President Bush on Tuesday wrapped up a two-day visit to the Southwest to promote his policy for stemming the tide of illegal immigration, vowing that his administration will "enforce our border."
Bush started his day in El Paso, where his motorcade drove along a dusty road just inside the border with Mexico. Afterward, Bush repeated his observation that it will take a multi-pronged plan to get a handle on illegal immigration.
"We've got a comprehensive strategy that says we're going to enforce this border," Bush said. "We're going to prevent people from coming here in the first place. . . . And then I told you we've got to have better interior enforcement, plus a rational worker plan that is not amnesty."
The visit to the border highlighted the second day of Bush's effort to win support for his plan to step up border security and immigration enforcement while instituting a guest-worker program that would grant foreign workers temporary legal status to take jobs that go unfilled by Americans. On Monday, he gave a speech in Tucson urging lawmakers to support his plan for revising the nation's immigration laws.
Officials including Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) joined Bush in his tour.
El Paso, like most areas along the 2,000-mile border with Mexico, has experienced an increase in the number of illegal immigrants in recent years despite intensified enforcement efforts that include high-tech sensors, more Border Patrol agents and cameras aimed at catching illegal entrants.
Government agents have captured 4.5 million people trying to cross the southern border since 2001. Nonetheless, the number of illegal immigrants in the country has more than doubled to an estimated 11 million over the past nine years, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
After his tour of the border, Bush traveled to Colorado, where he was the featured speaker at a fundraiser for Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R).
Bush's approval ratings have fallen to record lows in recent months, causing some Republican candidates to distance themselves from some of his policies. Nonetheless, as the 2006 midterm elections draw closer, Bush remains a fundraising force, at least for conservative Republicans. The $1,000-a-ticket event in a downtown hotel here was estimated to have grossed $450,000 for Musgrave's reelection campaign.
"She's not only a hard worker, she brings common-sense values to Washington, D.C.," Bush said in endorsing her reelection. "And that's a town that needs some common-sense values."
Bush's remarks here followed his appearance Monday night in Phoenix at a fundraiser for Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). That event raised an estimated $1.3 million for Kyl's campaign coffers.