Bush Immigration Speech Live Blog

I’ll start the live blog at 8 EST or thereabouts. Feel free to link and send a trackback to this post in the meantime if you’re doing the same.

NZ Bear is keeping a list of those liveblogging as well.

Update (1915): AP’s Nedra Peckler already has a story written based on the advanced text of the speech. Refreshingly, it’s written in future tense.

President Bush is to order as many as 6,000 National Guard troops to increase enforcement at the Mexican border, part of a $1.9 billion drive to tighten security and win conservative backing in Congress for a broad election-year overhaul of the nation’s tattered immigration laws. “We do not yet have full control of the border and I am determined to change that,” Bush is expected to say in remarks prepared for a prime-time speech from the Oval Office.

The speech will come as the Senate begins work on legislation to strengthen border security, authorize new guest worker programs and give an eventual chance at citizenship to most of the estimated 12 million people already living illegally in the United States.

“Tonight I am calling on Congress to provide funding for dramatic improvements in manpower and technology at the border,” Bush is expected to say.

While more honest than the old style of reporting speeches that had not yet happened as if they had, it makes for some rather awkward prose.

AP also has some excerpts of the speech that look similar to the one’s emailed to me (and who knows how many other bloggers) earlier this evening.

Other White House talking points on their Comprehensive Immigration Reform page.

Hot Air promises video.

Hugh Hewitt, perhaps the ultimate GOP loyalist, is talking about party schism over immigration.

Update (1946)
: Tuning in early to the Fox News feed hoping the adults (i.e., Brit Hume) would be in charge. Instead, the insipid Shepard Smith is on. My, he’s annoying even in small doses.

(1955): Yay: Brit and the gang.

Mort Kondracke notes that Bush was prepared to propose something very much like this bill before 9/11 and then got sidetracked.

Bill Kristol thinks this is pure legislative politics and not a “major speech” or anything that will be memorable.

Hume asks if there is any way for Bush to win back the “border security” part of the base. Fred Barnes and Kondracke think Bush erred by focusing too much on amnesty and not enough on security but that Bush can recover.

(2001): The president is on.

Strong language: “A matter of national importance,” “intense emotions,” “time of decision,” “make it clear where I stand,” “Problems with our immigration system,” “Not in complete control of our borders,” and “sneak across.”

(2003): “Vast majority” are decent, hardworking, folks outside protection of law. “Nation of immigrants” and we “must uphold that tradition.”

(2005): Technological measures and fences. Military force to help with admin side for one year while this put in place. NOT militarizing border or having military make arrests.

(2008): Most actually deport those who are caught. Not currently happening with non-Mexicans. “Catch-and-release” unacceptable.

(2010): “To secure our border we must create a temporary worker program.” While I agree with the policy, it’s absurd to think this adds to our security. He’s right that it would have a whole lot of anciliary benefits. Oddly, exactly the same benefits would acrue from legalizing illicit drugs that are smuggled across our border. . . .

(2011): Tamper-proof ID card with biometrics

(2013): “I oppose amnesty” but also think rounding up those already here is unrealistic. A middle ground recognizes those who broke the law a long time ago and have families here should be treated differently than recent lawbreakers. Why, I don’t know. Regardless, it’s silly to pretend this program isn’t amnesty.

(2014): Repeated emphasis on learning English, both from a cultural assimilation standpoint and a benefit to immigrants standpoint. Very smart, although a little late in the speech. He’s already lost most of the rabid anti-immigration crowd.

(2016): Recounts story of illegal alien Marine master gunnery sergeant as example of all illegal aliens?

POST-SPEECH UPDATES (2023): The full text of the speech (As Prepared for Delivery) via Glenn Reynolds:

Good evening. I have asked for a few minutes of your time to discuss a matter of national importance — the reform of America’s immigration system.

The issue of immigration stirs intense emotions — and in recent weeks, Americans have seen those emotions on display. On the streets of major cities, crowds have rallied in support of those in our country illegally. At our southern border, others have organized to stop illegal immigrants from coming in. Across the country, Americans are trying to reconcile these contrasting images. And in Washington, the debate over immigration reform has reached a time of decision. Tonight, I will make it clear where I stand, and where I want to lead our country on this vital issue.

We must begin by recognizing the problems with our immigration system. For decades, the United States has not been in complete control of its borders. As a result, many who want to work in our economy have been able to sneak across our border — and millions have stayed.

Once here, illegal immigrants live in the shadows of our society. Many use forged documents to get jobs, and that makes it difficult for employers to verify that the workers they hire are legal. Illegal immigration puts pressure on public schools and hospitals … strains state and local budgets … and brings crime to our communities. These are real problems, yet we must remember that the vast majority of illegal immigrants are decent people who work hard, support their families, practice their faith, and lead responsible lives. They are a part of American life — but they are beyond the reach and protection of American law.

We are a Nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws. We are also a Nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways. These are not contradictory goals — America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time. We will fix the problems created by illegal immigration, and we will deliver a system that is secure, orderly, and fair. So I support comprehensive immigration reform that will accomplish five clear objectives.

First, the United States must secure its borders. This is a basic responsibility of a sovereign Nation. It is also an urgent requirement of our national security. Our objective is straightforward: The border should be open to trade and lawful immigration — and shut to illegal immigrants, as well as criminals, drug dealers, and terrorists.

I was the governor of a state that has a twelve-hundred mile border with Mexico. So I know how difficult it is to enforce the border, and how important it is. Since I became President, we have increased funding for border security by 66 percent, and expanded the Border Patrol from about 9,000 to 12,000 agents. The men and women of our Border Patrol are doing a fine job in difficult circumstances — and over the past five years, we have apprehended and sent home about six million people entering America illegally.

Despite this progress, we do not yet have full control of the border, and I am determined to change that. Tonight I am calling on Congress to provide funding for dramatic improvements in manpower and technology at the border. By the end of 2008, we will increase the number of Border Patrol officers by an additional 6,000. When these new agents are deployed, we will have more than doubled the size of the Border Patrol during my Presidency.

At the same time, we are launching the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history. We will construct high-tech fences in urban corridors, and build new patrol roads and barriers in rural areas. We will employ motion sensors … infrared cameras … and unmanned aerial vehicles to prevent illegal crossings. America has the best technology in the world — and we will ensure that the Border Patrol has the technology they need to do their job and secure our border.

Training thousands of new Border Patrol agents and bringing the most advanced technology to the border will take time. Yet the need to secure our border is urgent. So I am announcing several immediate steps to strengthen border enforcement during this period of transition:

One way to help during this transition is to use the National Guard. So in coordination with governors, up to 6,000 Guard members will be deployed to our southern border. The Border Patrol will remain in the lead. The Guard will assist the Border Patrol by operating surveillance systems … analyzing intelligence … installing fences and vehicle barriers … building patrol roads … and providing training. Guard units will not be involved in direct law enforcement activities — that duty will be done by the Border Patrol. This initial commitment of Guard members would last for a period of one year. After that, the number of Guard forces will be reduced as new Border Patrol agents and new technologies come online. It is important for Americans to know that we have enough Guard forces to win the war on terror, respond to natural disasters, and help secure our border.

The United States is not going to militarize the southern border. Mexico is our neighbor, and our friend. We will continue to work cooperatively to improve security on both sides of the border … to confront common problems like drug trafficking and crime … and to reduce illegal immigration.

Another way to help during this period of transition is through state and local law enforcement in our border communities. So we will increase federal funding for state and local authorities assisting the Border Patrol on targeted enforcement missions. And we will give state and local authorities the specialized training they need to help federal officers apprehend and detain illegal immigrants. State and local law enforcement officials are an important resource — and they are part of our strategy to secure our border communities.

The steps I have outlined will improve our ability to catch people entering our country illegally. At the same time, we must ensure that every illegal immigrant we catch crossing our southern border is returned home. More than 85 percent of the illegal immigrants we catch crossing the southern border are Mexicans, and most are sent back home within 24 hours. But when we catch illegal immigrants from other countries, it is not as easy to send them home. For many years, the government did not have enough space in our detention facilities to hold them while the legal process unfolded. So most were released back into our society and asked to return for a court date. When the date arrived, the vast majority did not show up. This practice, called “catch and release,” is unacceptable — and we will end it.

We are taking several important steps to meet this goal. We have expanded the number of beds in our detention facilities, and we will continue to add more. We have expedited the legal process to cut the average deportation time. And we are making it clear to foreign governments that they must accept back their citizens who violate our immigration laws. As a result of these actions, we have ended “catch and release” for illegal immigrants from some countries. And I will ask Congress for additional funding and legal authority, so we can end “catch and release” at the southern border once and for all. When people know that they will be caught and sent home if they enter our country illegally, they will be less likely to try to sneak in.

Second, to secure our border, we must create a temporary worker program. The reality is that there are many people on the other side of our border who will do anything to come to America to work and build a better life. They walk across miles of desert in the summer heat, or hide in the back of 18-wheelers to reach our country. This creates enormous pressure on our border that walls and patrols alone will not stop. To secure the border effectively, we must reduce the numbers of people trying to sneak across.

Therefore, I support a temporary worker program that would create a legal path for foreign workers to enter our country in an orderly way, for a limited period of time. This program would match willing foreign workers with willing American employers for jobs Americans are not doing. Every worker who applies for the program would be required to pass criminal background checks. And temporary workers must return to their home country at the conclusion of their stay.

A temporary worker program would meet the needs of our economy, and it would give honest immigrants a way to provide for their families while respecting the law. A temporary worker program would reduce the appeal of human smugglers — and make it less likely that people would risk their lives to cross the border. It would ease the financial burden on state and local governments, by replacing illegal workers with lawful taxpayers. And above all, a temporary worker program would add to our security by making certain we know who is in our country and why they are here.

Third, we need to hold employers to account for the workers they hire. It is against the law to hire someone who is in this country illegally. Yet businesses often cannot verify the legal status of their employees, because of the widespread problem of document fraud. Therefore, comprehensive immigration reform must include a better system for verifying documents and work eligibility. A key part of that system should be a new identification card for every legal foreign worker. This card should use biometric technology, such as digital fingerprints, to make it tamper-proof. A tamper-proof card would help us enforce the law — and leave employers with no excuse for violating it. And by making it harder for illegal immigrants to find work in our country, we would discourage people from crossing the border illegally in the first place.

Fourth, we must face the reality that millions of illegal immigrants are already here. They should not be given an automatic path to citizenship. This is amnesty, and I oppose it. Amnesty would be unfair to those who are here lawfully — and it would invite further waves of illegal immigration.

Some in this country argue that the solution is to deport every illegal immigrant — and that any proposal short of this amounts to amnesty. I disagree. It is neither wise nor realistic to round up millions of people, many with deep roots in the United States, and send them across the border. There is a rational middle ground between granting an automatic path to citizenship for every illegal immigrant, and a program of mass deportation. That middle ground recognizes that there are differences between an illegal immigrant who crossed the border recently — and someone who has worked here for many years, and has a home, a family, and an otherwise clean record. I believe that illegal immigrants who have roots in our country and want to stay should have to pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law … to pay their taxes … to learn English … and to work in a job for a number of years. People who meet these conditions should be able to apply for citizenship — but approval would not be automatic, and they will have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law. What I have just described is not amnesty — it is a way for those who have broken the law to pay their debt to society, and demonstrate the character that makes a good citizen.

Fifth, we must honor the great American tradition of the melting pot, which has made us one Nation out of many peoples. The success of our country depends upon helping newcomers assimilate into our society, and embrace our common identity as Americans. Americans are bound together by our shared ideals, an appreciation of our history, respect for the flag we fly, and an ability to speak and write the English language. English is also the key to unlocking the opportunity of America. English allows newcomers to go from picking crops to opening a grocery … from cleaning offices to running offices … from a life of low-paying jobs to a diploma, a career, and a home of their own. When immigrants assimilate and advance in our society, they realize their dreams … they renew our spirit … and they add to the unity of America.

Tonight, I want to speak directly to Members of the House and the Senate: An immigration reform bill needs to be comprehensive, because all elements of this problem must be addressed together — or none of them will be solved at all. The House has passed an immigration bill. The Senate should act by the end of this month — so we can work out the differences between the two bills, and Congress can pass a comprehensive bill for me to sign into law.

America needs to conduct this debate on immigration in a reasoned and respectful tone. Feelings run deep on this issue — and as we work it out, all of us need to keep some things in mind. We cannot build a unified country by inciting people to anger, or playing on anyone’s fears, or exploiting the issue of immigration for political gain. We must always remember that real lives will be affected by our debates and decisions, and that every human being has dignity and value no matter what their citizenship papers say.

I know many of you listening tonight have a parent or a grandparent who came here from another country with dreams of a better life. You know what freedom meant to them, and you know that America is a more hopeful country because of their hard work and sacrifice. As President, I have had the opportunity to meet people of many backgrounds, and hear what America means to them. On a visit to Bethesda Naval Hospital, Laura and I met a wounded Marine named Guadalupe Denogean. Master Gunnery Sergeant Denogean came to the United States from Mexico when he was a boy. He spent his summers picking crops with his family, and then he volunteered for the United States Marine Corps as soon as he was able. During the liberation of Iraq, Master Gunnery Sergeant Denogean was seriously injured. When asked if he had any requests, he made two — a promotion for the corporal who helped rescue him … and the chance to become an American citizen. And when this brave Marine raised his right hand, and swore an oath to become a citizen of the country he had defended for more than 26 years, I was honored to stand at his side.

We will always be proud to welcome people like Guadalupe Denogean as fellow Americans. Our new immigrants are just what they have always been — people willing to risk everything for the dream of freedom. And America remains what she has always been — the great hope on the horizon … an open door to the future … a blessed and promised land. We honor the heritage of all who come here, no matter where they are from, because we trust in our country’s genius for making us all Americans — one Nation under God. Thank you, and good night.

(2025): Kondracke thought the speech well balanced, not too much emphasis on enforcement. That’s fine for people like me; not so much for the immigration hawks. They’re the folks Bush needs to win back. Barnes, reasonably, notes that legislation that would appeal to that group wouldn’t pass the Senate.

(2028): Bill O’Reilly thinks Bush and the inside the Beltway crowd doesn’t get it. He understands why Bush soft peddled this thing but thinks more emphasis on security was necessary.

Greta van Sustern has torn herself away from Natalie Holloway’s family long enough to talk to some Border Patrol agents, who she thinks will be happy with the help from the military.

I may update more later based on text reactions. Turning off the television for now. It’s a great way to get speeches and quick reactions but rather mindnumbing.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, Science & Technology, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kathy K says:

    Heh – he’s on the English speaking thing. I like that…

  2. Mark says:

    Oh God there is a Democratic response?

  3. Kathy K says:

    I don’t think the anti-immigration crowd is going to be happy.

  4. Kathy K says:

    Yada yada – the Democrats don’t want any military on the border.

  5. Roger says:


  6. Kathy K says:

    Btw – I’ve just gotten 4 spams from the anti-(any)-immigration (except for white Europeans) crowd (somehow the ‘take me the off your mailing list doesn’t work with them – and they keep changing email addy’s so I can’t just ban them). I was right. They are not happy.

  7. Herb says:

    Far to little and to late.

    The American people want the borders sealed NOW and Enforcement NOW.

    With the lack of a will to reduce the raping of Americans at the pump and the lack of will to take on the special intrest cheap labor groups,

    Bush just sealed the doom for the Republican Party for another 40 year period.

  8. Stevely says:

    Good grief Herb, next thing you know the President is going to propose fluouridating the water…

  9. Roger says:

    Herb, little shrub, is that you, buddy? Now I know Bush is toast.

  10. Herb,

    Sealing the border is not only a practical impossibility, save via a massive redeployment of our national military, it is an economic impossibility as well. Have you any idea what you are actually proposing?

    A stat to consider: in 2005 there was a total of $US 290.2 billion dollars in trade between the US and Mexico. They are our second largest trading partner in the world after Canada. We exported almost three times as many good and services in ’05 to Mexico than we did to China (see here). A lot of that trade flows over the 2000ish mile border. As such, sealing it would be foolish beyond words.

  11. Fornl says:

    Quoting Bush:

    So in coordination with governors, up to 6,000 Guard members will be deployed to our southern border.

    Key word: “UP TO” 6000 Guard members

    The mendacity is so outrageous. This is the same guy who signed the National Intelligence Reform Act in late 2004 ostensibly requiring the Border Patrol to add 10,000 jobs over two years. When it came to submitting his budget, however, there was only money for 290 of the jobs!

    Using the “up to” language, he can ask COngress to fund a token amount and not wind up having any measurable affect.

    Has he any shame!?!?!?!

  12. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Yes, Bush has shame. It is the existance of the democratic party. A party that puts politics before national security. That is the shame that Bush has. He has not used the bully pulpit to tell America what scumbags occupy the democratic party. Liars, cheats and thieves. Go figure.

  13. G A PHILLIPS says:

    Can’t we just deport the democrats and let the Mexicans stay, I have a feeling that it would be a lot cheaper and and lest I can’t understand what they’re saying when they’re whining!

  14. Roger says:

    That’s rich, Z. The Dems put politics before national security? Where were you during the faux impeachment the Repubs orchestrated as they condemned Clinton’s slightest move to go after Al Qaeda? Hypocrites. Massive Hypocrisy.

  15. Herb says:


    I said that the Republican Party is now doomed, not that they were as bad as you want or make them out to be. I sure as hell would not vote for a Democrat in any way or fashion. I do not want to associated in any way, shape or form with a party that does everything possible to degrade, humiliate, obstruct, and demoralize the American people like the Dems are so famous for. The Democrat obstructionist are the lowest of the worlds lifeforms and deserve nothing short of eternity in the hottest place imaginable. I also do not want to be associated with LIARS like we see so often with the likes of Kennedy, Kerry, Dean, Durbin, Polosi and Harry Reid. The point I was making is that the Immigration Issue and High gasoline prices will doom the Republicans because they have failed the American People by not listening to what the American People want.

  16. vemo says:
  17. LJD says:

    they condemned Clintonâ??s slightest move to go after Al Qaeda?

    Slight movement is truly descriptive. If he had put half as much effort into that as he did inserting the cigar…

  18. Roger says:

    There’s the little shrub I know. The one who despises the party that stands for equality and fairness and fights for an America that lives up to the values expounded in the Declaration and Constitution. Welcome back.

    I see LJD still doesn’t get it. He still prefers the results his party’s fixation on that cigar helped bring about than what might have been had they had cared more about the country’s best interests than going after a Dem Pres.

  19. Herb says:


    Someday you just might get it.

    Democrats like you are so typical and, as you, resort to name calling, lies, misrepresentations and outright cheating for your personal gain which in your case, is a very twisted ego.

    So Roger, cast your vote for lies and distortion.

  20. LJD says:

    O.K. ignore the issue, just remain focused like a laser on that socialist utopia…

    The point was, and is, that Clinton did nothing about Al Qaeda. Even in your wildest fantasies, your most off the wall conspiracy theories- The President left a direct threat to our national security unanswered.

  21. Biometrics Security and Illegal Immigration
    The speech was very clear: from now on, any foreigner willing to go legally in the United States in order to work there will have to communicate his fingerprints while entering the country.They will have to subject themselves to these procedures, formerly only imposed to criminals and to spies, not to immigrants and visitors, and even less to citizens.

    Indeed, Bush said in his addresses on Immigration Reform:

    “A key part of that system [for verifying documents and work eligibility of aliens] should be a new identification card for every legal foreign worker. This card should use biometric technology, such as digital fingerprints, to make it tamper-proof.”

    Cf. http://www.magmareport.net/biometrics.html

  22. Roger says:

    Little shrub, you okay? Take a deep breath, man. Count to 10. It’ll be alright.

    My earlier posts answered you well enough, LJD. Nothing new there. Instead of your blather, how about explaining why you think Bush completely ignored C’s warnings about Al Qaeda?