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The White House, President George W. Bush

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 18, 2004

President's Remarks at Ask President Bush Event
Lakefront Park
Hudson, Wisconsin

3:28 P.M. CDT

[ ... ]

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. He's asking my views on immigration. Thanks. Here's what I believe. I believe that we have a policy today that is not working, and my responsibility is to address problems. We have a situation where we've got willing employers who can't find workers here in America to fill jobs, who are looking for people who are coming across the border. Talk to some of your farm workers, they know what I'm talking about -- or your -- people -- meatpackers. I mean, there's a lot of workers, lot of employers who can't find workers. Interestingly enough, there's a lot of people who want to improve themselves, and so they're willing to walk miles to work. And so I believe a good policy is for a willing employer, who can't find a U.S. citizen to fill the job, to be able to look, in a legal fashion, for somebody who's willing to fill the job.

I think that's an important part of keeping the economy growing. I also know it's an important part of being a compassionate America. I mean, why would you want to have a system where the employer is illegal, the worker is illegal, and if the worker gets harmed, he or she is fearful of bringing a complaint, for fear of not being able to fulfill their function.

Look, I was the governor of the great state of Texas. We had a -- thank you, ma'am. We had a -- there you go. We had a -- we obviously had an issue with this. There's moms and dads who live in Mexico who feel an obligation to work to feed their kids, and if they can make $5 in America, as opposed to $.50 in Mexico, they're going to come. And so, therefore, in order to, in my judgment, to better enforce our borders, which we must do, we need a temporary worker program that says to people -- again, I repeat, if you can't find a worker, let's have it legal so you can find somebody to do the job.

Now, this will enable somebody to go back and forth to their country. There will be a -- you know, looking forward to working with Congress on limiting this. This doesn't mean automatic citizenship. I don't think you ought to penalize people who have been waiting in line for citizenship with somebody who has got a temporary worker card. But I think the system needs to be changed. And that's what you can tell your -- tell your union buddies, that this is a system that says we can't -- if you can't find a worker, then you ought to be able to legally be able to hire somebody who's willing to do the job.

Let me also tell you something. One reason I'm for trade in our neighborhood is because I know ultimately the way to keep pressure off our borders is for people to be able to find work close to home. People want to be able to work close to home. You got to understand, moms and dads in Mexico have the same desire as moms and dads here, to put food on the table for their families. And if they can find work at home, it's going to take the pressure of our borders. And the best way to do so is to have free and fair trade in our neighborhood as well. (Applause.)

[ ... ]

[ End ]