Two Views on the Immigration Debate

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A congressional impasse on new immigration legislation has left many Americans perplexed and uncertain. Debbie Elliott hears from Cecilia Munoz, vice president for the National Council of La Raza, a national Hispanic advocacy group, and from Dale McGlothlin of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which seeks tougher enforcement of immigration law and stricter border security.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

We turn now to Cecilia Munoz. She's vice president of the National Council of La Raza, a national Hispanic advocacy group. Ms. Munoz, hello again.

Ms. CECILIA MUNOZ (Vice President, National Council of La Raza): Hi, there.

ELLIOTT: We spoke a couple of weeks ago, before the Senate started these discussions and now, as we just heard, this much heralded compromise has been scuttled. Where does this leave you and those you represent?

Ms. MUNOZ: Well, we are determined to bring immigration reform to this country. So we are not done and we are hopeful that the Senate isn't done either.

ELLIOTT: You know, we've just heard an analyst tell us that the stalemate in the Senate reflects that this nation doesn't really know how to deal with this. Realistically, do you think that this can be resolved in an election year?

Ms. MUNOZ: I believe it can be resolved in an election year because the level of bipartisanship on this issue grew this week. We had Republicans who a week ago were saying they wanted to do what the House did, a sort of ugly enforcement-only approach, sign on to a bi-partisan compromise. The leadership in the Senate on both sides of the aisle needs to sit down work out and agreement for bringing this bill to the floor. I think once it's brought to the floor, it'll get somewhere around 70 votes.

ELLIOTT: What's the motivation for them? It's risky passing controversial legislation in an election year.

Ms. MUNOZ: It's riskier not acting on immigration reform. On both sides of the aisle. And for either Republicans or Democrats to come to any community and say, we worked this issue to an impasse and now please vote for us, I think is not a good election strategy.

ELLIOTT: Now, I understand Monday has been set aside as a day of big protests. What do you hope the message will be from these marches?

Ms. MUNOZ: People are marching to communicate that they're outraged by some of the enforcement approaches which are on the table in both the House and the Senate. It's really an expression of hope that this debate will get past the politics and towards actually legislating.

ELLIOTT: Cecilia Munoz is the vice president for the National Council of La Raza. Thanks so much for being with us.

Ms. MUNOZ: Thank you.

ELLIOTT: Dale McGlothlin from the Federation for American Immigration Reform is on the phone. His group lobbies for tougher enforcement of immigration law and for stricter border security. Welcome to the program.

Mr. DALE MCGLOTHLIN (Chief Operating Officer, Federation for American Immigration Reform): Well, good afternoon, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: What was your reaction this week when the Senate compromise on immigration fell apart?

Mr. MCGLOTHLIN: Well, we were, we worked awfully hard to help make that happen. We were thrilled that that fell apart.

ELLIOTT: Do you think that immigration legislation is dead for this Congress?

Mr. MCGLOTHLIN: I certainly hope not. You know, if the Republican Party is smart, they'll crack down on border security and enforcement. The Sensenbrenner Bill in the House is a good start. If Bill Frist would step up in the Senate and put up one that is only border security and enforcement, then we could marry those two in conference and we would have some landmark legislation.

I think the American people are gonna be on our side of this issue in two weeks. Once these protests take place in the streets and people demand rights of American citizens, it's gonna work in our favor. And our lobbying strategy is to help the Senate keep a backbone, and then we've gotta work with the House.

We've gotta keep the House strong because if we do have a bill, we've gotta have the support of the people who've been saying we're tough on border security, we're tough on enforcement. We've gotta get them to stay the line on that when it comes to conference.

ELLIOTT: Now, why is your group so opposed to any sort of program that would allow the people who have been here in this country and working illegally to become legal?

Mr. MCGLOTHLIN: Well, Debbie, we think it's the worst possible precedent that we set. We're a nation of laws, and we have to abide by the rule of law. If there's anything that makes America great, it's our sense of justice.

ELLIOTT: So you don't think paying a fine and paying back taxes is enough?

Mr. MCGLOTHLIN: Certainly not. No, we think that, you know, it sets the precedent of that you can break our laws with impunity and eventually you're gonna be forgiven. And we also know that from the last two amnesties that have happened, it is a huge magnet that draws more illegal immigration to the United States because people believe that all I have to do is cross the border, stay quiet long enough, and I'll be amnestied.

ELLIOTT: How do you see the solution here since there are so many businesses that say they have to have this labor to stay afloat?

Mr. MCGLOTHLIN: Well, I'm not sure that we actually need that labor. I mean, it's embarrassing for the President of the United States to go out to the rest of the world and say that there are jobs that Americans won't do. We can compete with China. We can compete with Vietnam. But we can do it while we're fair to the American worker.

ELLIOTT: Dale McGlothlin is the chief operating officer of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Thanks for speaking with us.

Mr. MCGLOTHLIN: Thank you, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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