Good morning. This morning I want to talk with you about the problem of illegal immigration. It's a problem our administration inherited, and it's a very serious one. It costs the taxpayers of the United States a lot of money, and it's unfair to Americans who are working every day to pay their own bills. It's also unfair to a lot of people who have waited in line for years and years in other countries to be legal immigrants.
Our Nation was built by immigrants. People from every region of the world have made lasting and important contributions to our society. We support legal immigration. In fact, we're doing what we can to speed up the process for people who do apply for citizenship when they're here legally. But we won't tolerate immigration by people whose first act is to break the law as they enter our country. We must continue to do everything we can to strengthen our borders, enforce our laws, and remove illegal aliens from our country.
As I said in my State of the Union Address, we are a nation of immigrants, but we're also a nation of laws. And it is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years.
This week, I sent strong legislation to Congress to try to stop those abuses, to secure our borders in the future, and to speed up deportation of illegal immigrants.
Our immigration policy is focused in four areas: first, strengthening border control; second, protecting American jobs by enforcing laws against illegal immigrants at the workplace; third, deporting criminal and deportable aliens; fourth, giving assistance to States who need it and denying illegal aliens benefits for public services or welfare.
Let me talk a little bit about two or three of these issues. First of all, on strengthening border control: For 2 years, we've been working very, very hard to strengthen our borders. We've put the best American technology to work at our borders. We've added a lot of Border Patrol agents, 350 last year, 700 this year. We're going to add at least another 700 next year.
In El Paso, our border guards stand so close together they can actually see each other. They maintain a sealed border in what used to be the biggest route into America for illegal aliens. We're extending this coverage to other sectors of the borders. We'll increase border control by 51 percent this year over 1993 and by 60 percent along the southwest border. That's pretty good for just 3 years.
We're also helping States to remove illegal aliens who are criminals, and I want to talk more about that in a moment. But focus on this: Right now we're deporting 110 illegal aliens everyday. That's almost 40,000 a year. And we're going to do even better.
Now, let me talk a little bit about increasing deportations. Our plan will triple the number of criminal and other deportable aliens deported since 1993. We want to focus on the criminal population or on those who are charged with crimes but who are here illegally. Every day, illegal aliens show up in court who are charged. Some are guilty, and surely, some are innocent. Some go to jail, and some don't. But they're all illegal aliens, and whether they're innocent or guilty of the crime they're charged with in court, they're still here illegally and they should be sent out of the country.
If they're sentenced to jail, they should go to jail. But then after their term is over, they should be removed from the United States. And when there is a plea bargain, I want deportation to be part of the deal. We've been doing this now in southern California, and just in southern California, under this provision, we're going to send out 800 to 1,000 illegal immigrants this year. It simply doesn't make any sense for us to have illegal aliens in our custody, in our courts, and then let them go back to living here illegally. That's wrong, and we should stop it.
Now, in addition to strengthening the Border Patrol, deporting more aliens who are part of our court system, and really cracking down on inspection at the work site in America, we have to face the fact that we've got another big problem, and that is the backlog. There is actually a backlog in the deportation of illegal aliens of over 100,000. That's 100,000 people we have identified who are still awaiting the completion of their deportation hearings. I have instructed the Justice Department to get rid of this backlog. If it takes extra judges, we'll ask Congress for the money to get them. We cannot justify continuing to have this large number of illegal aliens in our country simply because our court system won't process them.
We also have hundreds of thousands of people who have been ordered to leave our country, who then disappear back into the population. I have instructed the Justice Department, and particularly the Immigration and Naturalization Service, to come up with a plan in which we can cooperate with the States to identify these people and move them out as well.
Our country was built by immigrants, but it was built also by people who obeyed the law. We must be able to control our borders; we must uphold respect for our laws. We're cracking down on this huge problem we found when I got here, and we're going to keep working at it until we do much, much better.
Thanks for listening.