May 17th, 2006 13:39 EST
Temporary Worker Program Designed To Address Economic Despair
Washington -- President Bush’s plan for immigration reform and border security is designed to deter illegal immigration to the United States, in part by dealing with the "tremendous economic pressure" that motivates many migrants, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says.
Chertoff told reporters May 16 that Bush’s proposed temporary worker program aims to relieve some of that pressure, comparing the effort to stop illegal immigration to efforts to dam a river.
“If you build a dam and you don't have a spillway to drain off some of the excess water in a way that's productive, you will eventually have to either keep building the dam higher and higher or the dam will break,” he said. A temporary worker program would act as a spillway to relieve the economic pressure caused by people desperate to find job opportunities in the United States, he said.
In a May 15 televised address to the American people, President Bush called for comprehensive immigration reform that is “secure, orderly, and fair,” including a temporary guest worker program and the expansion of the U.S. Border Patrol with U.S. National Guard troops. The United States is both “a nation of laws” and “a nation of immigrants,” and must enforce its laws and uphold the tradition of immigration “which has strengthened our country in so many ways,” Bush said. (See related article.)
The temporary work program would allow the United States “to take economic migrants and channel them in a regulated and visible way so we know who they are, so we can track them, and so we can bleed some of that pressure that the Border Patrol is facing at the border,” Chertoff said.
The program also would provide a way to “take those people who only want to come for a legitimate purpose -- seasonal work or temporary work -- and to put them in a program where they will be able to do that work and we'll be able to regulate them and know who they are and monitor them when they come and go out of the country,” he said.
Relieving the economic pressure also would stem the human smuggling business and criminal gangs, he said. (See Human Trafficking.)
President Bush’s plan, which calls for National Guard troops to augment the U.S. Border Patrol, as well as the temporary worker program “put[s] on the turbo chargers in dealing with this focused anti-illegal migrant effort that we've got on a comprehensive basis,” he said, adding that comprehensive action “can have a transformative effect on an immigration problem and an illegal migration problem that has plagued this country for over 20 years.” (See White House fact sheet.)
UPGRADING U.S. BORDER SECURITY
Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar said criminal organizations would be hurt by the increase in border security, as called for in the president's plan.
“This tactical infrastructure, the engineering, the force multiplication effort is going to help in negatively impacting on those criminal organizations that today are causing deaths of Mexicans, that are causing danger to populations on both sides of the river in the U.S. and in Mexico,” Aguilar said.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Paul McHale added that the guardsmen “will play no role in the direct apprehension, custodial care or security associated with those who are detained by civilian law enforcement authorities,” leaving those duties in the hands of the Border Patrol.
COOPERATING WITH MEXICO
Both Chertoff and Chief of the National Guard Bureau Army Lieutenant General Steven Blum said U.S. and Mexican authorities have been in communication on border issues, and said the National Guard has been participating in border operations over the past two decades. The Mexican military also occasionally supports the Mexican police, the officials said.
“I don't think what we're doing here is a departure in kind from things that we've done previously,” Chertoff said.
“[A]nybody who looks at what we're doing in terms of what the reality is, in terms of what the history is will see that it is no threat to what has been an increasingly cooperative and friendly relationship on these matters in both countries.”
Blum mentioned that Mexican border states have been participating in the Southwest Border States Conference which has existed for approximately 20 years, along with the National Guard.
“[W]e have a long-standing relationship with many … of the military members and the civic leaders and the governors that are in Mexico. So these will not be strangers,” Blum said.
“I don't want to say it's business as usual, but it's more business, but it's usual business done at a little bit more expanded pace,” he said.
The transcript of the president's May 15 address and a fact sheet on immigration reform are available on USINFO.