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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

The White House, President George W. Bush

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 6, 2004

President's Remarks to the Unity Journalists of Color Convention
Washington Convention Center
Washington, D.C.

[ ... ]

Q Early in your administration, you talked a good deal about immigration reforms and possibilities there. I have not heard you talk to that issue so much recently. I wonder what you still think is possible, given the circumstances that we find ourselves in today. What is doable, particularly in the short-term?

THE PRESIDENT: Actually, I have talked about it lately. I talked about it this winter, because I think it's necessary that we reform our immigration laws. I believe where there's a willing worker and a willing employer, and they can't find work here in America, the people ought to be allowed to be here legally to work, that's what I believe. And I believe there ought to be a process that allows a person to work here legally, and go home, and come back without fear of being arrested. (Applause.)

I think there needs to be a -- first of all, this will help bring people out of the shadows of our society. This will help kind of legalize a system that takes place everyday, without employers feeling like they have got to be subjected, or employees feeling like they're going to be arrested -- subjected to fines or arrested. And so we need to reform our immigration laws.

Now, the issue there is whether or not people automatically get to step in the front of the line when it comes to citizenship. I don't think they should. I think those who have been waiting in line to be a citizen ought to be allowed to keep that priority in line. I think people ought to -- in this process ought to be allowed to apply for citizenship, but I don't think they ought to be treated specially, in relation to those who have been in line for quite a while. And in order to solve the logjam for citizenship, Congress has got to raise the quotas on who can become a citizen. And I support raising the quotas on certain population groups, like the Mexican nationals, on who can become a citizen. (Applause.)

The long-run solution, particularly to Mexican immigration, is going to be to help Mexico develop a middle class. That's why free trade is so important between our countries. That's why we better be careful about rhetoric that begins to unwind a free trade agreement that is making an enormous difference in the lifestyles of people in Mexico. See, trade, to me, is the great hope for developing nations. That's why I was a strong supporter of AGOA, the African Growth and Opportunity Act. It gives people a chance to have a job that's a meaningful job, because of the trade between the world's largest market and their countries. NAFTA has made a big difference in lifting lives of people. It has improved the living standard in Mexico.

Listen, people are coming to the United States to work from Mexico because they want to make a living for their families. And if they can't make a living for their families at home, they'll come here to work. And, therefore, we must work with Mexico to develop a middle class in the long run, so people can do their duty as a parent at home. That's what they want. And we need to change our immigration laws. Will it get done? Probably not this year. This is an election year -- not much gets done, except for a lot of yelling and elbowing. But I would like to see reasonable immigration reform come out of the Congress.

[ ... ]

END 10:14 A.M. EDT



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