With 6,000 National Guard troops deployed to Southwestern states, President Bush said Saturday he has fulfilled his pledge to help beef up border security and challenged Congress to give him legislation that will welcome more foreigners into the country.
Speaking in his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush said immigration reform can only be successful if the get-tough border security to keep people from sneaking in is combined with opportunities for more immigrants to enter the country legally.
"By passing comprehensive immigration reform, we will uphold our laws, meet the needs of our economy and keep America what she has always been — an open door to the future, a blessed and promised land, one nation under God," Mr. Bush said Saturday. He recorded the remarks Friday from his ranch near Crawford, Texas, where he is on a 10-day vacation from the White House.
Mr. Bush wants to provide more temporary worker permits for foreigners willing to take low-wage jobs and allow illegal immigrants working in the United States for some time to become citizens. But Congress has been unable to agree on such legislation.
Conservatives in Mr. Bush's party have stood firm against his plans and say the U.S. should instead strengthen security along the border to keep illegal immigrants out.
In an attempt to appease them, Mr. Bush announced in May that he would send 6,000 National Guard troops to the border by Aug. 1.
"The arrival of National Guard units has allowed the Border Patrol to move more agents into front-line positions, and this additional manpower is delivering results," Mr. Bush said in the radio message. "With the support of the National Guard, Border Patrol agents have seized over 17,000 pounds of illegal drugs and caught more than 2,500 illegal immigrants since June 15th."
Mr. Bush didn't mention that only about half of the troops assigned to the four states bordering Mexico are on duty along the border. Many are still in training, the Guard said Monday.
Mr. Bush said, "Rational and comprehensive immigration reform must begin with border security, and we have more to do." He said he asked Congress to fund increases in manpower and technology, including high-tech fences, motion sensors, infrared cameras and unmanned aerial vehicles to prevent illegal crossings.
But he said immigration reform must include four other goals to be successful: