This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," May 15, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Senator, welcome back to the program.
SEN. BILL FRIST, R-TENN., MAJORITY LEADER: Sean, good to be with you. Thank you.
HANNITY: Senator, the president acknowledged tonight, despite the progress we do not have full control over the border. I agree. I think this is late in terms of everybody addressing the problem. But does what he proposed tonight go far enough to secure that border?
FRIST: Well, we'll have to see. I thought his proposal tonight, his speech tonight was balanced. I thought it was specific. I thought it was reasoned. He laid out a very, very specific five-point plan addressing what goes on at the border.
First and foremost an effective immigration program has got to have a tight border. He went — very forward thinking with the National Guard. He says we have to end the "catch and release." All of that very positive, especially as we debate this comprehensive reform on the Senate floor.
HANNITY: Senator, I'm glad that we're, as a nation, addressing this problem, because I think it's the biggest area of susceptibility we have to terrorism. In that regard, I'm very happy. I'm glad he's putting the National Guard at the border. I'm glad he's going to double the number of agents that are ultimately going to be down there.
My only concern, having been down there four times, is is this going to be enough? Six thousand translates into 8,000 extra per shift. Is that enough? Do we need to think beyond that?
FRIST: Sean, it's not enough. And I think the president made it clear tonight that it's a stop gap, the National Guard on the border. It's a 2,000-mile border.
He also made it clear that we're going to need a lot in terms of manpower but also technology. And he put a lot of emphasis on the fact that we are the world's greatest nation in terms of technology. Now we need to apply it in a practical, real sense.
The big message, though, was that tighten the border, secure the border. First and foremost, it's got to be the foundation of our overall immigration policy.
HANNITY: I like what the president said about sensors, about barriers, about using new technologies, about aerial drones, et cetera, to help and assist in this effort.
One of the things he said is he said the United States is not going to militarize the southern border. Mexico is our neighbor and our friend.
Have they been our friend on the issue of immigration? Vicente Fox on this very program wouldn't even admit we had a problem.
FRIST: No, I think — I wouldn't say they've been our friend on this issue.
You've been on the border. I've been on that border, as well. And it's interesting. We're not militarizing the border, but if you go across to the Mexican side of the border, you do see the Mexican military there, who are armed. And though we're not militarizing the border we're going to have our National Guard there in uniform providing full support, not law enforcement but full support. And I think that's a major first step.
HANNITY: Senator, I guess one of the things I'm asking, why, if America — and you have been witnessing the debate in Washington — If America right now is divided on A, amnesty; on, B, guest worker programs, why don't we just go about the business of securing the border first, and then have a debate on these other issues later?
FRIST: You know, I know that a lot of people feel that way. You've been on the border four times. I've been on that border. And you see that people are running across that border, and you see their footprints and when you fly over it you see how vast that border is. And they're coming here for a better life. Yes, breaking the law. But they're coming here because they know if they get 50 miles up and they're caught they will be released, number one. And if they get 400 miles up they're going to probably get a job, because we're not enforcing the laws of the land. Employers are going out and hiring people for very low wages, taking advantage of the fact that we do not have, not just an insecure border but inadequate enforcement on the interior.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Hey, Senator, it's Alan Colmes. Thank you for being on our show tonight.
FRIST: Good to be with you, Alan.
COLMES: The president used the phrase "a comprehensive plan," and he talked about not just border control but a pathway for people who are here, people who have families, who've been here for decades in some cases.
COLMES: You've not really addressed that. Do you support the president on the issue of comprehensive plan and a pathway for those people who have been in this country?
FRIST: I do, Alan. And I will have to say for the 12 million people here I have not been as consistent as I would like. Because I started, in fact, I think, on your show, I said let's send them all home, and because we're a nation of laws they've broken the law.
As I have looked more at the debate, it's clear that these 12 million people here are a diverse population. Forty percent have been here longer than 10 years. They've got families. They've been working. They've been paying their taxes. They know English.
And so what our challenge is on the floor of the Senate here, as I speak, or over the next 10 days, is to look at that 12 million people and treat them as a diverse group of people.
Yes, they've broken the law, but we are a nation of immigrants — it affects our values, who we are as a people. I do not think they should be given a leg up on citizenship. They need to go to the end of the line.
FRIST: I think they need to pay a price and, therefore, I don't think we would be giving them amnesty. But that's pretty much...
COLMES: That's what McCain-Kennedy talked about. That's what the president is talking about. Are you saying now, Senator Frist, that you have changed your view on this and are now more in line with the president and McCain-Kennedy are saying than you were previously?
FRIST: Yes — no. Well, I will say that I'm for comprehensive reform. First and foremost, border, border, border, border. Interior work place — work place enforcement. A strong temporary worker program, where people come here for three, maybe six years and then go back home.
And then, yes, address those 12 million people. The first two years I'd send them back home. Three to five years put them in a temporary worker program and after five years have 11-year probationary period. Have them pay a price, learn English, pay back taxes and then they could have a legalized status.
COLMES: Are we going to have enough National Guard available? He talked about 6,000. Do we need even more than that, as you've just indicated? And will we have enough capability to protect ourself? We have Guard in Iraq. We need Guard here for domestic purposes. Is it going to be enough?
FRIST: Well, I addressed that this afternoon when I — everyone pretty much knew the president was going to come forward. And talking to our — both Department of Defense, where most of this will go through. I'm absolutely convinced that we have enough in terms of the additional up to 6,000 for a temporary period of time.
But I wouldn't put too much emphasis on it, because the real answer is going to be trained, new border security agents, not our National Guard. That's just a stop gap measure, and that appropriate use of technology where we secure the borders. We lock it down. And so it's a stop gap measure. I'm not too concerned about the numbers of the National Guard. I don't think it's going to strain the system too much.
HANNITY: Senator, are you running for president?
FRIST: I'm going to wait and see.
HANNITY: All right.
FRIST: As you can tell, I've got the next six months to do two things: get Republicans elected, keep that majority in the United States Senate and push this Republican agenda.
HANNITY: All right, Senator. Thanks for being with us. Senator Bill Frist, appreciate your time.
FRIST: Thank you.
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