International Security Studies
Live Webcast: Transforming National Preparedness
Frances Fragos Townsend, President Bush's Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor, outlined the administration's plans for enacting immigration reform in the coming years at a Wilson Center Director's Forum on Wednesday, May 17, 2006.
Townsend said that securing America's borders and transforming the country's immigration laws and policies was a high priority for President Bush. She discussed the President's comprehensive, five-step plan of reform.
· Securing the United States borders
· Creating a temporary worker program for foreign workers
· Holding employers accountable for who they hire
· Finding a fair way to deal with immigrants who are already here illegally
· Honoring the great American tradition of being a melting pot of people and cultures
Ms. Townsend said that more manpower was an important first step to securing our borders,. She said President Bush proposes to increase the number of border patrol agents by another 6,000 officers by 2008. Equally important, she said, was constructing strategic high-tech fences in urban corridors, as well as new patrol roads in rural areas, and the employment of motion sensors, infrared cameras, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
"We will give the men and women of the United States Border patrol all the technological help they need and deserve to ensure the efficiency and efficacy of our border security efforts," Townsend added.
She said border security would be further enhanced by reforming bureaucratic obstacles that have heretofore hindered border security efforts. These improvements will include an increase in the number of beds as well as an expedited legal process for arrested immigrants.
Ms. Townsend acknowledged that National Guard troops would be deployed to the border, but insisted that they would "not be conducting direct law enforcement roles, such as apprehension or handling detainees," but rather would be used as a support force for the Border Patrol forces.
While securing the border is a top priority, Ms. Townsend readily acknowledged the need for immigrant labor. To that end, the President proposes to create a temporary worker program that would grant immigrants the legal right to work for a set period of time. Once their work visa expired, they would be required to return to their home countries.
"This temporary workers program would allow honest, hardworking immigrants the ability to provide for themselves and their families, replacing illegal workers with lawful taxpayers, and enabling us to ensure we know who is in our country and why they are here."
The enhanced efforts to control immigration would require cooperation from business.. President Bush wants all legal workers to have a biometric identification card which employers would be required to scan. The hiring of illegal workers, Townsend argued, was "un-American" because "those that hire cheap illegal labor skip out on the tax revenue they are supposed to supply, and they deny their workers the benefits they deserve."
For immigrants that are already here, Ms. Townsend said that President Bush is in no way interested in a mass deportation, nor does he believe they should be granted amnesty.
"The President believes there is a rational and respectful approach which is neither an automatic path to citizenship nor a program of mass deportation," Ms. Townsend explained. Those that are here illegally, but have a strong track record of employment and "established roots" in America, "will have to wait behind those that have played by the rules and followed the law. They will have to pay taxes, pay a penalty for their illegal behavior, and they will have to learn English."
The learning of English, Townsend continued, is essential to ensure that we do not lose "the fabric that binds us together as Americans." While celebrating and welcoming a diversity of cultures, it is imperative that the nation be bound by a common language, Townsend concluded.