The President's Radio Address
Good morning. This week, my administration reached an agreement with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate on immigration reform. I thank the leaders in both parties who worked hard to produce legislation that will secure the border, restore respect for the law, and meet the legitimate needs of our economy.
This legislation includes all the elements required for comprehensive immigration reform. It will improve security at our borders. It will give employers new tools to verify the employment status of workers and hold businesses to account for those they hire. It will create a temporary-worker program. It will help us resolve the status of millions of illegal immigrants who are here already, without animosity and without amnesty. And it will honor the great American tradition of the melting pot by strengthening our efforts to help new arrivals assimilate into our society.
Here's how the bill works. First, it will require the strong border security and enforcement benchmarks are met before other elements of the legislation are implemented. These benchmarks include completing our plan to double the number of Border Patrol agents, improving border infrastructure, and maintaining enough beds in our detention facilities so that all those apprehended at the border can be held and returned to their home countries. We will also improve worksite enforcement by implementing an effective system to verify worker eligibility using tamper-resistant identification cards and by imposing stiffer penalties on companies that knowingly violate the law. Once these benchmarks are met, they will trigger other provisions of comprehensive reform.
The legislation will create a new temporary-worker program. Such a program will help our economy and take pressure off the border by providing foreign workers with a legal and orderly way to enter our country to fill jobs that Americans are not doing. To ensure that this program is truly temporary, workers will be limited to three 2-year terms, with at least a year spent outside the United States between each term. Temporary workers will be allowed to bring immediate family members only if they demonstrate that they can support them financially and that their family members are covered by health insurance.
This legislation will also help resolve the status of illegal immigrants who are already in our country, without amnesty. Those who come out of the shadows will be given probationary status. If they pass a strict background check, pay a fine, hold a job, maintain a clean criminal record, and eventually learn English, they will qualify for and maintain a Z visa. If they want to become citizens, they have to do all these things plus pay an additional fine, go to the back of the line, pass a citizenship test, and return to their country to apply for their green card.
This legislation will also strengthen our efforts to help new immigrants assimilate. The key to unlocking the full promise of America is the ability to speak English. This bill affirms that English is the language of the United States. And it provides new opportunities for immigrants to learn English and embrace the shared ideals that bind us as a nation.
In addition, this legislation will clear the backlog of family members who've applied to come to our country lawfully and have been waiting patiently in line. This legislation will end chain migration by limiting the relatives who can automatically receive green cards to spouses and minor children. And this legislation will transform our immigration system so that future immigration decisions are focused on admitting immigrants who have the skills, education, and English proficiency that will help America compete in a global economy.
I realize that many hold strong convictions on this issue, and reaching an agreement was not easy. I appreciate the efforts of Senators who came together to craft this important legislation. This bill brings us closer to an immigration system that enforces our laws and upholds the great American tradition of welcoming those who share our values and our love of freedom.
Thank you for listening.
NOTE: The address was recorded at 7:50 a.m. on May 18 in the Cabinet Room at the White House for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on May 19. The transcript was made available by the Office of the Press Secretary on May 18, but was embargoed for release until the broadcast. The Office of the Press Secretary also released a Spanish language transcript of this address.
George W. Bush, The President's Radio Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/275236