Bush Visits Arizona-Mexico Border to Tout Changes

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President Bush is on the border Arizona shares with Mexico today, visiting the Border Patrol he wants to bolster with National Guard troops. The president's spokesman said the White House would accept the 370-mile fence approved by the Senate, even though it has previously opposed building walls to block immigration.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

One day, two presidents and two sides of the border. Today, President Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox paid separate visits to the U.S./Mexico border. Fox was in Tijuana, President Bush in Arizona, where he spoke about his plans for changes to immigration law. The president is sending 6000 troops from the National Guard to help Border Patrol agents.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: The Guard is going to free up agents to be in direct contact with those trying to sneak across. It is, the Guard is complimentary. The Guard makes it easier for the border patrol to do its job. And the initial commitment will last for about a year for the 6,000 for the Guard, and after that, the forces will be reduced as new Border Patrol agents and new equipment comes online.

BLOCK: NPR's David Greene is with the president. And David aside from that speech what else is the president doing today?

DAVID GREENE reporting:

Well, the president, Melissa, came first right up to the border. He left Yuma and came to the community of San Luis, Arizona. His motorcade stopped in a large dirt area right up against a fence and a steel wall and he spent a few minutes looking across at some buildings in Mexico and then got some briefings from Border Patrol agents. He was wandering past some poster boards they had set up. I think like a technology convention. They had set it up right there in the desert showing them some of the technology and surveillance equipment that they use to patrol this area.

BLOCK: Now here in Washington, the Senate has been working on its version of a bill that would overhaul immigration law. Yesterday the Senate voted to go on expanding fences on the border. Does the president support that?

GREENE: He does. You know, it was a little surprising. Often the White House will say we're going to wait to take a position, but on Air Force One this morning White House Press Secretary Tony Snow very quickly said that the president supports the 370 mile fence in the Senate amendment that was passed yesterday.

And it's a little surprising because the president in the past has been pretty cool to the idea of a lot of fencing outside urban areas. So, this seems to be a signal of how far the president is willing to go to try to get House Republicans and conservatives onboard with the idea of a guest worker plan.

And that's what I think this day is about, a photo op to show the president right here on the border with a lot of law enforcement, a fence, a wall, so conservatives can go out and say yes their president really supports border security and that's what I think the White House feels they need if they're going to get those conservatives onboard with a temporary worker program.

BLOCK: Ok, David, thank you.

GREENE: My pleasure Melissa.

BLOCK: NPR's David Greene traveling with President Bush along the U.S./Mexico border in Arizona.

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