Accessibility links

Breaking News

Bush Goes to Border in Push for Immigration Reform

President Bush went to the southern U.S. border with Mexico Thursday to make the case for immigration reform. Mr. Bush met with Border Patrol agents and National Guard troops already deployed in the Yuma, Arizona area.

Yuma is one of the busiest crossing points on the southern border - especially for illegal immigrants.

The president says things have improved in recent years, but not enough.

"People's work is making a difference, but we do not have full control of the border and that is what I want you to understand I realize and a lot of people in Congress realize," he said.

Mr. Bush toured the border area with Border Patrol officials and then talked with staff at a command center. In Yuma, National Guard troops have already been deployed by the Arizona governor to help the Border Patrol. They are filling support jobs - such as communications and building fences - to free up civilian border agents for law enforcement.

The president wants to build on the Yuma program and deploy 6,000 National Guard troops along the border as a temporary measure while the Border Patrol is expanded. He said hiring and training more agents will take time and the need on the border is urgent.

"The reason why I think this strategy is important is because deploying the 6,000 troops to complement the work of the Border Patrol will get immediate results," said President Bush. "And it is time to get immediate results."

Mr. Bush spoke as the U.S. Senate continued work on immigration reform legislation. On Wednesday, Senators voted to build fencing along parts of the Arizona border and fortify existing fences near San Diego, California.

In an interview with the Fox News Channel, conducted during his border tour, Mr. Bush said it makes sense to erect fencing in certain areas, but not the entire length of the border. He noted that a fence is already in place in parts of Arizona, adding that local border officials are the best people to determine where fencing should and should not be built.

Standing in the Arizona desert, he pointed to two nearby rows of fencing - part of an effort to fortify the border in the Yuma area, once known as ground zero for illegal border crossings. But as he did in his speech to the nation on immigration Monday night, the president stressed in Yuma that tougher border security should be accompanied by a temporary guest worker program.

"There are many people on the other side of the border who would do anything to come and work, and that includes risking their lives crossing your desert," he said.

Illegal immigration is one of the most controversial issues in the United States. Some Americans say illegal immigrants are felons and should be deported, while others are pressing for immigration rights and a path to citizenship.

The president is pushing a compromise middle ground and says the U.S. is both a welcoming nation and a nation of laws. But his proposals do not go far enough for some members of Congress who want a strict emphasis on border security, and they go too far for some in the Mexican government who are concerned about the use of troops to back-up the Border Patrol.

Mexican officials say they are sending a letter outlining their concerns to Washington. President Vicente Fox called President Bush recently to raise the issue. The White House says Mr. Bush assured the Mexican leader he has no plans to militarize the border, and both men agreed to cooperate on matters of border security.