Illegal Immigration A Central Issue In GOP Race

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Mara Liasson, national political correspondent, NPR
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Mark Krikorian, executive director, Center for Immigration Studies

Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain have engaged in a round of one-upmanship on the issue, with Bachmann promising to build a double fence on the U.S.-Mexico border and Cain saying he would electrify the border fence. A number of Latino republicans warn that their party risks alienating Latino voters.

NEAL CONAN, host: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. Since Texas Governor Rick Perry's entrance, immigration has become even more important in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Governor Perry's described a fence along the entire length of the border as impractical and supports in-state tuition for illegal immigrants who graduate from Texas high schools.

Over the weekend, rivals Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain took their arguments to a new level. Bachmann proposed to build a double-fence along the entire border, while Cain said he would electrify that border fence and then back it up with real guns and real bullets. He later said that was a joke.

We could hear more of the same when the GOP presidential hopefuls gather for another debate tonight in Nevada. If you vote Republican, what do you want to hear on immigration this evening? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, writer Christopher Buckley on the 50th anniversary edition of "Catch-22," but first the Republican presidential candidates and immigration. And we begin with Mara Liasson, NPR's national political correspondent, who joins us here in Studio 3A. Mara, nice to have you back.

MARA LIASSON: Nice to be here.

CONAN: And is this in part a tactical weapon that just about every other candidate uses against Rick Perry?

LIASSON: Well, it certainly was the one time that Mitt Romney had to move to the right. One of the most remarkable things about this Republican nominating battle is how little Mitt Romney's had to move to the right. That's always been his weak spot. But he found something that he could be more conservative than Rick Perry on, and that was this notion of in-state tuition.

And Rick Perry, who otherwise has pretty impeccable conservative credentials, he got into the race as kind of a Rick Perry favorite based on what people thought they knew about him, he didn't do much to define himself in the early weeks. Instead, he appeared at one debate a week, practically, and he was hit on this policy that was widely popular in Texas. I think he said it got four dissenting votes in the state legislature. It was supported across the spectrum by Republicans and Democrats, to allow - excuse me - the sons and daughters of illegal immigrants, some of them illegal themselves, in-state tuition at Texas universities.

This is something that he had a hard time explaining in the beginning, but it, along with his poor debate performances, definitely caused him to lose the vast majority of his support.

CONAN: It can be said that the others in the field have been vying to become the anti-Mitt Romney - the person whose support has held pretty steady at 25 percent or so of the Republican electorate - and they have come and gone. But this one issue seems to be one way to tear down Rick Perry.

LIASSON: Yes, it certainly is in a way that anybody can get to the right of Mitt Romney now, since he's positioned himself as a strong anti-immigrationist, which is kind of interesting because you'd think that for a general election he needs to be able to appeal to Hispanic voters. They're the fastest-growing electoral bloc in the country.

Of all the things that Republicans don't want to be too far to the right on, it's immigration. It's interesting because he hasn't had to do it in many other ways, but there's always talk that anything Mitt Romney says about Rick Perry's immigration stand can be fixed in the general election just by putting Marco Rubio on the ticket, although Rubio says, you know, he won't be on the ticket.

CONAN: Not running for vice president...

LIASSON: We don't know if that's Shermanesque or not.

CONAN: I don't know if anybody's ever run for vice president.

LIASSON: Right, but that's pretty interesting. That is the one area, and we should say that the backdrop of all of this is that illegal immigration has dropped to historic lows during this recession and because of border security and because of the increased deportations by the Obama administration.

So immigration is not actually a growing - illegal immigration is not an actual growing problem, but it is a huge issue for Republican conservative voters.

CONAN: Just today the Border Control said the Obama administration deported a record number, 400,000 almost, in the past fiscal year. That's news, and it makes President Obama vulnerable. He got something like 70 percent of the Latino vote last time around. It was a big factor in his coalition, and he is vulnerable on that.

LIASSON: He is vulnerable. One of the biggest reasons he's vulnerable is not so much that he's increased deportations but that he's increased them in the absence of getting a comprehensive immigration bill passed.

One of the reasons he has stepped up deportations was trying to show - it was a futile gesture - but he was trying to prove to his Republican potential allies in Congress that he's being tough on immigration, and yes, we have to seal the border first before we do something about the illegal immigrants who are here in this country and somehow either legalize them or give them some kind of amnesty.

That failed, and what he's doing now is, because he couldn't get immigration - an immigration bill through, a comprehensive one - he also failed to get the DREAM Act through - that was basically a version of Rick Perry's in-state tuition plan...

CONAN: Not for lack of trying.

LIASSON: Not for lack of trying. He needs to convince Hispanic voters that he tried as hard as he humanly could, and the Republicans stopped him, and he also has to do something about deportations now because that's all he's left with. In other words, he can't get the immigration reform. He's left with the stick, not the carrot.

And what he has done recently is he's said that he's changing the administration's approach to deportations, where they're focusing only on criminals, and they won't be deporting DREAM Act kids, in other words kids who were brought here as children or infants illegally - now they're in school, or they want to enroll in the military, something like that. He won't be focusing on them.

And that has gotten him some praise from the Hispanic community, even though in general they're frustrated as - you know, with the lack of progress on immigration reform.

CONAN: We want to hear your thoughts. Those of you who vote Republican, what do you want to hear on immigration tonight in the debate in Nevada? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And we'll start with Leanne(ph), Leanne with us from Oklahoma City.

LEANNE: Good afternoon.

CONAN: Good afternoon.

LEANNE: I'm hoping to hear more about beefing up security on the border and removing those from this country that are not here legally. I went to enroll my son in pre-K last year and could not do that because when we got there, there was a line of 60 or more people, none of which had proof of citizenship, and we were informed by the school that they don't have to have to be enrolled, they just have to have an electric bill in their name.

And there was not one spot left for the mothers that showed up at 8:00, when we would - normally would.

CONAN: The Supreme Court has ruled...

LEANNE: Schools are overcrowded, and it is directly due to a lot of the illegal immigrants that are here in my state.

CONAN: The Supreme Court has ruled that the public schools cannot deny an education to any child who lives in the district.

LEANNE: Well, they only have so many spaces when it comes to pre-K because that's not, you know, something they have to give you. And my son, I've lived in that neighborhood all my life. My mother went to school at this particular grade school. I pay property taxes in this neighborhood, and my son was unable to attend pre-K because all of the spots were taken up by the Hispanic people that were there lined up at 4:00 in the morning.

And he did not get to attend pre-K, and I pay property taxes to support that school, and I feel like I was jilted, and so was my son.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, we appreciate it.

LEANNE: You're very welcome.

CONAN: And Mara Liasson, Leanne is hardly alone, and that is why this is such an emotional issue for many in the Republican primary.

LIASSON: Yeah, it's an emotional issue. Now, of course, we have no idea how many of those Hispanic people in line in front of Leanne paid property taxes too, and that is the reason, one of the many reasons, that the Supreme Court ruled the way it did, is that these people who are in this country are paying taxes, and they're working, and they're abiding by the laws of this country, and I think the Obama administration's plan is to deport people who are not abiding by the laws.

But otherwise, if they are law-abiding citizens, they're going to leave them alone. This is a big problem that has not been solved, and that's why you're seeing the politics around it. I mean, we have, you know, I think around 11 million illegal immigrations in this country. They're here for a reason: to work.

And they are - in many communities you hear from employers who say we cannot fill these jobs. Recently this week on NPR, Debbie Elliott did a good piece from Alabama about these people saying I'm as conservative as you come, business owners, but I cannot get people to do these jobs in my laundry or whatever business this guy had.

And something has to be done about this. We need free flows of labor, and we need to have people who are here legally, not illegally, and both sides have failed to come up with a - both parties have failed to come up with a solution to this, and therefore they're leaving people on the front lines of this problem like Leanne and her son.

CONAN: There's also the fact that, yes, people say beef up border security, and prevent those crossing. And as you noted, the rates of crossing are way down. Nevertheless, a lot of people come across the border with tourist visas and simply overstay their visas.

LIASSON: That's right, they come across perfectly legally. No number of soldiers on the border or National Guard could stop them because they're coming into this country legally. They end up staying here illegally, but they're here legally.

CONAN: And this raises another question. Yes, people say in the debate, and we'll expect to hear that tonight, double-up border security, build a better fence, use troops, whatever. Yet what do you do about those 11 million people who - at least - who have been here, many of them for decades?

LIASSON: That is really the question, and that's the problem that Leanne is confronting in her daily life, that every - both sides, both Democrats and Republicans, agree that border security should be stepped up and we shouldn't allow any more illegal people to come in. But they have utterly failed to come up with a solution to the 11 million undocumented workers who are here in this country now.

Some people believe in mass deportations. That might be practical, might not. I have never heard anybody explain to me how it would actually be done. There are some states that have passed laws where teachers have to go and find the papers of each student to make sure...

CONAN: Schools, not teachers.

LIASSON: Schools, I mean schools. But that's something that most municipalities haven't wanted to do. A lot of times these people are upstanding members of the community, and they're part of the fabric of these cities and towns. This is a real problem. I mean, it has to be solved, and people have made - various presidents of various political parties have made attempts, including George W. Bush, who wanted to do something, wanted to provide some kind of a very slow path to legalization for illegal immigrants here, and his own party turned against him.

CONAN: Here's an email from Chris(ph): I would like to hear the candidates explain how they would or would not support a state's right to govern its own immigration and laws. That, of course, Alabama the most recent to pass a law, Arizona the most - probably the first and the most famous. And these are issues that are going to be decided by the Supreme Court.

LIASSON: These are all really good questions for the Republican candidates, and with the exception of Rick Perry's in-state tuition plan, I haven't heard immigration discussed fully and comprehensively in any of the debates so far.

CONAN: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson, thanks very much for your time today.

LIASSON: Thank you.

CONAN: We'll be listening closely to the debate tonight, as I'm sure you will be too. We're talking about the GOP candidates' stances on immigration, an issue likely to come up tonight at the Republican debate. If you vote Republican, what do you want to hear on immigration this evening? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation at our website. Go to npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan. Stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.


CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. Immigration, more and more, has become a major issue among GOP presidential hopefuls. Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain took increasingly strong stances on border security in recent days. That jockeying may continue tonight when the Republican candidates debate in Las Vegas.

There are some in the GOP who warn this push to the right on immigration risks alienating Latino voters. Some evangelicals argue it's not Christian. Others believe border control is a matter of national security. We'll talk about what's dividing the strong, divergent views within the GOP in a moment and why the issue could play such a significant role in the primaries.

If you vote Republican, what do you want to hear on immigration this evening? 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Reverend Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference. He's also executive committee member of the National Association of Evangelicals and joins us on the phone from his office in Sacramento. Good to have you with us today.

The Reverend SAMUEL RODRIGUEZ: Thank you for having me.

CONAN: Also with us here in Studio 3A in Washington is Mark Krikorian, executive director at the Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative research organization that looks at many issues associated with immigration. Good to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.

MARK KRIKORIAN: Glad to be here.

CONAN: And Reverend Rodriguez, what would you like to hear at the GOP presidential candidates' debate tonight on immigration?

RODRIGUEZ: I would like to hear the candidates make a pledge to distance themselves from polarizing the rhetoric that really serves to do nothing good for the conversation regarding immigration reform but continues to alienate the Hispanic-American electorate.

The posture taken by many of these GOP presidential hopefuls is one that is, in essence, sacrificing the Hispanic electorate on the altar of political expediency.

It - Leanne's statement really carries the heart of the message. At the end of her statement, Leanne, regarding her pre-K issues, stated the following: I came to the daycare and saw a line full of Hispanics. Now that's the problem. This broad generalization, nothing about illegal but the idea that there is a problem with this growth in the Hispanic community.

Republican hopefuls are alienating Hispanic voters more and more, and it will be impossible to retake the White House in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico or Florida without a significant turn of Hispanics back to the GOP.

CONAN: Mark Krikorian, Reverend Rodriguez says it's bad policy and bad politics.

KRIKORIAN: Well, if the policies that Reverend Rodriguez and his allies have been promoting are such good politics, then why didn't the Democrats enact them when they had veto-proof - I mean, not veto-proof, they had huge majorities in both houses of Congress, and they had a sympathetic president?

And the reason is that even Democrats are not interested in promoting amnesty or voting for it and putting their name on it. What we need is some seriousness about the kind of across-the-board enforcement that we have to have to have a credible enforcement, immigration enforcement system.

And that's why tonight I would actually like to hear less about the fence because fencing is a tool, it's a useful thing, but it's just one tool among many. I'd like to hear more about the other elements that are necessary. For instance, Mara talked about a third to a half of the illegal population came in legally. To this day, we don't have a credible system to track whether a legal visitor has actually left or not. That's pretty important. I'd like to hear somebody talk about that.

The - turning the magnet of jobs off through an online - use of online system called eVerify so that when an employer hires somebody, he actually is able to check against the existing government databases whether that guy is lying to him about his name and Social Security number.

I think Governor Romney is the only one to even have mentioned that, briefly in passing. So what we need is some more seriousness about even immigration enforcement in order to move the debate forward.

CONAN: And I hear you talking about policy. What about the politics that Samuel Rodriguez mentioned: This is alienating Latino voters, the fastest-growing group in the country and critical, as he pointed out, to elections in places like Nevada and New Mexico and California.

KRIKORIAN: There's a couple points. First of all, Hispanic-American voters are American voters, and they're interested in all the same stuff everybody else is.

CONAN: And last time went 70 percent for Barack Obama.

KRIKORIAN: But they almost always have. I mean, Hispanic voters are a majority-Democratic constituency. The best they've gone, between say 25 and 35 percent Republican. And obviously no candidate should go out of his way to alienate any group of voters, and this nonsense about electrifying the fence, I mean, that's sort of Archie Bunker-ism.

I mean, I don't know what Herman Cain was even thinking, although I think that's sort of a consistent trend in a lot of his public statements. But whoever the Republican nominee is will in fact and should in fact do the kind of normal outreach you do to any important voter group and, you know, will - I mean, I'm willing to bet Reverend Rodriguez in the fall that, you know, this ultimately probably isn't going to make that much difference in the outcome, nationwide, of who wins.

And last year, immigration was not a relevant element in people's turnout.

CONAN: And Reverend Rodriguez, I'm sure you were about to point out that George W. Bush did rather better among Latinos.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, fact check there, 44 percent...

KRIKORIAN: No, he didn't. That's false. It was 38 percent, actually.

RODRIGUEZ: Forty-four percent, actually, and in...

CONAN: We'll agree to disagree, so go ahead.

RODRIGUEZ: In conversations that I had with Karl Rove after that election, we were looking at 50 to 61 percent, by the way, all things being equal, in 2008. And of course immigration reform emerged in 2005, 2006, and hence the current reality.

Look, what I would like to hear today is a statement from the presidential hopefuls basically stating we are anti-illegal immigration, but we are pro-legal immigration. We are anti-amnesty, but we are pro-in favor of a system or a process that will address the issue of 11 million individuals here that are currently undocumented by providing the facility or the platform for integration.

I'm not even mentioning the word citizenship but somehow getting these people out of the shadows and integrating them in the collective canopy of what we call the American experience. I would agree with the idea let's deport those that are involved in nefarious activity, let's make sure that we stop all further illegal immigration.

KRIKORIAN: I think the great question here, even on behalf of Hispanic-Americans, is what do we do with those that are currently here? That's the question the presidential hopefuls need to address.

CONAN: Let's get a caller in on the conversation. We want to hear from those who vote Republican. What do you want to hear on immigration tonight at the debate in Las Vegas? Let's go next to Ken(ph), Ken with us from Fort Lauderdale.

KEN: What's infuriating about this discussion, and I appreciate your having it, is the absolute lack of acknowledgement about what's truly at the heart here, and that is - and Democrats are every bit as bad as Republicans - is the sacrifice of national security for cheap labor. The whores here are the chamber - the United States Chamber of Commerce and all their toadies who would play this game that - this whole discussion is a game when we would allow cheap labor, and that's what it's about, cheap labor. That's all I've got to say, sir.

CONAN: All right, Ken, thanks very much, and by national security, it is by overwhelmingly large numbers people coming across the border looking for work, but yes, there are a percentage of human traffickers, drug smugglers and at least the threat of terrorism. And the business community is all in favor of more people coming across the border.

KRIKORIAN: I mean, as far as the national security side of it, any system that an illegal alien dishwasher can sneak through is one that obviously a terrorist or a cartel member can sneak through. So it really is - immigration control is, especially in modern conditions, central to national security.

But the business point is right. I mean, we - this really is about cheap labor, and that yields these very unusual alliances where the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and the ACLU and others are all kind of on the same side of this debate with really the only people on the other side is the public at large.

I mean, when you look at the array of organized promotion of amnesty and de facto open borders, it's amazing that it hasn't happened, and it hasn't happened because the opposition to it is so deep and widespread and not limited to Republicans but also to independents and lots of Democrats.

CONAN: Let's go next to James(ph), and James with us from Syracuse in New York.

JAMES: Hi, how are you?

CONAN: Good, thanks.

JAMES: Good. I just had two quick things to add to this. First of all, I'd like the entire United States to be returned to the American Indians that were here first, and then we can talk about who is legal and who is not, especially from the European people that are, you know, so fond of commenting on this issue. No one is illegal, and I just want to get that out there. This is a racist issue, and I really don't want to hear from this guy anymore.

CONAN: Thanks very much, James, appreciate your call. There is another aspect, and Reverend Rodriguez, we have talked about policy, and we've talked about politics. There is morality. These candidates have also, for the most part, jockeyed with each other to explain their Christian values. What's the Christian thing to do here?

RODRIGUEZ: The Christian thing to do is to reconcile - let me us some scripture here -Leviticus 19 with Romans 13. This immigration issue is, first and foremost, an issue of justice. And in my opinion, even biblical justice - there is a moral imperative behind this.

The fact of the matter is when one of the presidential hopefuls in one of the debates had the audacity of saying it's the right thing to do for the sake of these children - as it pertains to legislative means in his corresponding state - providing an avenue for education for children who came to this country without any sort of admission of their own right. And for people to boo, to me, that was morally reprehensible.

For us to punish children, it's an issue of justice. To separate families and deport mom and dad and leave the children behind in daycare, it is an issue of justice. This is America in the 21st century. Again, we need to reconcile the rule of law with compassion for the stranger. Can we find a middle ground? I think we can. I think we can find that middle ground, a just integration solution. Let's stop illegal immigration. Let's be strong on border enforcement - not just strong, but very strong.

There's a narco-trafficking war in Mexico that is permeating even the Southern states. So we have a responsibility as a sovereign nation to protect our borders and stop illegal immigration. The question is: What do we do with 11 million people currently here? Mass deportation? The last time we deported millions of people anywhere around the world, it didn't fare pretty good for the outcome for those that were being deported. And the PR campaign around the world is not truly acceptable.

At the end of the day, here's what we know from the facts and all the surveys out there currently, that the majority of Americans are in support of an immigration reform solution that will stop illegal immigration, but will provide a pathway for integration for those that are currently here. We need to address this.

CONAN: And let me turn that same question to you, Mark Krikorian. There's a moral element here.

KRIKORIAN: Yeah, but - there is, as in most policy debates. Unfortunately, this is the kind of facile moralizing that led Governor Perry to say that anybody who disagreed with him didn't have a heart or was heartless, or however he put it...

CONAN: (unintelligible)

KRIKORIAN: ...which was really the core of his, frankly, his problems, politically, with Republican voters. The fact is, there's clearly a moral issue here, but there's also a practical issue. Scripture does not tell us the specifics about how the Immigration and Nationality Act should be written or enforced. There are competing interests. There are costs and benefits. And, you know, the question is: What about the children whose futures have been ruined by illegal immigrants who have stolen their identity and then saddled these kids with debt and bad credit histories?

What about the ex-con, the American ex-con getting out of jail who can't find a job as a dishwasher because he doesn't speak Spanish, and you can't just function in the back of a restaurant in most places if you don't speak Spanish. These - I mean, there are competing problems, here. But the question is: Whose - for whom should we have compassion first? In other words, where does our compassion start? And frankly, we have a responsibility to our own people first, and only later, only secondarily, to those who are foreigners.

CONAN: Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies. Also with us, the Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News. Let's go next to Clark, and Clark on the line from Philadelphia.

CLARK: Hello. So I own a house in Arizona. I did my bachelor's degree at Arizona State University. And Arizona State, when I was going there - and I believe it still is - was notorious for - it's incredibly hard to get in-state tuition there. And as I struggled to get in-state tuition - I paid out-of-state tuition twice, and keep in mind, I lived in there two years prior to applying for in-state tuition. I worked. I paid taxes. I was married to an Arizona resident, and I own a house. And they would not grant me in-state tuition.

And at that time, illegal immigrants were - they were granted in-state tuition. And actually, at the time, when I graduated, President Obama, the new leader, President Obama spoke at my graduation 2009. And Arizona had just enacted a law saying that if you're an illegal alien, you could no longer receive in-state tuition. Anyways, there was picket lines, saying, like, what are we suppose to do, like, if we can't get in-state tuition? And it just infuriating me, because, like, what about me and what about the taxpayer? What about the U.S. citizen first?

I mean, I struggled to pay tuition. I accumulated massive debt. And I - that's something I would really like to see them address. Rick Perry's idea that it - I mean, I don't feel it really looks at the taxpayer first, the citizen and how it hurts the citizen.

CONAN: Samuel Rodriguez?

RODRIGUEZ: If you are a child raised in the state and you lived in that state for five, 10, 15 years and you're pursuing higher education and the state disqualifies you from having access to the resources that will enable you to be successful in your academic endeavor, where do we push these young people to? At the end of the day, they're going to end up - somewhere down the road, somewhere down the road, they're going to end up living on government subsidies. At the end of the day, our taxpayers will be supporting them for a longer trajectory than if we would have provided a facilitative platform for their academic endeavor.

It's wrong to punish children who, by no right of their own, arrived in that corresponding state. In-state tuition for children that were raised there, that they identify that state as their home, I think it's something that's practical and viable, and Governor Perry was right to enact it in the state of Texas.

CONAN: And this is the one issue that comes up again and again in Republican debates, Mark Krikorian.

KRIKORIAN: Sure. The in-state tuition is kind of a phony issue. That's - or a superficial issue. The real concern is legalizing those kids or not because, frankly, you get in-state tuition at University of Texas. You graduate with your degree in whatever, then what? If you're an illegal alien, you can't work. I mean, you're not going to be, in fact, doing anything that's going to be contributing to society, as they put it. The question is: Is there an argument for legalizing certain young people who grew up here, who are illegal immigrants or not? And that's a debate, I think, is worth having, and there are nuances to it that neither the opponents nor the supporters are willing to really engage.

CONAN: The DREAM Act also covered those who served in the United States armed forces.

KRIKORIAN: Would have, yeah.

CONAN: Would have.

KRIKORIAN: The proposed DREAM Act, yes. Oh, that's a tiny share of the number of people that would have been involved.

CONAN: Yeah. Finally, Samuel Rodriguez, before we let you go, we know you were meeting with - and other Christian leaders with President Obama last week. Was this issue of deportation among those you talked about?

RODRIGUEZ: Deportation specifically was not brought up, but an affirmation - a comprehensive immigration reform solution was brought forth before the president, and he affirmed that commitment to immigration reform.

CONAN: And - even though he was not able to deliver in the first three years?

RODRIGUEZ: That is correct. He wasn't able to deliver, and it's disappointing that with a Democratic majority, as Mark alluded to in the beginning part of this conversation, a great amount of disappointment to both the Hispanic and evangelical communities. Both parties are to blame. I think both the elephant and the donkey are playing proverbial football here with the Hispanic electorate and with the issue of immigration reform. At the end of the day, it is the fastest growing demographic in America, the Hispanic electorate, and someone's going to have to pay the piper somewhere down the road. It may be - very well be the 2012 election.

CONAN: Reverend Rodriguez, thanks very much for your time today.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you.

CONAN: Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and, as we mentioned, met with the president last week. Also our thanks to Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. Appreciate your time today.

KRIKORIAN: Thank you.

CONAN: Coming up, 50 years after Joseph Heller first published "Catch-22," what can we still learn from his novel? 800-989-8255. Christopher Buckley wrote a new introduction to the 50th anniversary edition. He joins us in just a moment. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

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