President Bush wants to spend more money securing America's borders. The president is in on his way to Mexico where increasing trade between the countries is stretching the resources of U.S. border agencies.
President Bush is asking Congress for another five billion dollars to help secure America's airports and borders in the fight against terrorism. Much of the funds will be spent here along the border with Mexico where cross-border trade now totals more than $650 million a day.
President Bush wants to encourage that trade which has seen a 40 percent rise in the number of commercial vehicles crossing the border since the start of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994.
"On the one hand, we want the legal commerce, the people who travel back and forth on a daily basis, the brothers and sisters on both sides of the border, the relatives that have been coming back and forth for years to be able to do so in an efficient and easy way. We want that kind of traffic," the president said.
The president's plan will increase "frequent traveler lanes" at the border so "low risk" travelers pass through more quickly, leaving inspectors more time to search for illegal immigrants or smuggled drugs. Mr. Bush says the two countries will work more closely to identify people who pose security threats before they arrive in North America.
He says additional funding will allow officials to establish a "seamless air, land, and sea border" to protect the country from foreign threats and keep out the so-called coyotes who smuggle illegal immigrants.
"We want to use our technology to make sure that we weed-out those who we don't want in our country the terrorists, the coyotes, the smugglers, those who prey on innocent life," the president said.
Mr. Bush spoke in the Texas border town of El Paso where business with Mexico dominates the local economy. The president says increasing trade and making the border more secure will benefit workers in both countries.
When he travels to Mexico later Thursday, Mr. Bush says he will thank Mexican President Vicente Fox for his work on a joint action plan designed to ensure what Mr. Bush calls a "humane, efficient and modernized" border with America's second largest trading partner.
"I approach Mexico with the spirit of friendship and the spirit of mutual respect and the spirit of resolve. I want to thank the Mexican leaders and will do so in person tonight for their steady and strong resolve in their efforts to join us in our fight against terror and our efforts to join us in the fight against drug cartels and our efforts to make sure our relationship is as hopeful and as together as possible," Mr. Bush said.
The president is going to Mexico to take part in a U.N. development conference on lowering poverty and more fairly spreading the benefits of free trade. He is asking Congress to spend $10 billion over three years to increase U.S. development assistance to countries that reform their economies, protect human rights and invest in education and health care.