Bush Calls for National Guard Troops at Border
May 15, 2006 — -- President Bush gave a rare primetime address to the nation this evening to announce his plan to use thousands of National Guard troops to secure the border.
Bush told the country that although the administration has increased funding and manpower for the Border Patrol significantly, "We do not yet have full control of the border, and I am determined to change that."
He called on Congress to provide funding for dramatic improvements in manpower and technology at the border.
Bush said it's crucial to not only increase patrols but to reduce the number of people trying to sneak across the border, saying that employers must be held accountable for the workers they hire.
"Yet businesses often cannot verify the legal status of their employees, because of the widespread problem of document fraud," Bush will told the nation. "Therefore, comprehensive immigration reform must include a better system for verifying documents and work eligibility. ... A tamper-proof card would help us enforce the law, and leave employers with no excuse for violating it."
Bush says that although we are a nation of laws, we are also a nation of immigrants. "These are not contradictory goals. America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time," he said.
The fact is that millions of illegal immigrants are already in the country, Bush said, but 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."
The Oval Office speech comes as the Senate is set to debate immigration reform this week and as conservatives clamor for stronger border security.
It was the president's first primetime speech this year and the first such address to focus on a domestic issue.
The White House asked the five television networks to carry the speech live -- the only such request since the president spoke on Iraq last December.
In an effort to build momentum on the issue, Bush will travel to Yuma, Ariz., on Thursday to speak on his immigration policy and tour the border.
The Senate takes up immigration reform legislation this week after a compromise was announced Thursday between Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Senators will work on the conference bill with their counterparts in the House, clearing the way to move forward.
Voting on amendments to the Senate bill could begin as early as Tuesday, and debate will continue all week.
Bush will propose using National Guard troops to help secure the border, while also reiterating his key principles on immigration reform and calling for a "respectful debate" on Capitol Hill and around the country.
White House counselor Dan Bartlett told ABC News' "Good Morning America" that the president would talk about an increased presence along the U.S.-Mexico border and the measures the federal government would take to support the role of the U.S. Border Patrol officers already in place there.
The White House is considering moving 5,000 National Guard troops to the southern border but emphasizes they will not be involved directly in law enforcement.