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Interviews With Representatives of San Antonio, Texas, Television Stations

July 02, 1984

Immigration Legislation

Mr. Marrou. Hello, Mr. President. This is Chris Marrou [of KENS-TV] in San Antonio.

The President. Chris, glad to talk to you.

Mr. Marrou. Of course, there's a lot of interest here in south Texas in the Simpson-Mazzoli bill, and it has now gone through the House, surprised a number of people here. What are your personal feelings about that version of the bill?

The President. Well, I'm a little constrained as yet, because it's still in conference and there are two versions now. And the conference committee, when they come back from recess, will then take up the matter of resolving their differences. Actually, the differences are not very great. And it is reasonably close to what we asked the Congress for. So, I'm hopeful that they'll come together on something that I can sign.

Mr. Marrou. You don't see any circumstances under which you might veto it?

The President. Well, I never like to talk about that. It would have to have some elements in it that I don't think are there right now. But I never really discuss veto or no veto until I see what's on my desk. But I believe that it is a legitimate effort to regain control of our borders. We know that in that about 120 miles of the 2,000-mile border—that 120 miles in the Southwest—is our greatest problem. And we have approved a thousand more INS personnel.

Mr. Marrou. There's a lot of fear among Hispanics in this area that perhaps they'd have to carry some sort of ID card or something like that to prove they're citizens even though their families have been for decades. What would you say to them?

The President. Well, we want to take every precaution we can to see that there won't be what so many fear—just an automatic ruling of them out as employees. That would be unconscionable. And we want to be very careful that while we have safeguards to prevent employers from hiring the undocumented workers, that at the same time there is no discrimination against those who will be legalized under this bill, those who may still be undocumented but who've lived for a long period of time, put down roots in our society. We want to give them the right to legally live here and those who, as you say, are citizens.

Now, it may require some evidence, but I don't think it would be anything onerous or heavy for anyone to bear.

Interest Rates

Mr. Marrou. Interest rates are starting to go up again somewhat. And I believe you said before you don't think they have anything to do with the deficit. What do you think's causing them?

The President. I think simply the pessimism on the part of so many out in the money market, their unwillingness or inability to believe that we do have inflation under control. Now, inflation has been at 3.6 percent for the first quarter of this year. The month of June it was estimated that it would probably come in at 2.6 percent, so we're still going in the right direction. It is their fear of lending money and then having inflation go up as it has seven times before this in recessions since World War II. But this is a different kind of recovery. It isn't based on artificial stimulants of the economy, the quick fix, so-called, that we've had before. This is a legitimate recovery and expansion with the creation of some 6 million new jobs in the last 18 months alone, things of that kind.

So, I think maybe if we can persuade the Congress to even more cuts in the spending growth, they'll begin to see that we're serious about fighting inflation.

Mr. Marrou. You think you can convince them to cut spending growth a little more?

The President. Yes, I do.

Views on the Presidency

Mr. Marrou. Sort of a personal question here around the July 4th holiday: A lot of people—everyone, I suppose—still believes in America that just about anybody can grow up to be President. Patriotism is increasing. Could you tell us what is the first time you remember ever thinking, "I'd like to be President someday"?

The President. Will you believe I never had such a thought? I always believed that you pay your way. So, when I was in show business and, therefore, had some ability to attract an audience, I used to campaign for people I believed in and causes I believed in. As a matter of fact, for much of my life I was a member of the other party—the Democrat Party—and campaigned for them. And, then, when I found I could no longer follow the course that the party had taken, I became a Republican.

But when they first appealed to me—a group—to run for Governor of California on the basis that I had the best chance of defeating the incumbent after all the work I'd done in politics, I fought as hard as I could against it and said, no, for them to find a candidate, and I would campaign for the candidate.

I have to say, however, after those years in public service, when I gave in finally and did that reluctantly, I found it the most rewarding and fulfilling experience of my entire life.

Mr. Marrou. Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. Thank you.

Immigration Legislation

Mr. Scott. Mr. President, David Scott [of KMOL-TV] here. Thanks for being with us.

The President. Well, it's a great pleasure. Mr. Scott. The Simpson-Mazzoli immigration bill—a lot of folks down here in Texas don't like it for a lot of different reasons. Some people say it handles illegals in an arbitrary fashion, that it will produce discrimination against legal Hispanics here, that it's going to hurt businessmen, that it's going to be costly, that it won't be effective. Do you think it's fair? Do you think it's balanced? Do you think it's cost-effective?

The President. Yes, I think the bill as introduced is cost-effective and is fair. And it's also necessary, because the simple truth is we've lost control of our borders. And no country can afford that.

Now, all of the things that people are fearing—these are very solid and real considerations of ours. And I'm convinced that we can protect our Hispanic American citizens from discrimination just on the basis that an employer might be afraid to hire them. We're going to protect their rights. At the same time, we're also going to have compassion and legalize those who came here some time ago and have legitimately put roots down and are living as legal residents of our country, even though illegal. We're going to make them legal.

We also, I think, in this bill, are taking action against those employers who literally entice illegal entry into the country with the promise of jobs, but then take advantage of those individuals, knowing they can't complain, and pay them less than scale, deny them things that they should have in their employment simply because they're in a sense being blackmailed by the employer because of their illegal status. And we want to put an end to that.

But I think all these other objections can be met because we simply intend to meet them.

Mr. Scott. Why, then, sir, have your most ardent supporters down here in Texas fought you on this bill? And might not it cost you in this State come fall?

The President. Well, I hope that they would give us the benefit of the doubt and recognize how much we mean to protect their interests.

Social Security

Mr. Scott. Let's talk about Social Security a moment. A lot of people in this country-Democrat and Republican, economists-tend to feel that we can't get a handle on the Government deficits and we can't get a handle on straightening out Social Security unless some fundamental change is made in it next year. Now, why aren't any of the Presidential candidates talking about this, or can you guarantee us that come 1985 you won't have to go at Social Security with an ax?

The President. Well, there's one thing we will not do: We will not pull the rug out from under those people who are presently getting Social Security and are dependent on it. Nor has that ever been our intention, in spite of a lot of political demagoguery that flowed out of Washington and was multiplied as it went out through the country and—that somehow we were out to destroy this program. Since we've been here, we have increased the Social Security payments for the average married couple by $170 a month. More people are getting it and getting more than ever have before.

If there is anything needed to be done to that program—and these are things that we'll be looking at in the coming years—it will have to do with—people are presently paying in and whether they're being fairly treated because, if you will remember, the biggest single tax increase in our nation's history was passed in 1977 before we got here. And it is in the Social Security payroll tax. And there is a possibility—well, probability, that many people, young people now paying in will never be able to receive as much as they're paying. But no plan will be allowed to reduce the payments to the present recipients of Social Security. This has been my pledge from the very beginning.

Mortgage Interest Deduction

Mr. Scott. As a lameduck next year, should you be elected, sir, you'd be in a unique position to be able to do some courageous political things without having to worry about reelection. If there is a major tax reform bill, for example, do you anticipate that you might support, for example, removing tax deductions on home mortgages?

The President. No. This came out of a discussion I had with a panel recently on a trip out in the country, and I was talking generally about all the areas that are being explored, whether flat tax or whatever it might be, in reforming the income tax. The income tax—the base must be broadened, because there are a hundred billion dollars in tax not being paid by people who legitimately owe it today.

This is one thing we want to do. But we also mean to simplify it. It is absolutely too complex. When the taxpayer has to hire professional help to find out how much he or she owes the Government, that's not fair.

But, no, I believe that the mortgage interest deduction is legitimate and is proper. And I stand for it.

Mr. Scott. Mr. President, thank you, good health, and good luck to you, sir.

The President. Thank you.

Immigration Legislation

Ms. Daniels, Hello, Mr. President. This is Deborah Daniels at KSAT in San Antonio. The President. How do you do. Ms. Daniels. I'd like to ask you about the Simpson-Mazzoli bill. It's created a lot of controversy here in south Texas—we're so close to Mexico. A lot of people don't like it. How do you feel about it, and do you think it's going to solve our immigration problem?

The President. Yes, I think it is, as well as they can be solved. We've lost control of our borders, there's no question about that. And it is necessary and would be necessary for any country in that situation to do something about it.

Now, we recognize the great problem is in the 120 miles of our border, about that much, down in the Southwest. But we think that the program is going to provide for documented workers crossing the border to fill needs, particularly in agriculture. We think that we, with compassion, are going to recognize the problem of those undocumented immigrants to our country who have been here for a number of years, who've established a base and a home and put down roots, and we're going to legalize them.

And I think we're also, in this bill, going to stop the exploiting of the undocumented worker by some employers who hire them much more cheaply than the law should allow and do so because it's a form of blackmail. They know that the individual can't complain because of their undocumented status.

So, all of these things we're trying to solve in this problem. Now, there may be some glitches here or there, but, believe me, we don't want any penalty imposed on people simply because someone is reluctant to take a chance on hiring them because of their Hispanic heritage. And we're going to do everything we can to protect against that.

I think that the bill can be worked out to the point that it will resolve some of our worst problems and will benefit a great many people presently living in this country.

Hispanic Americans

Ms. Daniels. Mr. President, the Hispanics are a growing political force. I'd like to know how important you feel the Hispanic vote will be in the upcoming election, and what are the Republicans and your administration offering Hispanics?

The President. Well, let me say that they are very important, as they were in 1980. And you bet I want their vote. Well, I'd like to have everybody's vote. But I'm going to try very hard for them.

I think, at the same time, that we have more to offer them than they've been offered over the last few decades by the philosophy of the other party. The other party has believed in handouts, grants, welfare-the making of people dependent. And in my view, the Americans of Hispanic origin, their values are based on family and religion, on all the basic good values of ethics and work ethic, and they want to be independent. And that's what we offer—is opportunity.

Our program is one aimed at offering them not the dependency of having to hold out their hand for government to give them a handout, forever in bondage to the Government. Our offer: jobs, opportunities, a chance to be self-sustaining, to provide for themselves and their families. And I think this is what the average Hispanic American wants more than anything else. And we're offering it.


Ms. Daniels. I'd like to put the same question to you about women. We're hearing a lot about the gender gap as the election closes in. What is the Republican Party doing to attract women?

The President. I am glad you asked me that. I don't believe that any administration in this country has ever done as much as this administration is doing with regard to discrimination against women in the marketplace or wherever it might be—employment in government and all.

First of all, we have, out of the 4,000 appointments that I can make in government, almost half of those are women. There has never been anything like that. Secondly, there's never been three women on the Cabinet before, as there are now. And I have appointed the first woman to be a Justice of the Supreme Court.

But that is only scratching the surface. No other administration has gone through, as we're going through, all the statutes, all the Federal laws and regulations, to find and eliminate those that contain language that is discriminatory against women. We have already implemented this in hundreds of those regulations. We have people in 50 States that are working toward doing the same thing, because I had done that as Governor in California, in the State statutes and laws.

Our tax policies that we put into effect has reduced the marriage penalty tax. We have almost doubled the tax credit for working mothers for child-care credit that they must have. We have removed the so-called widow's tax from inheritances—no tax due on the inheritance.

All of these things have added up to more advantages for women than, as I say, have ever been provided by any administration. And maybe it's beginning to get around, because just last week, some national polls revealed that the gender gap has turned the other way by a slight margin—a majority of women have announced themselves as supportive of our administration.

Ms. Daniels. All right. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

The President. Thank you.

Note: The interviewers spoke by telephone with the President, who was in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House.

The interviews were released by the Office of the Press Secretary on July 6, the date of their broadcast in San Antonio.

Ronald Reagan, Interviews With Representatives of San Antonio, Texas, Television Stations Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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