White House Press Sec'y on Pres. Bush's Support for Immigration

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," May 31, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

BILL O’REILLY, HOST: First, the top story tonight: President Bush getting pounded on the right for endorsing the Senate immigration bill.

Joining us now from Washington, White House spokesman Tony Snow. All right, before we get down to this, how you feeling? You got chemotherapy going on?

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Chemotherapy going on. I go in for my third session tomorrow, but feeling great and glad to be here.

O'REILLY: Now, when you go into a session like that, how long does it take you to recover? I mean, you are back on the job obviously, today. You go in tomorrow, and then how long...

SNOW: Yes, it's really not too tough. What happens is, I will go in for about three hours. I have got a little port in my chest. I will have an infusion of chemicals. And then I will take my third agent over a period of a week. I will take pills morning and night.

So fortunately, you know, one of the great things about cancer research is, the drugs get more and more closely targeted to the cancer itself. They're not nearly as toxic to your entire system. I'm losing some hair, I have got to admit. But, other than that, I'm doing fine.

O'REILLY: All right. Well, you have got a lot more hair than I do. So, you don't have to worry about that. But you will take, what, two or three days, four days off after this?

SNOW: No, no, no, no. I mean, I will be out and about on Saturday. I will be working out Saturday, and pretty much back to life as normal.

O'REILLY: All right. Well, obviously, everybody wishes you the best, Snow.

SNOW: Thanks.

O'REILLY: We do. Now I have to hammer you a little bit.



O'REILLY: How are you guys going to deal with Rush Limbaugh, most of the other radio commentators whipping up the far right and the conservative base, not just the far right, conservatives too, saying, “Look, this is a sellout. It's going to kill the Republican Party. It's amnesty…”

SNOW: Yes.

O'REILLY: “…Bush is wrong.” How are you guys going to deal with that?

SNOW: Well, a couple of ways. You know, next week, the president's going off to Europe for the G8. I'm staying behind. I'm going to be going around the country talking about immigration reform, and making a pretty simple case for conservatives, which is, number one, you have got a conservative president.

Do you really think that the guy who has taken on Congress, who has taken on European heads of state, who has taken on the European Union, who has taken on the U.N., who has taken on doubters all around the world, and has been subjected to savage criticism for conducting a war on terror, including in Iraq, a man who used to be governor of Texas, with the longest border with Mexico, do you think the guy is not going to be absolutely concerned about border security, and the security of this country? Of course he is. And the point I made...


SNOW: Yes, go ahead.

O'REILLY: But, look, you can say that, and that's interesting, that you are going to the point man on this.

But I can say to you, look, he is in office six years; he didn't secure the border, even after 9/11. Now, that border was a sieve for six years when George W. Bush was president. Now, is there a reason he didn't secure the border? Can you tell me why he didn't do it right after 9/11?

SNOW: Well, why don't we go back and take a look at a whole series of things, Bill?

Number one, we did in fact devote more to borders, including the ports, including north and south.

O'REILLY: Yes, but it didn't work. Didn't work. Didn't work.

SNOW: Well, what do you mean it didn't work? Have we had a terrorist attack?


SNOW: Well, you are making a case about terrorism.

O'REILLY: But we have millions of people in here that we shouldn't have, under George W. Bush's watch.

SNOW: Well, and, furthermore, you know what? It's a mess that was 21 years in the coming.

If you take a look at the law that was passed in 1986, you probably know this. Most people probably don't. You know what the penalty was for coming to this country illegally, the penalty written into the law?

O'REILLY: Go ahead.

SNOW: Zilch. There was none, no penalty, no penalty. Furthermore, if you are an employer, you hire somebody knowingly, an illegal alien, your punishment starts at $250. In other words, this was a bill that did not bring with it the necessity for enforcement and other things.

Now, after September 11, the president had to make a series of calls about where you train your resources for national security right away to deal with known threats.

He, in the meantime, has been talking all along about trying to deal with border security and immigration. Now, what's happened is, a lot of people have looked around and said, “Wait a minute. We have got 12 million people here illegally.”

Absolutely right. And it's been happening for 21 years. Now is the time to fix it. And here's what we're doing. We're using three principles that I think conservatives can all rally around. And then what we say to them is, let's roll up our sleeves and fix this problem. You say there's a problem. I agree.

All the critics say there's a problem. And here are the three principles. Number one, secure the border. We're putting more money and more forces and more technology on the border than anybody in history.

Number two, restore the rule of law — first law not enforceable, this one enforceable. And it begins by saying, if you broke the law originally, even though there was no penalty at all, not a penny, you are paying $1,000 up front, and you have got to submit to a criminal background check, and you have to have an I.D. that tells you who you are, tells us who you are...


SNOW: ... where you are, and all that. Principle number three...

O'REILLY: But look, you are not going to change...

SNOW: OK. Go ahead.

O'REILLY: You are not going to change Limbaugh's mind. And the calls that I get on the radio are basically people who say, “We want 12 million people deported. That's what we want.”

SNOW: Right.

O'REILLY: “We want them rounded up. We want them taken back across the border and put back in whatever country they come from.” Now, I know that's not going to happen. You know it's not going to happen.

SNOW: Right.

O'REILLY: The polls show most Americans don't want it. But there's a hard core of, I would say, 30 percent of Americans who are not going to move off that position.

SNOW: Yes.

O'REILLY: It's, “Deport them, period.”

SNOW: Well, I don't think the number's that high, but let's not quibble about the number. Let's deal with the argument.

What you are asking for is to tie up the criminal justice system entirely. What you are talking about is — and think about your personal experience. I know, in our neighborhood, most of the experience with immigrant workers is, they come to work too early. They're sitting out at the curb at 6:30 in the morning, because, at 7 o’clock, when they can start driving nails, they're there, and they stay until 7:00 p.m.

I don't have a lot of experience with gangbangers. We don't have a lot of terrorists, but we do have a lot of immigrant labor. These are people who are working hard.

So, your question is, do you want to take prosecutors off of chasing murderers or rapists and people going after our kids, or are you going to try to refine it, so you come up with a system that separates the good actors from the bad actors, and says, “We're going after the bad actors?”

As a practical matter, if you are going to go after 12 million people, you might as well just shut down the criminal justice system, because there's not going to be time to do anything else. And that's a practical objection.

What I'm also going to say to people is, again, return to principles, secure the borders, rule of law. Let's restore something significant to citizenship.

And I think people are going to listen. The decibel level is high. The passions are high.

O'REILLY: All right.

SNOW: But you know what? We have got to fix it.

O'REILLY: All right, Tony Snow, the point man on immigration. We appreciate it, Tony.

And good luck on the fight, the health fight. And everybody's praying for you. And we really appreciate you coming on tonight.

SNOW: God bless, Bill. Thanks.

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