EL PASO, Texas — President Bush on Tuesday watched border patrol techniques ranging from men on horseback to infrared cameras that help keep watch in the dark, and he said the country needs more of both to keep out illegal immigrants.
Bush's tour along the gritty Texas-Mexico border came at the end of a two-day tour focused on his immigration plan, which he said will be among his top agenda items next year. He's already increased the number of border patrol agents since becoming president but says he wants funding for more agents along with high-tech drones and other technology.
"If you look at the size of this border, you can't add enough agents," he said. "What you've got to do is get technology in the hands of the agents so they can better do their job. Slowly, but surely, technology is being employed up and down the border, and that's a key part of our strategy, as well as physical barriers."
Bush's goal is to catch more foreigners crossing the border while increasing the number of temporary work visas for those who will take jobs that Americans are unwilling to fill. He's trying to appease social conservatives who take a hard line against immigrants and business leaders who want a cheap work force.
Congress has been divided on Bush's plan and the issue has been stalled.
Bush's motorcade crept along about three miles of a dirt road next to the Rio Grande that divides El Paso from Juarez, Mexico. Through a chain link fence he could see small homes crowded along the Mexican side, while pistol-toting Border Patrol agents riding horseback, all-terrain vehicles and SUVs patrolled the U.S. side.
Above his limousine, he saw lights and cameras set up to help the agents keep watch for people trying to sneak across, day or night.
Bush said since 2001, the border patrol has caught 4.5 million people trying to get in the country illegally.
"It's important for national security, it's important for economic security to have a good border security plan," Bush said at the end of his tour, standing on the U.S. side of the river. "And so what you're seeing is, you're seeing a combination of fencing, cameras, infrared, and border patrol agents all doing their job."
Bush combined the tour with a stop in Denver, where he spoke at a $450,000 luncheon fund-raiser for Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave. While at least two hundred anti-war demonstrators protested outside, he thanked her for supporting his war effort, her honesty and her opposition to abortion and gay marriage.
It was Bush's second congressional fund-raiser in two days, and his political schedule is bound to get busier with less than a year until the midterm elections.
Meanwhile, the president criticized Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, another Republican who resigned from Congress Monday after admitting to accepting bribes from defense contractors.
"The idea of a congressman taking money is outrageous," Bush said. "And Congressman Cunningham is going to realize that he has broken the law and is going to pay a serious price, which he should."
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