THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We interrupt that package, we apologize, to take you like to Ellis Island where President Bush is welcoming a number of American citizens, brand-new American citizens just taking the oath for this country.
Let's listen to the president.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:
BUSH: Thank you all. Thank you very much.
Please be seated.
Thank you very much, Mr. Attorney General. I appreciate your kind words, and I appreciate your service to America.
My fellow Americans who stand behind us, congratulations.
BUSH: Just a few minutes ago, I was a leader of another country. Now, it's my honor to speak to you as the leader of your country.
BUSH: And the great thing about America is you don't have to listen unless you want to.
Governor Pataki, it's great to be with you.
Mayor Giuliani, thank you both for your kind comments.
Senator Schumer, Charles Ellis Schumer, who was named for Ellis Island, and Senator Clinton. Thank you all for being here.
Congressman Fossella and Congresswoman Maloney, thank you for being here.
Assistant Attorney General Dinh, thank you for your service to your country. I made a great appointment when I picked him.
Sylvia Sanchez (ph), thank you for singing the National Anthem. And ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to be here. I'm pleased to be joined by two members of my Cabinet, who are Americans by choice: The Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Mel Martinez.
BUSH: This little piece of land, less than 30 acres in all, is like no other place in America. Twelve million souls arrived here and would speak of the experience for the rest of their lives. They remember the difficulties along with the joys. They remember the long lines, never longer than on a single day in 1907 when more than 11,000 new immigrants filed through this hall. They remember how loud it was here and how confusing. There was no president to greet them, only people with clipboards, stethoscopes and a lot of questions.
A man from Italy describes seeing the Statute of Liberty for the first time, he said, "The thrill was unbelievable but always the fear because you had to go through Ellis Island."
For all that, they kept hoping, they kept believing and they kept coming. And 100 million Americans can draw a straight line from the life they know today to a moment in this hall, when a name was called and a person took the first step towards citizenship in the United States of America. Each of you took that first step some time ago. Several of you have been here for decades.
This group of new Americans include students, teachers, a restaurant owner, a professor, a bartender, an insurance agent, a doctor and a violinist. For all of you, the oath of citizenship is more than a formality, and today, America's more than your home; it's your country.
This is one of the things that makes our country so unique: With a single oath, all at once you become as fully American as the most direct descendant of a founding father. The founders themselves decided that when they declared independence and wrote our Constitution. You see, citizenship is not limited by birth or background.
America, at its best, is a welcoming society. We welcome not only immigrants themselves, but the many gifts they bring and the values they live by. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants take the oath of citizenship every year. Each has come not only to take, but to give. They come asking for a chance to work hard, support their families and to rise in the world, and together, they make our nation more, not less, American.
Immigration is not a problem to be solved. It is a sign of a confident and successful nation, and people who seek to make America their home should be met in that spirit by representatives of our government.
BUSH: New arrivals should be greeted not with suspicion and resentment, but with openness and courtesy. As many immigrants can testify, that standard has not always been observed. For those seeking entry, the process is often a prolonged ordeal, full of complexities and burdens. I'm committed to changing this with INS reforms that treat every immigrant with respect and fairness.
Today, here's the goal for the INS: A six-month standard from start to finish, for processing an application for immigration. It won't be achievable in every case, but it's the standard of this administration, and I expect the INS to meet it.
BUSH: Not every applicant is entitled to admission, but every applicant is entitled to a timely and courteous review of his or her case. We can help legal immigrants in other ways. If a child's parent and financial sponsor should pass away, we should permit the other parent to take over as a sponsor. And in the case of a minor child, entitlement to a visa should be measured by the age on the date of the application, not on the date the INS has finally processed the visa. And we should spare families the hardship of separation while one member is awaiting a greencard. I support providing an extension of the temporary window that allows people to file for legal residency without having to return to their country of origin.
And I urge the members of the United State Congress to act swiftly on 245(i) reform.
BUSH: In the life of an immigrant, citizenship is a defining event. In the life of our nation, new citizens bring renewal. By taking an oath, as you have done today, immigrants affirm a belief in the American Creed. For most Americans, there is no formal moment of affirmation, but to each of us, fall the same responsibilities.
Our democracy is sustained by the moral commitments we share: reverence for justice and obedience to the law; tolerance and decent respect for the opinions of others; responsibility, not only to ourselves, but for our families and neighborhoods; love of country, shown not in prideful boasts but in modest gratitude and in active concern for our nation's future.
BUSH: That future depends on the values of self government, our sense of duty, loyalty, self-confidence and regard for the common good.
We're a diverse country and getting more diverse, and these virtues are what keeps this great country together. Believing in them and living by them, this great land will always be united.
BUSH: When they left behind the Old World, the millions who landed here at Ellis Island, came with a vision of a better life. They sought more than economic opportunity, though that was surely part of it. They wanted more than political freedom, though that was crucial. Above all, they wanted the rights, the duties and the dignity of American citizenship. This place is now a museum but it stands for a living tradition, and on Ellis Island today, the great hope of America is renewed. Since becoming the president, I've gotten to do a lot of really fascinating things, but there's nothing quite like the event this morning. So will you please join me and rise as we say the Pledge of Allegiance. The right hand up, please. Actually, the right hand on your heart.
(PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE)
KAGAN: We've been watching President Bush as he makes a visit to Ellis Island, there for a swearing-in ceremony for a number of new American citizens. This is President Bush's first visit to the state of New York since he himself was sworn in as president six months ago.
To get some perspective on this visit and the event, let's bring in Ron Brownstein here at CNN and also of "The L.A. Times." He's been watching this event with us from the New York bureau. Ron, good morning.
BROWNSTEIN: Good morning, Daryn.
KAGAN: Actually, from Washington, I guess.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes, from Washington.
KAGAN: Good to have you with us. Six months, 34 other states and President Bush makes it to Ellis Island and New York State for this event. Why? What's the thinking behind this event?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, first of all, creating a welcoming culture for new immigrants, legal immigrants is an issue close to his heart. It really comes out of his experience in Texas which is a state that has been, obviously, transformed by immigration from Mexico.
But if you wanted a single day that would encapsulate bush's political strategy, wrap it all up in one package you really couldn't do much better than today. Welcoming new immigrants in the morning, honoring the late Cardinal O'Connor in the afternoon, points to two of the constituencies they see as key to expanding their political base, Hispanics and white Catholics. Really, both of those groups are ones where Bush hopes to grow between 2000 and 2004 to go from this very narrow majority that he put together, actually losing a popular vote, to having a stable political base.
KAGAN: Why so important? Why those groups, especially Catholics?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, let's talk about them both. The Catholics are more of an offensive strategy where he can try to grow into states he that narrowly fell short. If you look at what happened in 2000, Bush ran better among Catholics than the Republicans had done recently, especially among more religiously observant Catholics, people who go to church at least once a week or more. They think they have more room to grow in those voters. The observant Catholics are not as pro-Republican as the observant evangelicals. They have some room to grow, and that could help in places like Wisconsin, Iowa, maybe Michigan, maybe Pennsylvania; states where they fell just short.
With Hispanics, Daryn, it's really sort of a defensive strategy. You've got growing Hispanic populations that could tip some states the Republicans hold toward the Democrats unless Bush can improve his showing among them. Particularly Florida, where the non-Cuban Hispanic population, mostly from Puerto Rico and some from Central America, is growing quickly.
And if Bush doesn't do better with those voters, he's going to have a very hard time holding Florida in 2004, and if he doesn't hold Florida, he may have a hard time holding the White House.
KAGAN: And before 2004, let me take you to another issue that is floating out there that could play into today's event, stem cell research. Is this President Bush trying to play both sides of the fence, trying to appease Catholics on one side but setting them up, perhaps, to say, you know what, I'm about to make an announcement you might not like?
BROWNSTEIN: The fact is that the leadership of the Catholic Church is very opposed to going forward with stem cell research. But the polling has been that rank and file Catholics, like other Americans, by and large support it. So, my sense is it would not be taking this long if Bush was simply going to say no and shut it all down.
I suspect that the White House is looking for some kind of compromise that may disappoint some of the more ardent, pro-life supporters, but I don't think they want to be in a position of completely shutting it down. That isn't the sense that I get.
On the other hand they have been very attune to the base since taking office. I mean, they've done very few thing supporters that alienate him who are already supporting. That seems to have been their top political priority. So, I'm sure they looking for some way to avoid antagonizing that core constituency, but again, I don't think it would be taking this long if they simply were going to no nothing, no-how.
KAGAN: We will be watching it. Ron, thanks for helping us watch today's event and understand it a little better. Ron Brownstein of "The L.A. Times" and CNN. Thanks for having you with us.
As we mentioned President Bush going from Ellis Island, actually, Ron mentioned this, he will head into New York City to St. Patrick's Cathedral where he will help honor the late Cardinal John O'Connor.
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