Immigration & the Economy: Remarks in Miami
July 31, 2006
Thanks for the warm welcome on a warm day. (Laughter.) I'm proud to be here in this really dynamic city. You know, it's an amazing part of our country, when you walk off and a member of the United States Congress says, "Bienvenido a Miami." (Applause.)
This trip is a little different from the last time I spent the night here in Miami. Last night Jeb and I had some crabs with members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, Dan Marino and his really dynamic wife; TV stars -- Andy Garcia, a movie star. We had a fantastic experience. It's a lot better, by the way, than preparing for a presidential debate. (Laughter.)
I'm glad to be here. I'm glad to be with brother Jeb. We're really proud of him in our family. He's a guy who does what he said he's going to do. (Applause.) He's a good man. Mi hermanito. (Applause.)
Miami is a strong and vibrant city, and because your economy is strong and vibrant, you've helped this state's economy grow and you've helped the country grow. I want to spend some time talking about the economy and how we can keep our economy strong. No better place to do that than here in the Port of Miami. I'm proud to be with those who work in the port. I'm particularly proud to be with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America. Thanks for serving. (Applause.)
The Commandant of the United States Coast Guard has joined us today, Admiral Thad Allen. Thanks for coming. (Applause.) Rear Admiral David Kunkel is with us. I appreciate you being here, Admiral. (Applause.) I particularly want to thank all those who are on our ships, work in our ports. (Applause.) And I thank your families. You tell your wife or your husband how much this country appreciates the support of our families for our Coast Guard men and women.
I want to thank Bill Johnson, who is Acting Seaport Director. I'm proud to be here with the Federal Emergency Management Agency head, Dave Paulison -- south Floridian, by the way. (Applause.) Members of the United States congressional delegation are with us, starting with the Congresswoman from this district, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. (Applause.) Los hermanos Diaz-Balart are with us today. (Applause.) Lincoln y tambien Mario. It's good to see you guys. Thanks for coming. Clay Shaw, Congressman Shaw is with us. I'm proud you're here. (Applause.) The new Speaker of the House, Marco Rubio, is with us today. Mr. Speaker, thank you. (Applause.) Mayor Carlos Alvarez is with us, el alcalde. Thank you. (Applause.) Mayor Manny Diaz is with us. Thank you, Manny. (Applause.)
I want to thank all the local folks for coming, all the people who are concerned about South Florida -- the local officials. I'm proud to be here.
Let me start by telling you I'm monitoring the situation in the Middle East very closely. Secretary Rice was in the region over the weekend and she is working urgently to get a sustainable cease-fire, a cease-fire which will last. We're going to work with our allies to bring before the United Nations Security Council a resolution that will end the violence and lay the groundwork for lasting peace in the Middle East. (Applause.)
As we work with friends and allies, it is important to remember this crisis began with Hezbollah's unprovoked terrorist attacks against Israel. Israel is exercising its right to defend itself. And we mourn the loss of innocent life, both in Lebanon and in Israel. We're determined to deliver relief to those who suffer; we're determined to work to resolve this crisis.
To achieve the peace that we want we must achieve certain clear objectives: Lebanon's democratic government must be empowered to exercise sole authority over its territory. A multinational force must be dispatched to Lebanon quickly so we can help speed the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Lebanese people. Iran must end its financial support and supply of weapons to terrorist groups like Hezbollah. Syria must end its support for terror and respect the sovereignty of Lebanon.
This approach will make it possible what so many around the world want to see: the end of Hezbollah's attacks on Israel, the return of the Israeli soldiers taken hostage by the terrorists, the suspension of Israel's operations in Lebanon and the eventual withdrawal of Israeli forces.
The current crisis is part of a larger struggle between the forces of freedom and the forces of terror in the Middle East. For decades, the status quo in the Middle East permitted tyranny and terror to thrive. And as we saw on September the 11th, the status quo in the Middle East led to death and destruction in the United States, and it had to change. So America is opposing the forces of terror and promoting the cause of democracy across the broader Middle East.
This task is long, it is difficult work, but it is necessary work. (Applause.) When democracy spreads in the Middle East the people of that troubled region will have a better future. The terrorists will lose their safe havens and their recruits, and the United States of America will be more secure. The hard work of helping people realize the benefits of liberty is laying the foundation of peace for generations to come. (Applause.)
It's an honor to be here at the largest container port in Florida and one of the most important ports in our nation. From these docks, ships loaded with cargo deliver products all around the world carrying that label "Made in the USA." (Applause.) See, the Port of Miami is shipping what the world wants to buy. The Port of Miami is also the largest cruise port in the whole world. All you got to do is drive down the highway and look at the size of those ships. This is known as the "Cruise Capital of the World." And that's important. It's important for the people who want to find a job here.
See, the Port of Miami not only enables us to ship products all over the world, which encourages job creation, people working here getting those products moving around the world, but it's also a place where tourists come to travel the world on some great cruise ships, which means that chefs and grocers need to be hired to prepare food for the people on the ships; or accountants and travel agents handle the bookings; or hotel workers to house the passengers before the ships depart.
One reason south Florida's economy is doing well is because of the importance of this port. But it's just not the port that is helping the people in south Florida. Do you realize that over the past three years, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area has created more than 200,000 new jobs? The unemployment rate in this area is down to 3.2 percent. It's amazing economic vitality in this part of the world, and I congratulate the entrepreneurs. (Applause.)
Today I met with some entrepreneurs. I met a guy named Nelson Gonzalez. Are you here, Nelson? Yes, there he is. And he's got a partner who's not here. But think about this -- I want to tell you about Nelson's story. It is an American story. It's a story about two people who had a dream, and 10 years ago they sat in Nelson's garage talking about how to create a business. And they had $10,000 in capital to start their business. And so they decided to build high-performance custom-designed personal computers. That was their dream. First year, the revenues were $87,000, like they started getting moving. Last year, the revenue was $192 million. They went from two people sitting in a garage to employing 750 people. (Applause.)
So here's the spirit behind Nelson's dream. He said, "Losing was not just in our vocabulary. We overcame a lot of things, we really didn't sit on our laurels, and we always looked at what we can improve." See, one of the jobs of government is to put policy in place that encourages the entrepreneurial spirit to flourish. We want more people owning their businesses. We want more dreamers working hard to accomplish their dreams. And when they do, more people find work.
One of the reasons why the national unemployment rate is at 4.6 percent is because the entrepreneurial spirit is strong in America. (Applause.) And we intend to keep it that way. And one of the ways to make sure entrepreneurs like Nelson and others are able to realize dreams is to keep the taxes low. (Applause.)
There's a great temptation in Washington to say, we can spend your money better than you can, see. But when you start talking about raising taxes, you're talking about taking money from entrepreneurs and small business owners. Good policy is policy that says, we want to strengthen the small business sector in America. We want the entrepreneurial spirit to flourish. And one of the ways to do so is to make the tax cuts we pass a permanent part of the tax code. (Applause.)
And here's another way that we can help the entrepreneurial spirit flourish and help make sure south Florida remains a vibrant part of our national economy, and that is to open up markets for trade. I'm worried about protectionist tendencies in the United States, people saying, well, we don't want to -- really want to compete. Let's just kind of throw up some walls and barriers so people can't sell products into the United States. Such policies will damage the Port of Miami; such policies are short-sighted, as far as I'm concerned.
America is home to 5 percent of the world's population. That means 95 percent of the world's population are potential customers. The port is known as "The Gateway of the Americas" for a reason, because international trade is one of the key reasons why Miami prospers. I don't know if the folks realize that because of trade -- in other words, the ability to move products overseas -- 120,000 jobs here in this part of the world are supported by trade.
I believe trade leads to opportunity, trade leads to jobs, trade means this port will remain vibrant. And so good policy from our government perspective must be to continue to working up -- working to open up markets for U.S. products, and say to people around the world, you treat us the way we treat you. In other words, trade must be a two-way street. We must work to open up markets, but at the same time, we must say to foreign nations, as we open our markets to your goods, you open your markets to our goods. The United States can compete with anybody anywhere so long as the rules are fair. (Applause.)
Congress passed NAFTA, and as a result, Florida's exports to Mexico tripled. Two years ago, we passed a free trade agreement with Chile. Florida exports to that country have jumped by 40 percent. Now, when you hear me say, Florida's exports, that means exports of products made in the United States leaving ports like Miami which creates jobs. Exports means work. Exports means vitality at our ports.
Last year we passed CAFTA. I want to thank the members of Congress who supported me on that important agreement. This port handles nearly one-half of all American exports to Central America. And as CAFTA takes hold, we can envision more products passing from the United States to Central America through the Port of Miami.
Now, one of the most promising ways to open up new markets for our worker and businesses is the Doha Round of negotiations at the World Trade Organization. See, these talks are important talks. They have a chance to break down trade barriers around the world. They have a chance to expand the flow of commerce, which is what we want. They have a chance to create new jobs and economic growth not only here, but elsewhere. And they have a chance to help lift millions of people out of poverty around the world. These are important negotiations taking place. And our government is strongly committed to a successful outcome of the Doha Round.
The problem is, is that some others aren't committed. Recent discussions broke down. In order to make sure that they don't break down permanently, I asked Trade Representative Susan Schwab to continue to work with her counterparts, to continue to discuss ways for the United States to be flexible, particularly on agricultural subsidies, and for our counterparts to be flexible when it comes to achieving fairness when it comes to trade.
We'll do everything we can to get Doha back on track. That's what the people in this port, who rely upon the export of goods, must understand. We understand how important exportation is to the Port of Miami. We understand how important trade is for the economy of the United States. And so Susan Schwab now has been in Brazil recently, and will continue talking with other trade ministers. Completing the Doha Round is going to demand tough choices. We're willing to make those choices. And others nations should, as well. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to jump-start global trade and create opportunities around the world.
In order to make sure this country continues to remain strong we must also ensure that America welcomes new immigrants, people who add to our prosperity. See, we can be a nation of law and a welcoming nation at the same time, and we don't have to choose. (Applause.)
Of all the places in our country, Miami understands the importance of the contribution that the newly arrived can make to a society. Jeb and I just went and had a little coffee at Versailles, which reminded me of the important influence that those who have fled oppression at home can make to our -- to our society. It's so hopeful when people who escape repression come to the land of the free and embrace that freedom. We welcome the Cuban influence in the United States of America. (Applause.) We understand that people flee oppression and poverty and seek a better life. We understand the Haitians who have come here to seek freedom. We understand that this is the land of opportunity, and for millions, Miami is the first stop toward realizing their dreams.
To keep the dream alive we must have comprehensive immigration reform. We must be logical about the approach we take to immigration. Of course, we want to enforce our borders. The Coast Guard works hard to enforce our borders. We got hardworking people on the Mexican border working hard to enforce our borders. And we'll provide more Border Patrol agents. And we'll provide new technologies to help those working hard. But in order to enforce the border, we have got to recognize that people are sneaking in here to work; the best way to enforce the border is to have a rational way for people who are doing jobs Americans aren't doing to come to this country on a temporary basis so they can realize their dreams. We need a guest worker program as part of a comprehensive reform. (Applause.)
There's a lot of document forging going on. See, we got people being snuck across in 18-wheelers; we got people walking miles across the desert because of coyotes or smugglers. There's also a lot of people who forge documents. It's hard for an employer to know whether someone's here legally, or not. That's why we need to have a document that can't be forged and faked. So people say, I'm here for a temporary basis to work. I'm here legally to do a job Americans aren't doing, and that way we'll be able to have better work site enforcement. It's against the law for somebody to hire somebody who is here illegally. In order to make sure that those laws work, we need to have tamper-proof documents in the hands of people applying for work.
Fourthly, it is unrealistic to think that we should give automatic citizenship to people who've been here illegally. That's not going to work. It basically says, fine, then the next wave of people will come to try to become -- get automatic citizenship. Amnesty is not the right approach. But neither is trying to remove the 10 million or 11 million people who've been here illegally. Deportation is not going to work. What must work is a rational middle ground that says, you can pay a fine, you can learn English, you can prove you've been a lawful citizen, and then you can get in the citizenship line -- but at the back of the line, not the front of the line.
And finally, we'll continue to work to help people assimilate into the United States. We want people learning English. We want people learning our history and our traditions. We're going to work hard to make sure we're one nation under God. Rational immigration policy is possible, and it's important for members of the United States Congress to work toward a comprehensive immigration plan. (Applause.)
Finally, I want to talk a little bit about what we're doing to secure this country. You got to understand we're still a nation at war. I fully understand why the American citizens would hope there is no such thing as war. I know that. I know that people don't like to be reminded about the fact that there's still an enemy that lurks and plots and plans. But it's my job, a job that I really understood clearly on September the 11th. My job is to rally the federal government and to work with state and local government to protect you. It's the most important job of our government, is to protect the American people. And so we work hard to -- I work hard to remind people that there's still a war going on. But I also assure them that we're doing everything we can to bring the enemy to justice and to secure the homeland at the same time.
And one of the most important parts of securing our country is securing our ports. Port security is one of the top priorities of our government. Since September the 11th, we've provided $700 million in grants to enhance physical security at our ports, and the Port of Miami received about $25 million of those grants. We understand the important the Coast Guard plays to port security. And so we've increased funding for the Coast Guard by almost $2.9 billion. (Applause.)
We're using technologies to protect this country of ours, such as state-of-the-art X ray and gamma ray scanners to screen cargo and containers. We launched what we called the Container Security Initiative, which is to identify and inspect suspicious cargo at foreign ports before they depart for America. In other words, doesn't it makes sense for us to inspect product and cargo overseas, before they're shipped here? That's what we're doing. We've got a smart policy about how to protect our ports. And we'll continue to work with Port Authorities and custom officers and immigration agents and the Coast Guard and Jeb's office and local folks to do our duty, to do the duty the American people expect, which is, to the best of our ability, protect the United States against further attack.
I want you to know that I am optimistic about the future of this country. I'm confident that we're going to win the war on terror, because I understand that our vision of freedom, our belief in liberty, is more powerful than the ideology of hatred that the terrorists espouse. (Applause.)
I believe this economy will remain strong if we leave hands in the -- if we leave people's money in their own hands so they can save, invest, and spend. I believe in the entrepreneurial spirit in America. I believe in our workers. I believe in our small business owners. I believe that when people can dream and do and accomplish, our society is better off. I'm confident that the values of the United States will remain strong, because I understand the character of Americans by birth and by choice.
And so I understand we face a lot of challenges, but I believe this country can overcome those challenges. And I want to thank you for letting me come to the Port of Miami to discuss some of the challenges we face.
Thanks for your hard work. May God bless you all. (Applause.)
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