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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 15, 2006

Press Conference of the President
The Rose Garden

11:15 A.M. EDT

[ ... ]

Q Thank you, Mr. President. On another of your top priorities, immigration, leaders of both parties have dicated that any chance of comprehensive immigration reform is dead before the election. Is this an issue you would like to revisit in a lame duck session after the election? Or would it be put off until the new Congress?

THE PRESIDENT: Bob, I strongly believe that in order to protect this border, Congress has got to pass a comprehensive plan that on the one hand provides additional money to secure the border, and on the other hand recognizes that people are sneaking in here to do jobs Americans aren't doing. It would be better that they not sneak in, that they would come on a temporary basis, in an orderly way to do work Americans aren't doing and then go home. And I will continue to urge Congress to think comprehensively about this vital piece of legislation.

I went up to the Hill yesterday, and of course this topic came up. It's exactly what I told the members of Congress. They wanted to know whether or not we were implementing border security measures that they had funded last January, and the answer is, we are. One of the key things I told them was we had ended what's called "catch and release." That was a -- you know, a Border Patrol agent would find somebody, particularly from -- not from Mexico, and would say, well, we don't have enough detention space, so why don't you come back and check in with the local person you're supposed to check in with, and then they'd never show back up. And that, of course, frustrated the Border Patrol agents, it frustrates American citizens, it frustrates me, and we ended it, because Congress appropriated money that increased the number of beds available to detain people when we get them sneaking into our country illegally.

The border has become modernized. And Secretary Chertoff here, later on this month, will be announcing further modernizations, as he had led a contract that will use all kinds of different technologies to make the border more secure. But in the long run, to secure this border, we've got to have a rational work plan.

And, finally, we're going to have to treat people with dignity in this country. Ours is a nation of immigrants, and when Congress gets down to a comprehensive bill, I would just remind them, it's virtually impossible to try to find 11 million folks who have been here, working hard -- and, in some cases, raising families -- and kick them out. It's just not going to work. But granting automatic citizenship won't work either. To me, that would just provide an additional incentive for people to try to sneak in, and so therefore there is a rational way forward. I'll continue working -- I don't know the timetable. My answer is, as soon as possible, that's what I'd like to see done.

[ ... ]

END 12:14 P.M. EDT