Immigration Issues Mar Bush's Guatemala Visit
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
And NPR's David Greene was there.
DAVID GREENE: Late yesterday afternoon, President Bush came out to talk to reporters along with Guatemala's president, Oscar Berger. They had spent a full day together. President Bush said he enjoyed stopping in a small village at a vegetable packing plant and seeing how indigenous farmers have been able to find new markets for their goods.
GEORGE W: The town has grown from subsistence farming to selling high-value crops like lettuce and carrots and celery. As a matter of fact, I got to pack some lettuce. The president and I were hauling boxes of lettuce.
GREENE: Mr. Bush made clear how much he enjoyed this stop.
BUSH: It was really, really fun and really heartwarming. As a matter of fact it was one of the great experiences of my presidency.
GREENE: President Berger said through an interpreter that he was glad he took his guest out of the city.
OSCAR BERGER: (Through translator) The contact that we were able to have with our people; the cultural legacy that we were able to witness together.
GREENE: But the two presidents also recounted the more formal meetings they held once they returned to Guatemala City. They clearly hashed out some disagreements over immigration. Mr. Bush said President Berger wanted to talk about a raid last week at a Massachusetts factory. Federal authorities were searching for illegal workers and detained more than 300 people, many of whom were Guatemalan.
BUSH: I said, yeah, we're going to enforce the laws in our country, just like you should enforce the laws in yours. It is against the law for somebody to hire somebody's in our country illegally to work.
GREENE: Mr. Bush said he told Guatemala's leader that U.S. officials weren't singling anyone out.
BUSH: They didn't say, oh maybe there's Guatemalans here, let's go get them. That wasn't what happened.
GREENE: Still, it was clear Mr. Bush had gotten an earful from Berger and others here who want the U.S. to stop deporting people. And when Mr. Bush began taking questions from reporters, it was pretty much all immigration. Mr. Bush was asked to explain why he signed legislation to build a fence along the U.S. southern border, a decision that rankled Latin American leaders.
BUSH: It was more than just fence. It was infrastructure, kind of a novel infrastructure like detection devices, berms. We've got a very long border.
GREENE: Mr. Bush said he's still fighting for a new immigration bill in Congress that would help undocumented immigrants obtain legal working status. But he acknowledged that his own party has been a problem. Republicans, he said, have to find a coherent position on immigration before there's progress. He said he hopes the Senate can pass a bill by the end of the summer.
BUSH: But I'm not the person that sets the calendar. I'm just a simple member of the executive branch.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
BUSH: It's the legislative branch that decides the calendar.
GREENE: David Greene, NPR News, Guatemala City.
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