Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on Whether Congress Can Solve the Immigration Mess

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," May 10, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Unresolved Problem" segment tonight: Will Congress solve the immigration mess and protect the kids? Joining us now from Washington is Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist who drove the child protection registry legislation that was passed last week. And can you do it again on illegal immigration, Senator? That's the big question. Congratulations on the kids. That was terrific.

BILL FRIST, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER, R-TENN.: You know that bill, just real quickly on that sex offender registry, it was a push. We still have to get it all the way to the president. But it's a major first step on a big, big problem out there that you've covered so well.

O'REILLY: And the House isn't going to stand in your way. You're going to get it to the president. We're confident there. But boy, oh boy, I'll tell you what, Senator, if Congress and the president don't work together to secure the border, the president's approval ratings will go down to 20 percent. So what are you guys going to do?

FRIST: Bill, you're exactly right. And I think if one thing that both the media has covered very well over the last six weeks, really longer than that, but also the Congress did a pretty good job, at least in the Senate, in getting the issue out there. I know what we have on the floor right now a lot of people disagree with. But everybody agrees with and the passions I think are felt all across the country on securing the borders, tightening the borders down, not allowing those three million people, or whatever the real figure is, because we don't know, coming across the border.

Last week or two weeks ago, we put an additional $1.9 billion to look at infrastructure, things like unmanned aerial vehicles, sensors along the border, the technology there. We haven't delivered it yet. But at least we passed it in the Senate. Last year, at the end of the year we put $10 billion in there for more detention beds, more border security guards. Again, that's not enough. One of the big challenges that we have is that there is almost no way we can spend enough money to secure the borders overnight. It's manpower. It's technology...

O'REILLY: The House says send a message, build a wall. O'Reilly says send a message, move the National Guard down there. You don't need a wall if you do that and save you billions of dollars. But the Senate's message is really no dramatic change on the border. That's the Kennedy-McCain bill. So I'm trying to say to myself, look, the House is never going to buy Kennedy-McCain, it's not going to happen. You're going to have to either build a wall or put the military down there to back up the Border Patrol. One or the two, or nothing's going to get done.

FRIST: Or maybe both. Right now we need as many as 15,000 border security agents.

O'REILLY: Absolutely! Just move the Guard down there!

FRIST: Yeah. And I know that's a proposal that's out there. I know it's being considered by a lot of people. I'm not sure whether or not it's going to be done. Your point that the Senate has to go hand in hand with the House, with the leadership of the president of the United States. I can tell you, though, that I'm going back. I'm going to take immigration border security first and foremost with enforcement there back to the floor of the Senate on Monday. And I know there's a lot of discussion on the 12 million people who are here illegally and the temporary worker program. But I'm absolutely committed to making sure that at least coming off the Senate floor, we have strong border security legislation with manpower.

O'REILLY: Listen, once you get that, once you get the border security, Senator, all of the other guest-worker program business can be, by sincere men and women, worked out. And Americans might not like it, but they will accept it, particularly conservative Americans. If you have a demonstrable border security that they can see, that stops millions of people every year from coming in here.

FRIST: The problem that we have is exactly that. People don't trust our government right now. From 1986, we said we were going to do certain things and they were never done. And I agree you can't focus first and foremost on the temporary worker program or the 12 million. It's got to be on the border. I disagree a little bit in that I think we do have to address the temporary worker program, especially the fact that we are a nation of laws — the interior enforcement as well — to reduce that magnet attracting people over. But I agree and we've got to demonstrate it. The American people don't think we're going to do it. We got to do it on the floor of the Senate. The House has got to agree to it and we have to be led by the president.

O'REILLY: I'm a registered Independent, but the Republican Party's whole future is riding on what you can do in the next few weeks, Senator, because if you don't do anything people are just going to throw up their hands. And you know it and I know it. All the polls show it, got to be done and I hope you can — you got the kids' bill through and it's terrific and we are just rooting for you on the border. We hope you can do it.

FRIST: The United States Senate gets the message. We will go out on the floor starting Monday. We'll do our best to get it done, but again, the border, I know, that's where the main thrust of the passion is and we'll deliver.

O'REILLY: All right Senator. We'll follow it every step of the way. Thank you.

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