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Bush on immigration ads: 'treat all people with respect' in U.S.

Thursday, February 7, 2002

As an anti-immigration lobbying group expends another series of ads in the Iowa media, their funding organization isn't likely to find sympathetic ears in the White House.

President George W. Bush was a sharp critic of the original advertising attack funded by the Federation for American Immigration Reform even before taking office.

The current ads blame immigration policy for the November 11 terrorist attacks. The same groups funded by FAIR earlier advertised against Gov, Tom Vilsack's support of targeted immigration as a partial solution to Iowa's worker shortage.

The FAIR firestorm date back to just before the presidential caucuses, when FAIR ads targeted Storm Lake, claiming that immigration in the city made quality of life "just a memory."

Bush came to Storm Lake's defense, and remained critical of the ongoing series of anti-immigrant ads by a coalition of special interest groups, which he said "is clearly intended to pit people against each other."

After hearing of the ad campaign, then-candidate Bush called the Pilot-Tribune. He had already requested a briefing on the television/ print ads and the FAIR group.

"My response to FAIR is that all people should be treated with respect in this country. It is part of the American experience to recognize that each individual matters and counts regardless of race," Bush said with a note of anger.

Bush said later that he hopes Storm Lake will be strengthened by the challenge of the FAIR commercial which claimed its "quality of life is but a memory."

"This kind of campaign is very divisive. It is a conscious effort to put people into groups and pit those groups against each other, in Storm Lake and nationally. My advice to Storm Lake would be to continue to treat its legal immigrants with respect and to recognize what they can contribute. I'm sure the decent people in Storm Lake are concerned about the imagery that is being presented and attached to your community's name."

Bush said that he has worked hard to attack prejudice in his state of Texas.

"I... support smart legal immigration. I would also want to reinforce our borders against illegal immigration, with efforts like Operation Hold the Line," Bush said.

"What we need on the issues of immigration is leadership. We need to recognize the need we have for highly-skilled professionals and react with expanded visas to attract these people. We need to recognize that a lot of our industry is short of workers. Legal immigrants can fill those slots - smart immigration policy can solve those problems."

Education must go hand-in-hand with immigration policy, Bush said. "I feel very strongly that we need to redouble all of our efforts to educate all people."

Ironically, Bush's father, former president George Bush, had also sounded a note of warning against prejudice in Storm Lake as a speaker in the American Heritage Lecture Series at Buena Vista University.

In that speech, the senior Bush said, "We cannot listen to the siren's call of isolation and protectionism," he told students.

Bush promises to remember the support he found in Iowa ahead of the key caucus.

"Iowa is a state of communities, there is a wonderful feeling of community all around it. You get a sense here of the strength of this country. Iowa puts a high premium on education issues, and it's easy to tell it from the people I met. It also has an aging population, and its people are clearly concerned with Social Security and Medicare as key issues."

Another huge issue to Iowans is the military, he said.

"That surprised me. At every stop I heard it. People in Iowa are very informed and concerned about the state of the military and the morale. Many of the people who approach me have a son or daughter in the military and are worried about what they are hearing about the morale. They say, 'Whatever you do, you better keep this country's military strong.'"

Meanwhile, the ads from FAIR and associated groups seem designed to sway opinion headed into another election cycle, or perhaps looking ahead as far as Iowa's 2004 Presidential caucuses.

Sponsors of the ads deny charges that they are racist, saying they are intended only to spur changes in the law to eliminate the kind of loopholes they said that terrorists were able to exploit on September 11. The ads call on their viewers to demand that Congress reduce immigration.

Storm Lake leaders strongly protested the original series of ads that mentioned the city specifically.

When contacted, FAIR leaders admitted that they were not really familiar with Storm Lake but had seen its immigration experiences written about elsewhere, and that the photos used in the ads were taken elsewhere and purchased for use in the ad.

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