THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
SATELLITE INTERVIEW OF THE PRESIDENT BY KNSD-TV, SAN DIEGO The Old Executive Office Building
11:56 P.M. EDT
Q Mr. President, how are you? Nice to see you again.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Q I assume that your people will give me a cue when we're ready to go.
THE PRESIDENT: I think we're ready now.
Q Okay. Mr. President, we're ready now. Mr. President, your Technology Reinvestment Project has been funded for $472 million. You have received proposals for 2,850 projects requesting $8.4 billion. Doesn't that tell us that much more is needed?
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. We just got another $500- plus million through the Congress that we'll be coming forward with next year. And in January I expect to ask for more money for this program. Much more money is needed, and I hope the Congress will now be willing to provide more money for it. There were both Democratic and Republican members of Congress from California to the East Coast at our announcement today. And I'm very hopeful now that when members of Congress see the incredible number of worthy projects and the potential they have to revolutionize our economy in America, and to put our high-tech workers back to work and to create more jobs, that they'll be able to fund it. I'm very excited. But keep in mind, this is a big first step.
Q Mr. President, you said in your announcement today that we needed new training, new markets, new technologies. What do you say to the General Dynamics worker who has lost his job and lost his home, to the Biotech worker who has lost his job and home -- what do you say to them now? They need help now.
THE PRESIDENT: I say that I'm doing the very best I can. We started cutting back on defense long before I became President. The defense cuts started in '87 and there was no investment in defense conversion to amount to anything until I took office. The Congress appropriated $500 million last year, which was not even released by the previous administration until I took office. I believe in defense conversion. I believe in helping those people through retraining, through new investments, through new job opportunities, through things like this technology reinvestment project. And I'm going to do the very best I can to give them the opportunities that they need and that our country needs for them to have.
Q The UCSD project, using -- materials for helping to fix bridges and make new lightweight ones -- how many jobs do you think that will create?
THE PRESIDENT: Depends on what the market for bridges are. But let me just say that if you look at the evidence at the -- literally the thousands of bridges in America that are in disrepair that desperately need repair, and the potential that this material has to permit that repair to be done quickly and efficiently, there may be a virtually unlimited market for it. It depends on how quickly they can make sure that this prototype bridge they're building works, and then how quickly they can get out to every state in the country that controls the market for bridge repair and market this product. But I would say that there is an enormous potential to generate new jobs and incomes in your area because of this for the simple reason that we have thousands and thousands of bridges which should have been repaired in the '80s which weren't.
Q Mr. President, we've got a border war of sorts going on here in San Diego. A lot of it has to do with illegal aliens coming across taking some jobs. And now there's an anti feeling on both sides, including a boycott being called for against American businesses. What can you do to stop the anti feeling on both sides?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think, first of all, from the point of view of the anti feeling on our side, we have to be able to enforce our immigration laws more equitably and more firmly. We welcome immigrants into this country; we always have. Southern California is, in many ways, the product of our commitment to opening our doors to immigrants. But when we have so many illegal immigrants and half of them now lodging in California at a time of economic difficulty, it undermines support for immigration in general. So first we have to try to enforce our immigration laws.
Let me just mention that just this week the Senate passed, and I will soon sign, the bill that will permit 600 more border agents and 200 others in supporting roles to help to increase our capacity to enforce our immigration laws. So that's a beginning.
The second thing we have to do in your area is get that horrible pollution problem fixed, where you're getting all the pollution coming up from Mexico and raw sewage. We've got to accelerate the construction of that sewage treatment facility down there and do what we can to make sure that people pay their fair share on the Mexican side of the border. Congressman Filner is doing a terrific job for you back in Washington on that.
The third thing we need to do on the Mexican side of the border, I guess, is to remind our friends in Mexico that we're not anti-immigration. We just want to enforce our laws. We're doing our best -- I am at least -- to pass the NAFTA treaty, and I hope that I'll have a lot of support in the Congress from California on that, because it will be good for easing the immigration pressures. So we have to assure the Mexicans that we want to work with them, we want to be a partner with them, but we have every right to want our immigration laws to be respected and honored.
Q Okay, Mr. President, thank you very much for joining us this morning.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
END12:01 P.M. EDT