to cross into the country -- and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for those who are already here.  And I think this change, in time, makes us much stronger across the board.

We understand that our safety depends not only upon our secure borders, but on sound and well enforced immigration laws.  Our investment must reflect both.  And the new department does just that.  We are a nation of immigrants.  If any of you have had the opportunity to go to Ellis Island, you would understand in very emotional kinds of ways.  They've got an extraordinary display, among many, where there's just suitcases that have piled up, that have accumulated over the years since the Statue of Liberty beckoned, and millions and millions of people went through Ellis Island.  And you say to yourself, people left these far away places and took all they owned and put it in that suitcase and set out for the opportunities available in America.

We are a rather incredible place because we are a nation of immigrants.  But we have to develop an entry-exit system in response to the reality, new reality of the 21st century.  And Congress has given us nearly $400 million to do that.  The purpose is to make sure that those who we permit to enter our borders, give them a visa, we want them to stay, we want them to seek medical care, go to school, visit, recreate, be here for economic reasons  -- plenty of reasons to welcome immigrants to our border, plenty of reasons to invite people in for a period of time, but when that stay has expired, when that time has expired, we have to make sure, that unless for some other good reason they are allowed to stay, that they return to their country of origin.  The Congress has been very helpful developing an entry or exit system.  We need to know why they're here.  When their time has expired, we have to make sure that they leave.  (Applause.)  So identifying and removing --

[ ...]

Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)


11:35 A.M. EST