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The White House, President George W. Bush

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
January 14, 2004

Remarks by the Vice President to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council Followed by Brief Question and Answer Session
The Beverly Hilton
Beverly Hills, California

[ ... ]

Q Mr. Vice President, many questions here on illegal immigration. There's a major problem here in California. Why should we give millions of people in our state a break for a prima facie breaking of the law? Is there any other country in the world, including Europe and Latin America, that would do so?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: You're talking about illegal immigration?

Q Illegal immigration.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes. There's no question it's a serious problem. The President last week announced a new initiative, a new proposal that we would like to see considered by the Congress and hopefully ultimately adopted that basically provides for a temporary worker program, for people to be able to come into the United States, take a job, receive approval and authorization to be here, take jobs that -- where they, in effect, come in when they know there is a job there, a job that an American will not fill, to regularize that flow.

The problem we have today is we have millions of illegal, undocumented workers in our midst. We do not know when they came. We do not know how long they stay. We do not know what they do while they're here. We do not know when they leave. From the standpoint of homeland security and securing the nation's borders, it is a major hole, if you will, in terms of our overall situation.

And we think -- the President believes, as he's discussed in the last few days, that it's very important for us to try to get a handle on that. It's also a humane measure, as well, at the same time. Those illegal, undocumented workers who come in and take these jobs, in often cases, live in the shadows of our society. They're exploited unfairly and oppressed, in many cases. And we think it would be far better for us to take this approach of, in effect, a temporary worker program.

We are not supporting amnesty. We do not believe in granting citizenship to people who broke the law to get here, nor do we believe these people should get at the head of the line when being considered for citizenship. They need to return to their home countries and come through normal procedures.

But we think this is the right way to go. We expect it will generate a significant debate, as it should. These are important issues. They're controversial. And they're never easy for us to deal with as a government. But we think the issue needs to be addressed, and the President has given us, I think, a good proposal.

[ ... ]

Thank you. (Applause.)

END 12:40 P.M. PST

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