Former INS, ICE Heads Try To Fix Immigration The U.S.-Mexico border is often ground zero in the debate over illegal immigration. Doris Meissner and Julie Myers Wood both headed the U.S. immigration services. They agree that the problem is much more vast -- and more complicated -- than the border alone.
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Former INS, ICE Heads Try To Fix Immigration

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Former INS, ICE Heads Try To Fix Immigration

Former INS, ICE Heads Try To Fix Immigration

Former INS, ICE Heads Try To Fix Immigration

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The U.S.-Mexico border is often ground zero in the debate over illegal immigration. Doris Meissner and Julie Myers Wood both headed the U.S. immigration services. They agree that the problem is much more vast — and more complicated — than the border alone.


This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.

Arizona's tough new immigration law provoked demonstrations, pro and anti, court challenges and reactions from disgust to delight. A study released last month by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press reports that nearly 60 percent of Americans agree with the law. And several states may adopt similar legislation, though critics hope the federal courts will put the law on hold and eventually rule it unconstitutional. Almost everyone on all sides accepts that the law and the reaction flow from deep frustration over a broken immigration system.

So why can't the federal government enforce the laws that are already on the books? In a moment, two former heads of the Immigration Service and your calls. Our phone number here in Washington is 800-989-8255, email us You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, Monty Python's Eric Idle on his operatic adaptation of "The Life of Brian," "Not the Messiah," but first, immigration enforcement.

And our guests are here in Studio 3A. Doris Meissner served as commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or INS, under President Clinton. She's now a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute. Nice to have you with us today.

Ms. DORIS MEISSNER (Former Commissioner, Immigration and Naturalization Service; Senior Fellow, Migration Policy Institute): Thank you, nice to be here.

CONAN: And later, many of those same responsibilities were passed on to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Julie Myers Wood headed ICE under President Bush. Thanks very much for being with us today.

Ms. JULIE MYERS WOOD (Former Assistant Secretary, Immigration and Customs Enforcement): Oh, thanks for having me.

CONAN: And this is a large question. In a nutshell, though, what's wrong with why is it so difficult to enforce the laws that are on the books, Doris Meissner?

Ms. MEISSNER: Well, first of all, there is a lot of enforcement that actually does take place, but these are very big issues, and there are very large numbers of people. The enforcement that takes place is primarily at the border, but there's a lot of enforcement that takes place in the interior of the country.

There are a lot of laws that the federal government is required or has the authority to enforce in the interior. So immigration is dealing with employers. It's dealing with fraudulent document mills. It's dealing with smugglers. It's dealing with other countries. And it's dealing with very large numbers of people that are being removed from the country, detained and being removed from the country.

So we shouldn't think that there's no law enforcement going on. But there are also some real weaknesses in the laws, and that's a lot of what the immigration debate is about is strengthening the laws.

CONAN: And Julie Myers, what do you think the biggest weaknesses are?

Ms. WOOD: Well, one of the biggest weaknesses surely is lack of money, lack of resources for the agents that have a very, very big job, and yet there are fewer ICE agents than there are New York City cops. And yet they are responsible for the entire country. So I think lack of resources is a big problem.

Another big problem is really I think continued or consistent political desire to actually enforce the law. One of the things that's hardest for the government agents to do their job is that there's often different messages about which of these laws that Congress has passed should they actually enforce.

CONAN: Aren't they supposed to enforce all the laws that Congress passes?

Ms. WOOD: Well, that's what the agency would say. But often they hear from Congress, and even from different administrations, not only a different emphasis on certain kinds of laws but in implicit or explicit, you know, wink and a nod that certain laws shouldn't be a focus, that certain laws shouldnt be an area where the agency spends its resources.

And so if you are an illegal worker, or you're an undocumented individual, or you're an illegal alien that's come into this country, you hear all these mixed messages, and there's not a lot of incentive necessarily for you to leave on your.

CONAN: Doris Meissner, would you agree?

Ms. MEISSNER: Well, I think that the politics is an important part of it. I also think that all of our law enforcement agencies, not simply Immigration, do have to set priorities, do have to decide what are the most important areas of emphasis, and that changes. That shifts over time.

I mean, when I was there in the 1990s, the economy was growing. It was very employers wanted to have workers, and people were pretty willing to overlook any kinds of violations of immigration law.

When Julie was there, it was after 9/11, and we had a very different outlook on what it is that enforcement ought to look like.

CONAN: You've also written about, Julie, some about, Julie Myers Wood, about some of the political problems because people on both extremes find it very hard to compromise here.

Ms. WOOD: That's exactly right. I think the rhetoric drives folks who have good, honest intentions on either side of the issue to do things that go too far on one side or the other.

You have instances where whole cities refuse to have the fingerprints of convicted felons shared with ICE because they're trying to protect victims. And you also have instances where laws like the Arizona law, and I think in its initial drafting in particular, really go too far and kind of push too hard on particular issues. And very few people...

CONAN: For sanctuary cities and Arizona as the two extremes.

Ms. WOOD: That's exactly right. That's exactly right.

CONAN: And given those difficulties, and all of the shouting, it's very difficult to make any progress. You were writing earlier this year that there was apparent goodwill between and a bipartisan approach between Senators Schumer and the senator from South Carolina, as well, Lindsey Graham. That seems all to have gone up in smoke.

Ms. MEISSNER: It has gone up in smoke, and a lot of it is because these issues really do go to much deeper issues about what kinds of values we have as a country, how do we want our law enforcement to look in the interior of the country? Because no matter what happens with immigration enforcement, the effect will actually fall more heavily on United States citizens than it will on any other group. And so we are really talking about things that are very close to the core of who we think we are.

Do we want our fingerprints collected, as has been mentioned? Do we want to carry identification documents? Are we prepared to all be checked when we're hired as against federal databases? These are issues that are involved in ultimately getting the kind of law enforcement on immigration that some of the more some of the really strong voices wanting more enforcement, that's what's actually being brought to the table.

CONAN: Doris Meissner and Julie Myers Wood, both at various times head of the Immigration Service in this country under different names, the INS in Doris Meissner's case, ICE in the case of Julie Myers Wood. 800-989-8255 is our phone number. Email us, And let's begin with Linda(ph), and Linda's on with us from Des Moines in Iowa.

LINDA (Caller): Hi, two points. First of all, employers have been able to ID Social Security numbers for some years (unintelligible). They could do it for workers, any workers. Secondly, if we have NAFTA that makes goods go back and forth freely, then labor should also, two divergent points, maybe, but very valid.

CONAN: Why don't we deal one at a time. There's supposed to be the system that there's...

LINDA: There is.

CONAN: Well, I'm asking one of the commissioners here, just trying to put your question to them a system where they can check Social Security numbers against a computerized list, and that's it's clearly not working.

Ms. WOOD: Well, actually, the system known as E-Verify has made substantial progress over the past couple of years. This program, which was initially called Basic Pilot under Commissioner Meissner's time, has evolved into a program that over 200,000 employers are using not only to check whether a name and Social Security number match but also in the case of foreign nationals to check the picture that's used on a particular identification card.

One of the things that many think would help is to make E-Verify mandatory. And I think the Obama administration should be commended for pushing forward with a Bush administration rule that requires federal contractors to be on E-Verify, and that is greatly expanding the number of employers that do get on E-Verify.

Now, one thing I'll say, E-Verify is not a perfect system. It can't, you know, fully address identity fraud, but it does do some good things. And the caller is exactly right that more employers should be one it.

CONAN: And should E-Verify be mandatory?

LINDA: (Unintelligible).

CONAN: I'm asking the other commissioner a question. Hold on, Linda, just a minute. We'll get back to you - asking Doris Meissner whether the E-Verify should be mandatory.

Ms. MEISSNER: A system like E-Verify should be mandatory. Until it is, we won't have the kind of ability to enforce the law against employers that we need.

CONAN: And Linda, your point was, I'm sorry?

LINDA: My point is the political power rests with the employers who like the cheap labor. So they don't really want to do this.

Ms. MEISSNER: Well, that's I mean, that's the whole point in terms of this being a voluntary system. It's...

LINDA: Well, it shouldn't be voluntarily. It should be required.

Ms. MEISSNER: That's right.

LINDA: (Unintelligible).

CONAN: They agree with you.

LINDA: Okay, (unintelligible) the guy out there trying to make a living, you know.

Ms. MEISSNER: We're agreeing, but the Congress has to act. It's got to be legislated to make it mandatory. That is not something that the executive branch can do on its own, and that's part of why it is that legislation is so essential to strengthen these laws.

Ms. WOOD: One of things that actually, though, is interesting in terms of encouraging employers to join E-Verify is I'm now seeing out in the field very large companies that are mandating for their subcontractors to join E-Verify. And so you actually see the private sector acting on its own, forcing its own subcontractors to join. It can have tremendous effect.

In the case of a very large grocery store, for example, you have, you know, tens of thousands of subcontractors that have joined E-Verify just so they don't lose their big contracts.

CONAN: And does that if you subscribe to E-Verify, does that help if you're discovered later to have some employees who turn out to be illegal?

Ms. WOOD: It does help you, and the MOU that the company sounds with...

CONAN: Memorandum of understanding.

Ms. WOOD: The memorandum of understanding that the company signs with the government, you know, does help you. However, it doesn't help you if you turned a blind eye or if you know, for example, that you're accepting identity thieves, and you're moving forward.

And so one of the things that happened in the previous administration is we did see cases where there were very, very large numbers of identity fraud instances. And in those instances, there were some individuals who were charged even at companies that were on E-Verify.

But I'd say the Obama administration is really trying to use that E-Verify as a key point.

CONAN: And Linda's other point was that if NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, provides for free movement of goods across national boundaries, Canada and Mexico, why shouldn't it provide for the free movement of people across that border, which I guess would be a treaty issue and would have to be addressed by treaty.

Ms. MEISSNER: Well, it would, but I think that that is the kind of a world that we would love to get to at some point in the future, but we're certainly not there yet.

The big analogy here, of course, is Europe and the European Union. What we find in the European Union is that the free movement of people across borders was the very last piece, along with currency reform, of the agreement to go into place, because the Europeans took essentially 30 years from the time that they committed to a European Union to even out living standards among their southern and their northern countries so that they're...

CONAN: And they're not so even.

Ms. MEISSNER: ...and they're not even so even. But they're much more even than they were 30 years ago when they began, so that there wasn't an absolute deluge kind of an effect.

Now, we have never, in North America, committed to a trade I mean a common market. We've committed to a trade agreement. So this is a very this would take a whole series of steps before we get to the point where it would be comfortable and manageable to have a free flow of labor.

CONAN: Linda, good question...

LINDA: Yeah, I think that trade agreement destroyed a lot of livelihoods for the people south of the border. So what do we want to do, start a I'm sorry, I'm getting a little hostile.

CONAN: Okay, Linda. You've raised some good points...

LINDA: You know, I mean, they're people looking for a living, just like everybody else.

CONAN: Indeed, and there's a lot of people north of the border who think that NAFTA made it difficult for their lives, too. So we'll have to talk about that. But we're going to continue...

LINDA: Thank you very much.

CONAN: We're going to continue talking with two former heads of immigration enforcement in this country about why it's so difficult to enforce immigration. If you'd like to join the conversation, 800-989-8255. Email us, Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.

We're talking about the issue of illegal immigration and how to enforce laws already on the books. Both our guests spent much of their careers looking for such solutions.

Julie Myers Wood headed Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE. She's now president of Immigration and Customs Solutions, a consulting firm in the Washington, D.C. area.

Doris Meissner headed the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, INS,�and is now a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute.

If you'd like to join us, 800-989-8255. Email us, Or you can join the conversation on our website. Thats at Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Let me ask you both: An estimated 40 to 45 percent of those here illegally do not walk across the border. They arrive on a plane or a boat or arrive legally with a visa. That gives them the right to be here as a tourist or as a student, and they simply overstay their visas.

We have lists of everybody who comes into the country with one of those visas. We have lists of everybody who went out of the country with or without one of those visas. Can't we compare? Don't we know who those people are?

Ms. MEISSNER: Yes, we can compare, and we - the agencies do compare. But you're talking about a situation where the vast majority of those people who overstay their visas came here as visitors on a tourist visa. They were traveling around the country. They list as their addresses, perfectly, honestly and properly, a hotel in New York and then one at the Grand Canyon and then another one somewhere at Yellowstone.

So you don't have a good way of following up on where they are and finding them that's cost-effective. So as a result, the way in which enforcement against overstays takes place is basically two ways.

If they commit a criminal act, then in one way or another they generally get connected with immigration enforcement. If we had a more airtight way of checking on people that are hired for jobs, that would be the most effective way of intercepting those people, because fundamentally they're staying here to work.

And so this discussion we had earlier about verification and about hiring rules, if that was applying and used by all employers, one could intercept those people far more readily.

CONAN: Julie Myers Wood?

Ms. WOOD: But I think that one other missing piece is that the list going out is not as good as the list you get when you're coming in. And there's been a lot of talk, and in fact Congress has mandated, that a comprehensive exit, biometric exit system, be put into place.

And DHS over multiple administrations has kind of dragged its feet into putting a real exit system into place. And so what ICE has is they're given lists of overstays, and often these people have left the country. And they spend a lot of time working on these prioritized overstays that they get from working with the FBI or other agencies to find out that the person is gone.

But in fact, they can't trust that because all they have is biographic information. So they often have to use attaches overseas to go to somebody's hometown to prove that they have, in fact, left the country. Big waste of resources.

So one thing that could be improved is really to get better lists, get better data to begin with to feed to the law enforcement agencies who could target it in the way Doris talks about.

CONAN: Let's get another caller in. This is Andy, Andy with us from El Paso.

ANDY (Caller): Yes, good afternoon.

CONAN: Afternoon.

ANDY: If there's something put into place to normalize the people that are here illegally, the part of it that seems most inequitable to me are all of the people all over the world who have applied to come here legally, some of them a relative, some of them fall into the quotas, and I've met people who have actually been waiting for 20 years because they're in a second preference, and there's a lot of people from that country wanting to come here.

And people who can come here illegally, they're going to get to cut in front of these people who have been waiting for years and years to come here with legal documents.

CONAN: And I know, Julie Myers Wood, you've written about this.

Ms. WOOD: That's exactly right, and I think your caller is kind of right on point, that a lot of people, people who think that there should be immigration reform and people who don't, think that one of the hardest issues is how do you deal with these inequities, and how do you deal with the folks who, you know, jump to the head of the line, and how do you treat them?

And the problem that the Congress is faced with and the enforcement agencies are faced with is that you have to do something with this large group of individuals, 10.8 million or whatever number you come up with, and how do you do that in a fair way?

And so one proposal that has been put forward is to give them some sort of a penalty, to make them kind of go to court, you know, swear under oath, pay a fine and kind of then put them metaphorically in the back of the line.

Now, realistically, are they really going to be in the back of the line vis-�-vis someone who's been waiting kind of all these years? That's what's really tough, and I think that is one of the hardest things, I think, for members of Congress who are trying to decide where their votes should be to decide on.

CONAN: And Doris Meissner, should we streamline the legal immigration process to reduce the incentive for somebody to just throw up their hands and say I'll just come in illegally?

Ms. MEISSNER: Well, it is a very important point about the inequity, and I think in any kind of an amnesty or legalization proposition, you have to accept the fact that there is an unfairness. It's a practical kind of a response.

But it is also the case that all of the proposals do call for this back of the line, and as Julie says, it is certainly the case that the people who would receive a legalization, even with a penalty, et cetera, would be already in the country.

The reason those people who have tried to play by the rules and apply from abroad are not able to come as readily is because our immigration law is out of date and the quotas and ceilings are artificial, particularly for the countries where the largest family members are coming from.

And that would have Congress would have to put far more numbers into the system in order to make it possible for those backlogs to be worked off before the people already in the country would get legal status, and we would need a system into the future that doesn't just immediately create the same kinds of backlogs again.

That's going to require some real rethinking of some things that we've held onto very tightly. For instance, should we give more numbers to high immigration countries such as the Philippines, such as Mexico, such as India, or should we maintain the idea that we've had for many years that every country should be treated equally?

Those kinds of debates are still lurking out there, and we have to have those debates if we're going to try to rationalize this system for the future.

CONAN: Andy, thanks very much for the call. A similar email from Dee - wrote: There's been a lot of discussion about illegal immigration. I am highly educated, have a good job, paid a lot of taxes that puts me in the top five percent of income, but it's still going to take over six to eight years of completely unpredictable process to get a green card.

Let's see if we can get another caller on the line, and this goes to Jerry(ph), Jerry with us from Cookeville, Tennessee.

JERRY (Caller): Hello. Well, I mean, there's all kinds of, you know, problems with this, but I believe, like, when Bush was president, I really don't think that they really enforced it. You know, they liked the cheap labor and Obama and the Democrats, they want the votes.

And something I found quite interesting with the Obama administration, just last month he said in the 21st century we're no longer defined by our borders. Well, if we're not defined by our borders, I wonder what it is.

And also, last year, when he appointed Celia Munoz to I forget exactly what position in the White House, but she was a legal counsel for La Raza, and they're kind of a radical organization, and the day that she went to work for the White House, the Department of Justice started investigating Sheriff Joe Arpaio. I guess they don't like his tactics, the way that he enforces the law.

CONAN: I think you may overstate the influence of White House aides on the Justice Department. But in any case, politically, neither party wants to enforce this. The Bush administration said, well, businesses who support Republicans wanted the workers. At the same time, the Bush administration was bitterly criticized for raids on meat-packing plants and other places where there were large numbers of illegal immigrants.

Ms. WOOD: It's a really tough issue. I mean, that's one thing that Bush, the Bush administration and the Obama administration agree on, is the immigration system is broken and it needs to be reformed.

At the same time, the law enforcement agencies can't sit back and say, well, someday the system will be reformed so therefore I shouldn't do any enforcement against this type of individual or this type of individual who violated in some other way.

So it's very, very hard, I think, as the caller points out, to do really effective enforcement, and so I think that's why you're seeing this frustration in Arizona and other parts of the country. People feel like not enough has been done.

And one of the solutions from the executive branch has been, on both administrations, let's move towards immigration reform. But because it's so divisive and polarizing, we've not been able to get here so far.

CONAN: We don't seem to be any closer to it. Doris Meissner, you can't speak for the Obama administration, you worked in the Clinton administration - but this idea that Democrats want the votes of Hispanics and Latinos and therefore are soft on immigration reform.

Ms. MEISSNER: There are cross-currents within both parties. That's one of the things that is so difficult about this issue, is that both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party have fundamental disagreements within their own ranks on how - and contending political tensions within their own ranks on how it is that immigration should be done.

Within the Democratic Party, it is certainly, as the caller points out, the Latino vote and the immigrant vote in general that's important, but the counterbalance to that is labor unions and the influence of organized labor, which has traditionally taken a much tighter, more restrictive view of immigration. There are similar...

CONAN: They seem...

Ms. WOOD: Although that's changing.

Ms. MEISSNER: Well, but that's between new unions and old unions. So there's a further breakdown within the constituencies that the different parts of the labor movement represent. So this is exactly why it is that immigration legislation cannot happen, has never happened in the modern era unless it's a strongly bipartisan effort because it will lose votes on one side and on the other side of both of the parties.

CONAN: Jerry, thanks very much for the call. Let's go next to Robin(ph), and Robin is with us from Tucson, Arizona.

ROBIN (Caller): Hi. I'm calling regarding migrant deaths here in the Arizona-Sonora borderlands, where since about 2000 and 2001 we've seen more than 200 migrant bodies discovered every year. And those are just the remains that are found. And at the time, when border militarization escalated in 2000, 2001, Ms. Meissner, herself, had stated that it was believed that the border would act -in Arizona where extreme temperatures are resulting in these deaths - that the border would act as a geographical barrier. And we haven't seen that. We've seen sustained numbers and we've seen sustained deaths. And so, I would just like her to respond to these high numbers of deaths given what she said, given what kind of a nation do we want to be, she had said earlier. I just want her to respond to these deaths in the desert in terms of what kind of a moral nation we are when our policies result in this for 10 years on end.

Ms. MEISSNER: The - you're certainly correct in what it is that our working assumption was at that time. We did believe that - well, we believe because of the history of border crossing. The history of border crossing had been basically four areas where almost 80 percent of the crossings took place: San Diego, Nogales, El Paso and McAllen. We did not anticipate that the smuggling routes would change as quickly as they changed. We believed that we would be able to get control more quickly than the smuggling routes change. That proved to be an erroneous assumption.

But the answer to that - and obviously, the deaths at the border is not something that anybody invited, would defend. There have actually always been deaths at the border. There were deaths at the border before border enforcement was strengthened in the 1990s and in the 2000s. But nobody ever came...

ROBIN: (Unintelligible) that for a moment because there were 14 prior to -sorry, prior to 2000. The average at our office was 14 bodies. That went to over 200 every year since 2000 when militarization escalated along the border.

CONAN: Robin...

ROBIN: And that sustained for 10 years on end. And we have over 2,000 bodies -just of those that have been found - 500 unidentified. And that's just for one jurisdiction in Arizona.

CONAN: And Robin, you say my office, is that the Tucson medical examiner?


CONAN: Okay.

Ms. MEISSNER: No, I am very, very distressed about the death situation at the border. I think that it is certainly not, as you say, the kind of country that we want to be, and we need to solve that problem. But the answer to solving the problem is not to not enforce the border. We must enforce the border. The answer is to have a set of laws and a balanced enforcement system so that the enforcement that takes place in the interior of the country is proportionate to what takes place at the border, so the jobs are not available for people who are not supposed to be crossing the border.

In fact, if we had regulated flows that matched what our labor market needs would be, people would be able to come into the country for work purposes. There would be sufficient visas for those kinds of workers to come that way. They would not be forced to cross the border in an irregular fashion, in a way that leads to the kind of dangers that bring about deaths. So it goes back, again, to what we always come back to. We need a new structure of laws and a much better mechanism for enforcing those laws in order to respond to these kinds of clearly unjust, indefensible circumstances.

CONAN: Robin, I suspect we could talk about this for a long time. But I got to move on to somebody else. Thank you.

ROBIN: Thank you.

CONAN: We're talking with two former heads of immigration enforcement, Doris Meissner and Julie Myers Wood. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's go next to Matthew(ph), Matthew from Buffalo.

MATTHEW (Caller): Hello. Thanks for taking my call. I wanted to respond to one of the earlier callers who had indicated about the fairness or the unfairness of individuals who've been waiting for what could be decades outside of the United States for their turn in line.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

MATTHEW: One of the major problems with our current immigration law is the fact that there is a disincentive for individuals who have either violated the law by overstaying their visa or who have snuck in the U.S. to start to attempt to legalize themselves through the normal channels. And that is if they've been in the U.S. for more than 180 days or one year without lawful presence and they depart, they trigger either a three- or 10-year bar. And the Department of State adjudicating officers take an extreme amount of time in adjudicating waivers which are required in order to establish extreme hardship to a qualifying United States citizen if they are being sponsored for an immigrant visa.

And unless the disincentive to legalize themselves is changed in the law either by bringing back section INA 245(i) that allowed individuals to pay a penalty fee...

CONAN: All right. While we start spitting out form numbers and letters, you're going to start losing the audience there, Matthew. But I'll ask Julie Myers Wood to respond to your point.

Ms. WOOD: Well, certainly, I think that ICE and CIS hope that it's a disincentive, that people shouldn't want to overstay their visa because they know if they overstay it more than 180 days that this penalty will be triggered. Not all folks who are here illegally and overstay their visa then think rationally about those consequences. So the question is kind of what sort of disincentives are you creating each and every day for people who are overstaying your visa?

When you reach to the end, do you think, I should go home so I can have a chance to come back in here again, or I should stay and take my chances that there might be some sort of a legalization? If there is immigration reform, it's possible that individuals who have overstayed their visas in certain instances might be able to legalize. So I'm not really sure how clear the disincentive your caller talks about. But it's true, the immigration system, it's like an onion: many peels, many competing disincentives there.

CONAN: A broken onion, broken in many layers.

Ms. WOOD: That's exactly right.

CONAN: All right.

Ms. WOOD: Chopped up.

CONAN: Chopped up. Okay. We'll end with this email from Paula(ph) in Prescott, Arizona. I get tired of hearing that industry wants cheap labor. In reality, all of us want cheap labor. It allows us to pay $3 for a bag of apples that would otherwise cost over $10 or more. If U.S. citizens pick those apples, multiply those economics across our entire food supply and you'll see why all of us are culpable in maintaining illegal immigration.

And well, that's another part of the discussion that's going to have to be incorporated into the conversation as this debate continues, but we're out of time today. Thank you both very much for taking the time to come in and talk with us. Doris Meissner, former head of INS, and Julie Myers Wood, former head of ICE. They both joined us here in Studio 3A.

Coming up, and now for something completely different. Monty Python's Eric Idle joins us to talk about his riff of a spoof: "Not the Messiah". This is NPR News.

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