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Homeland Security

30 November 2005

U.S. Official Outlines U.S. Border Security Goals, Strategy

Homeland Security's Chertoff explains president's temporary worker program

Washington -- Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff explained President Bush’s proposals and answered questions regarding border security and immigration in a November 30 “Ask the White House” webchat.

President Bush outlined a comprehensive strategy to secure U.S. borders and reform the U.S. immigration system in November 28 remarks in Arizona.  (See related article.)

Chertoff explained that the challenge before the administration is to facilitate the flow of legitimate travelers and trade across U.S. borders while interdicting potentially dangerous people and cargo.  To these ends, he explained that the United States has established the Secure Border Initiative (SBI). (See related article.)

The SBI, he explained, examines all aspects of border security including deterrence, detection, apprehension, detention and removal and addresses these challenges with a mix of increased staffing, greater investment in detection technology and enhanced coordination with federal, state, local and international partners.  

As part of these efforts, Chertoff said spending on border security has increased 60 percent since 2001, allowing for the hiring of 1,500 Border Patrol Agents.  He added that in 2005, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division will add 400 new immigration enforcement agents, 100 more deportation officers and 2,000 additional detention beds so that the “catch and release” of illegal migrants can end in favor of their effective removal from the United States.

The president’s proposed temporary worker program complements these efforts to gain full control over the border, Chertoff said.

He explained that “as long as there are jobs and a better way of life in the United States, there will be economic factors driving people here.”  Chertoff said these millions of people living in the United States without documentation or legal recognition create “serious security vulnerabilities” and are themselves vulnerable to exploitation.  

The president’s proposal, he said, would bring undocumented workers out of the shadows by allowing them to participate in a regulated system for three years to six years before returning to their own countries.

Chertoff used the analogy of a dam when explaining the need for a temporary worker program to alleviate pressure on the U.S. borders.

“If you are going to dam a river, it is much easier if you channel water in areas where it can be productive and take the pressure of the dam, he said.  “In the immigration context, channeling foreign workers to jobs that Americans won't do and matching them with willing workers is a sensible way to ease the pressure of the immigration system and meet our country's economic needs.”

Even though the proposed program will match willing foreign workers with willing U.S. employers, it will not put these workers on a path to citizenship, Chertoff said.

“We are a nation of immigrants, but we cannot allow someone who has chosen to break our immigration laws to pre-empt those individuals who choose a legitimate means of entering our country,” he said. “Rewarding those who break the law would encourage more illegal entrants and increase pressure on the border,” he said.

Chertoff added that the temporary worker program would not be an amnesty program.

“The president has made it clear he will not support an amnesty program,” he said.

The full text of Chertoff’s “Ask the White House” webchat is available on the White House Web site.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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