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George W. Bush on Immigration

President of the United States, Former Republican Governor (TX)


40% of Latino vote & won in 2004; McCain's 33% lost in 2008

Strategists generally agree that to win the White House a Republican nominee needs to secure 40% of the Latino vote, the portion George W. Bush won in 2004. 4 years later Republican John McCain got only 33% when he lost to Democrat Barack Obama.

But for Republicans seeking their party's nomination, the calculation can be different: it is more important to gain white working-class votes by staking out the position of being the toughest candidate on illegal immigrants than it is to court the ascending bloc of Latinos, whose influence registers mainly in the general election. So in the 2012 primary the former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney promoted the idea of a high-tech fence stretching the entire length of the US-Mexico border, nearly 2,000 miles long.

Source: The Rise of Marco Rubio, by Manuel Rogi-Franzia, p.221 , Jun 19, 2012

We're a nation of immigrants, but also a nation of laws

In 2006, I gave the first-ever primetime presidential address on immigration. "We're a nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws," I said. "We're also a nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways." I then laid out a five-part plan to reform the immigration system:
  1. A major new investment in border security, including doubling the Border Patrol by the end of 2008 and temporarily deploy 6000 National Guard troops
  2. The temporary worker program, which would include a tamper-proof identification card
  3. Stricter immigration enforcement at businesses, which would reduce exploitation and help slow demand for illegal workers
  4. Promote assimilation by requiring immigrants to learn English
  5. What to do with the approximately twelve million illegal immigrants in the country? [I outlined] a rational middle ground between granting an automatic path to citizenship for every illegal immigrant and a program of mass deportation.
Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.303-304 , Nov 9, 2010

Ended "catch-and-release" policy

Bush ended "catch and release," the practice of picking up illegal aliens from countries other than Mexico and then releasing them on their own recognizance until their deportation hearing, for which most never showed. Bush thought it encouraged contempt for law. So he expanded the facilities to hold these illegals until deportation hearings. In 2000, it took nearly a hundred days on average to process someone out of the country. When Bush left office, it took less than twenty.
Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p.468 , Mar 9, 2010

Deploy border fence; end “catch and release”

America needs to secure our borders--and with your help, my administration is taking steps to do so. We’re increasing worksite enforcement, deploying fences and advanced technologies to stop illegal crossings. We’ve effectively ended the policy of “catch and release” at the border, and by the end of this year, we will have doubled the number of border patrol agents. Yet we also need to acknowledge that we will never fully secure our border until we create a lawful way for foreign workers to come here and support our economy. This will take pressure off the border and allow law enforcement to concentrate on those who mean us harm. We must also find a sensible and humane way to deal with people here illegally. Illegal immigration is complicated, but it can be resolved. And it must be resolved in a way that upholds both our laws and our highest ideals.
Source: 2008 State of the Union address to Congress , Jan 28, 2008

OpEd: Allowing foreign workers is blanket amnesty

In 376 AD, a large band of Gothic refugees arrives at the Empire's Danube frontier, asking for asylum. In a complete break with established Roman policy, they were allowed in, unsubdued. They revolted, and within two years had defeated and killed the emperor Valens--the one who had received them.

What Valens had done was the Christian thing to do, but it had never been the Roman thing to do. Valens has his modern counterpart in George W. Bush. For in May 2006, Republican senators at Bush's urging joined Democrats to offer a blanket amnesty to 12 million illegal aliens and permit US businesses to go abroad and bring in foreign workers. Senators had been shocked by the millions of Hispanics marching in America's cities under Mexican flags. And as was the emperor Valens, President Bush was hailed for his compassion and vision.

Source: State of Emergency, by Pat Buchanan, p. 3 , Oct 2, 2007

Take pressure off border with guest worker program

Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America--with laws that are fair and borders that are secure. When laws and borders are routinely violated, this harms the interests of our country. To secure our border, we are doubling the size of the Border Patrol--and funding new infrastructure and technology.

Yet even with all these steps, we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border--and that requires a temporary worker program. We should establish a legal and orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country to work on a temporary basis. As a result, they won’t have to try to sneak in.

We will enforce our immigration laws at the work site, and give employers the tools to verify the legal status of their workers--so there is no excuse left for violating the law. We need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country--without animosity and without amnesty.

Source: 2007 State of the Union address to Congress , Jan 23, 2007

Minuteman Project are vigilantes

The planned Minuteman Project in Arizona first came to my attention in Dec. 2004, and like many Americans I had some doubts about it. What if some "crazies" infiltrated the group and shot some unarmed immigrant? I decided to keep an eye on the project and to ask lots of questions before endorsing it or participating.

The more I learned about their plans and preparation, the more impressed I was. What struck me was not only the ambition and vision of the two founders, but the immense outpouring of patriotism by 1,000 volunteers. The other astonishing thing was the reaction of officialdom to this emerging civilian defense force, which came into existence only because the government failed to do its job.

More astonishing still was the reaction of Pres. Bush, who called the Minutemen "vigilantes" in March 2006. The Minutemen patriots would not need to devote their time & energies to this task if the president gave the Border Patrol the resources and the mandate to actually accomplish its mission.

Source: Minutemen, by Jim Gilchrist & Jerome Corsi, p. xi-xii , Jul 25, 2006

Letter from Catholic Church: Don't make priests enforcers

While celebrating Ash Wednesday, Los Angeles' Cardinal Mahony attacked HR.4437, the border enforcement bill introduced by Jim Sensenbrenner (R, WI) which passed the House on Dec. 16, 2005. Mahony told his parishioners, "The church must be able to ministe to people, regardless of how they got here." The cardinal called on Catholics through his archdiocese to commit to immigration reform, "especially in the face of the increasing hostility to immigrants."

With these bold statements, Cardinal Mahony entered the national arena to support illegal aliens--a political fight to make sure that HR.4437 never became the law of the land. On Dec. 30, 2005, Cardinal Mahony sent a firmly-worded letter to Pres. Bush, objecting that HR.4437 would require Catholic Church officials to become "quasi-immigration enforcement officers." He wrote, "Our golden rule has always been to serve people in need--not to verify beforehand their immigration status."

Source: Minutemen, by Jim Gilchrist & Jerome Corsi, p.274-276 , Jul 25, 2006

Our economy could not function without the immigrants

We hear claims that immigrants are somehow bad for the economy, even though this economy could not function without them. All these are forms of economic retreat, and they lead in the same direction, toward a stagnant and second-rate economy.
Source: 2006 State of the Union Address , Jan 31, 2006

Support a humane guest-worker program that rejects amnesty

Keeping America competitive requires an immigration system that upholds our laws, reflects our values and serves the interests of our economy. Our nation needs orderly and secure borders. To meet this goal, we must have stronger immigration enforcement and border protection. And we must have a rational, humane guest-worker program that rejects amnesty, allows temporary jobs for people who seek them legally and reduces smuggling and crime at the border.
Source: 2006 State of the Union Address , Jan 31, 2006

Reversed GOP’s support fo English-only education

Hispanics voted for Gore by a margin of 62-35 in the 2000 election. But Kerry carried Latinos by a bare nine points. Why the change? Because George W. Bush has worked overtime on appealing to the Hispanic vote. His eagerness to address them in Spanish, his sponsorship of a guest worker program for immigrants, and his Texas background all maximize his appeal to Hispanic voters. Bush also gained among the highly religious Catholic Hispanic vote by his opposition to gay marriage and his strong support for religious values. Remember also that Bush reversed the Republican Party’s support for English-only public education and stopped cuts in school funding for the children of illegal immigrants.

But there is nobody with Bush’s record on Hispanic concerns running for the GOP nomination in 08. Neither Giuliani nor McCain nor Frist nor any of the other candidates would have the appeal that Bush has had for Hispanic voters.

Source: Condi vs. Hillary, by Dick Morris, p. 39-40 , Oct 11, 2005

It’s time to permit temporary guest workers

America’s immigration system is outdated, unsuited to the needs of our economy and to the values of our country. We should not be content with laws that punish hardworking people and deny businesses willing workers and invite chaos at our border. It is time for an immigration policy that permits temporary guest workers to fill jobs Americans will not take, that rejects amnesty, that tells us who is entering and leaving our country, and that closes the border to drug dealers and terrorists.
Source: 2005 State of the Union Speech , Feb 2, 2005

Temporary workers ok, but no amnesty

Q: What should we do about the 8,000 people cross our borders illegally every day?

BUSH: We’re increasing the border security of the US. There ought to be a temporary worker card that allows a willing worker and a willing employer, so long as there’s not an American willing to do that job, to join up. I don’t believe we ought to have amnesty. I don’t think we ought to reward illegal behavior. There are plenty of people standing in line to become a citizen. If they want to become a citizen, they can stand in line, too. And here is where my opponent and I differ. In September 2003, he supported amnesty for illegal aliens.

KERRY: We need a guest-worker program. We need is to crack down on illegal hiring. And thirdly, we need an earned-legalization program for people who have been here for a long time, stayed out of trouble, got a job, paid their taxes, and their kids are American. We got to start moving them toward full citizenship, out of the shadows.

Source: Third Bush-Kerry Debate, in Tempe Arizona , Oct 13, 2004

A time-limited worker card for the illegal immigrants

Q: At least 8,000 people cross our borders illegally every day. How do you see it? And what do we need to do about it?

A: We’re increasing the border security of the US. We’ve got 1,000 more Border Patrol agents on the southern border. We’re using new equipment. We’re using unmanned vehicles to spot people coming across. We’ll continue to do so over the next four years. They’re coming here to work. In order to take pressure off the borders, in order to make the borders more secure, there ought to be a temporary worker card that allows a willing worker and a willing employer to mate up, so long as there’s not an American willing to do that job, to join up in order to be able to fulfill the employers’ needs. It makes sure that the people coming across the border are humanely treated, that they’re not kept in the shadows of our society, that they’re able to go back and forth to see their families. The card it’ll have a period of time attached to it. It also means it takes pressure off the border.

Source: Third Bush-Kerry debate, in Tempe AZ , Oct 13, 2004

Don’t believe we ought to have amnesty

BUSH: I don’t believe we ought to have amnesty. I don’t think we ought to reward illegal behavior. There are plenty of people standing in line to become a citizen. And we ought not to crowd these people ahead of them in line. If they want to become a citizen, they can stand in line, too. Kerry supported amnesty for illegal aliens.

KERRY: The borders are more leaking today than they were before 9/11. We haven’t done what we need to do to toughen up our borders, and I will. We need a guest-worker program, but if it’s all we have, it’s not going to solve the problem. We need to crack down on illegal hiring. It’s against the law in the US to hire people illegally, and we ought to be enforcing that law properly. We need an earned-legalization program for people who have been here for a long time, stayed out of trouble, got a job, paid their taxes, and their kids are American. We got to start moving them toward full citizenship, out of the shadows.

Source: Third Bush-Kerry debate, in Tempe AZ , Oct 13, 2004

Support temporary worker program but oppose amnesty

I ask Congress to reform our immigration laws so they reflect our values and benefit our economy. I propose a new temporary-worker program to match willing foreign workers with willing employers when no Americans can be found to fill the job. This reform will be good for our economy, because employers will find needed workers in an honest and orderly system. A temporary-worker program will help protect our homeland, allowing border patrol and law enforcement to focus on true threats to our national security.

I oppose amnesty, because it would encourage further illegal immigration and unfairly reward those who break our laws. My temporary-worker program will preserve the citizenship path for those who respect the law, while bringing millions of hardworking men and women out from the shadows of American life.

Source: 2004 State of the Union address to joint session of Congress , Jan 20, 2004

New temporary worker program includes illegal aliens

President Bush, saying the nation has failed millions of illegal immigrants who live in fear of deportation, yesterday proposed an ambitious plan that would allow undocumented workers to legally hold jobs in the US for the first time. The program that would bestow temporary legal status for at least 6 years on 8 million undocumented immigrants, as long as they keep their jobs. But it would not automatically put them on a path to obtaining citizenship or even permanent resident status.

“We must make our immigration laws more rational, and more humane,” Bush told 200 Latino supporters attending his first White House announcement of the election year. “I believe we can do so without jeopardizing the livelihoods of American citizens.” What Bush calls his “temporary worker” program was eagerly embraced by business groups but condemned as stingy and impractical by advocates for immigrants. Many said it has little chance of passing Congress in the form Bush described.

Source: Mike Allen, Washington Post, p. A1 , Jan 8, 2004

Mexico: immigration reform in exchange for oil development

Bush envisioned a Mexican border open to labor, to trade, and open to investment-especially investment in energy. Mexico had banned foreign investment in its energy industry in 1938, and ever since, Mexican oil production has been controlled by the creaky, corrupt, and polluting state monopoly, Pemex. If Mexico opened itself to the exploration and development of its oil resources by American entrepreneurs & technology, Mexican oil might possibly displace Arab oil from the US market altogether.

For this energy “quid,” Mexico would of course demand some equally valuable “quo”-and in Bush’s mind that “quo” was immigration reform. Bush believed that immigration was valuable to the US and praised it again and again in public speeches and his private conversations.

So the Bush administration designed a system for regularizing the Mexican-US labor relationship-not an amnesty like that of 1986, but a grander system for enabling Mexicans to work in the US temporarily and then to go home again.

Source: The Right Man, by David Frum, p. 84-85 , Jun 1, 2003

Respect other languages, but teach all children English

Q: Should English be made the country’s official language?

A: The ability to speak English is the key to success in America. I support a concept I call English-plus, insisting on English proficiency but recognizing the invaluable richness that other languages and cultures brings to our nation of immigrants. In Texas, the Spanish language enhances and helps define our state’s history. My fundamental priority is results. Whether a school uses an immersion program or a bilingual program, whichever effectively teaches children to read and comprehend English as quickly as possible, I will support. The standard is English literacy and the goal is equal opportunity - all in an atmosphere where every heritage is respected and celebrated.

Source: Associated Press , Nov 1, 2000

$500M to cut INS application time to 6 months

Expanding on a proposal to improve the INS, Bush pledged $500 million in new spending yesterday to cut the time needed to process an immigration application to an average of six months. Bush said the process now takes three to five years. Late last year, the INS announced that average times had been reduced from two years to 12 months, and were headed lower.

’’We will bring to the INS a new standard of service and a culture of respect,’’ Bush said. The new spending, to be doled out over five years, is the latest part of an INS overhaul plan that Bush’s campaign believes will resonate with Latino voters. ‘’We’ve got an INS that is too bureaucratic, too stuck in the past,’’ he said.

Last week, Bush announced that he wants to split the INS into two agencies: one for legitimate immigrants and one for border enforcement. He also proposed allowing relatives of permanent residents to visit the US while their own immigration papers are being processed.

Source: Paul Shepard, Associated Press, in Boston Globe, page A12 , Jul 6, 2000

Welcome Latinos; immigration is not a problem to be solved

Latinos come to the US to seek the same dreams that have inspired millions of others: they want a better life for their children. Family values do not stop at the Rio Grande. Latinos enrich our country with faith in God, a strong ethic of work, community & responsibility. We can all learn from the strength, solidarity, & values of Latinos. Immigration is not a problem to be solved, it is the sign of a successful nation. New Americans are to be welcomed as neighbors and not to be feared as strangers.
Source: Speech in Washington, D.C. , Jun 26, 2000

Make INS more “immigrant friendly”

Bush [would] divide the INS into two agencies: one to deal with the enforcement components of border protection and interior enforcement, and another to deal with the service components of naturalization. Bush will change the INS policy so that spouses & minor children of permanent residents can apply for visitor visas while their immigration applications are pending. He will reverse the presumption that such family members will violate their terms of admission, and will encourage family reunification.
Source: Speech in Washington, D.C. , Jun 26, 2000

High tech: More H-1B worker visas; less export controls

Source: GeorgeWBush.com: ‘Issues: Policy Points Overview’ , Apr 2, 2000

Farm policy: Open markets abroad; more H-2A worker visas

Source: GeorgeWBush.com: ‘Issues: Policy Points Overview’ , Apr 2, 2000

Latinos enrich us; family values go past Rio Grande

Latinos have come to the US to seek the same dreams that have inspired millions of others: they want a better life for their children. Family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River. Latinos enrich our country with faith in God, a strong ethic of work and community and responsibility. Immigration is not a problem to be solved; it is the sign of a successful nation. New Americans are not to be feared as strangers; they are to be welcomed as neighbors.
Source: Reforming the INS, in “Renewing America’s Purpose” , Feb 9, 2000

More border guards to compassionately turn away Mexicans

We must do a better job of stopping those who seek to come into our country illegally. I support strict border enforcement programs such as Operation Hold the Line, which concentrate border patrol officers and resources at known border-crossing points. I believe it is far more compassionate to turn away people at the border than to attempt to find and arrest them once they are living in our country illegally.
Source: “A Charge to Keep”, p.237. , Dec 9, 1999

Guest workers, maybe; citizenship waiting period, yes

Bush pledged to revisit guest worker programs and other ways for immigrants to come into the country, but said he would insist on immigration controls and a waiting period before citizenship.
Source: Mike Glover, Associated Press , Aug 6, 1999

  • Click here for 2 older quotations from George W. Bush on Immigration.
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Other past presidents on Immigration: George W. Bush on other issues:
Former Presidents:
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

Past Vice Presidents:
V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole
V.P.Walter Mondale

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Page last updated: Jan 06, 2014