George W. Bush photo

Interview With Telemundo

March 20, 2002

Mexico-U.S. Border and Immigration Policy

Q. Mr. President, you're going to make an announcement about the situation on the border with Mexico. And that's something that, for millions of our viewers, is very, very important. Can you advance something of what you're going to say? [Laughter]

The President. La frontera es muy importante por los Estados Unidos y tambien Mexico. The infrastructure—la frontera necesita—I mean, we've got to change for the better. We need to focus on new technologies, and we need to have a smart policy which recognizes two things.

One, there is a lot of normal traffic that ought to be facilitated, as opposed to stopped. There's a lot of traffic with trucks and a lot of traffic with people. Secondly, we've got to be wise about stopping things we don't want to have happen. In other words, we've got to encourage things we want to have happen and wise about stopping things we don't want to have happen, los coyotes, the terrorists, las drogas. And we can do a better job of assigning risk and focusing our resources and infrastructure and technologies to make it work better.

That's really what it is. There's not much new; there really isn't much new, except for a determined focus to make the border work. And our cooperation with the Fox Government has been very good.

Q. There's a huge challenge balancing homeland security——

The President. Yes.

Q. ——and not disturbing something that is part of the blood of this country; that is immigration.

The President. That's right.

Q. How do you manage to do something like that?

The President. Well, it's the first to recognize that there are people who come to our country para trabajar. They love freedom; they want to work; they want to feed their families. Those family values—values de la familia no pare in la Rio Bravo. They've got moms and dads in Mexico who want to work.

And so a good immigration policy recognizes there are people in the United States who want to employ, Mexicans who want to work, and we've got to facilitate them coming together. That has nothing to do with the war on terror; that has everything to do to make sure that our economy grows. And we can do a better job of that. We need to modernize that part of the immigration law.

At the same time, when we share intelligence, when we modernize the border, when we use biometrics, for example, on the border, when we've got new machines that are able to look inside trucks, then I think we can do both. We can have an immigration policy that's wise and an antiterrorist homeland security for both countries that is effective. And that's what I've been talking to President Fox about, as well as the Canadians. And we've got good relationships. So we can do a lot better job of making the border work better.

Q. The Mexican consulates are giving to the Mexicans in this country an ID called matricula consular. And in some counties in California and in Texas—and it's expanding—it's been accepted officially as an ID, and they can open bank accounts and stuff like that. Is it realistic to think that there could be a way to think in further terms about something like that?

The President. Es posible. Remember there are—again, I think it's very important for us to differentiate between those who on the border go back and forth on a daily basis—and that's easy to figure out a way to facilitate that. It may be biometrics; it may be a card; it may be—something. That's been discussed for a long period of time. And then there are those who are inside the country legally, and again, some kind of ID is a possibility. These are all open for discussion.

But the thing that is important for Americans to understand is that there are a lot of employers looking for people to work and a lot of people from Mexico who are willing to do the job and looking for work, and we've just got to come up with a plan that facilitates that. And I don't know all the details, and I don't have—but those are the kinds of things that our people are discussing with the Mexicans to come up with a compassionate policy.


Q. Are we closer to seeing U.S. troops in Colombia?

The President. No. No, no, no. We have committed to help the Colombians fight narcotrafficking. We're in the process of discussion with Congress the make—to allow our aid and advice to help the Colombians fight terrorism. As you know, we put the terrorist groups within Colombia on our list of terrorist organizations.

And so I don't see any role beyond advising and training. And I think that's important. It's important for the Colombians to make the decision themselves, to get the will necessary to take on these terrorists. And we will help them help themselves. It is a terrible situation where a part of your country has been taken over by a terrorist organization, that evidently doesn't want to reach an accommodation with you—I'm talking about FARC, now—does not want to reach an accommodation with the Colombian Government. Pastrana tried, and he tried, and he tried, and every attempt to create peace and a peaceful situation has been rejected by them. And now they're going to take a new tack, and we're there to help.

Q. Thank you very much.

The President. Thank you, sir.

NOTE: The interview began at 11:09 a.m. in the Map Room at the White House. In his remarks, the President referred to President Vicente Fox of Mexico; and President Andres Pastrana of Colombia. He also referred to FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this interview.

George W. Bush, Interview With Telemundo Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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