Debate Heats Up over Immigration Reform After the House of Representatives passes a tough new immigration law, President Bush and many Democrats argue that it needs to include a program for guest workers, too.
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Debate Heats Up over Immigration Reform

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Debate Heats Up over Immigration Reform

Debate Heats Up over Immigration Reform

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From NPR News in Washington, I'm Michel Martin and this is TALK OF THE NATION. The Senate Judiciary Committee meets today to finish its work on an immigration bill. Republicans remain split on the contentious issue of guest workers. President Bush used his appearance at a naturalization ceremony this morning to make the case for his idea, to create a new guest worker program.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: A temporary worker program is vital to securing our border. By creating a separate, legal channel for those entering America to do an honest day's labor, we would dramatically reduce the number of people trying to sneak back and forth across the border.

MARTIN: The immigration debate, plus the TALK OF THE NATION Opinion Page, another theory on why young, black men are falling behind. It's the TALK OF THE NATION. First, this news.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Michel Martin in Washington sitting in for Neal Conan. Today, on Capitol Hill, Congress takes up what has become one of our most emotionally charged issues, immigration reform. Over the weekend, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in over a dozen cities around the country. The largest was in Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of protestors)

MARTIN: A half a million demonstrators chanting, Si, se puede, or, Yes, we can, protested against a bill, past in the House of Representatives last year, that would make it a felony to enter the country without proper documentation. The House legislation also calls for a 700 mile fence to be built along the U.S.-Mexico border, and would levy stiff penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee takes up the issue. It's considering some of the same measures included in the House bill. For example, tightening border security. But the Senators are also debating the viability of a guest worker program, something President Bush favors, and allowing the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants already here to become legal residents.

This divisive issue has split the Republican Party in this midterm election year. President Bush has asked lawmakers to tone down the sharp rhetoric over immigration. The president wants a guest worker program that would provide temporary visas for foreign workers if American citizens can't be found for certain jobs. Supporters of the guest worker program say that border patrol simply is not enough. It doesn't address the millions already here doing work that Americans want done. But others say it's an amnesty program in disguise. Today, we'll hear different views on immigration reform. Among our guests, Republican Congressman John Shaddeg of Arizona and Democratic Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico. Later in the hour, it's our regular Monday feature, the TALK OF THE NATION Opinion Page. Harvard Professor Orlando Patterson on why analysts need to focus on attitudes, not just the economy, when searching for reasons why so many young, black men are disconnected from the American mainstream.

But first, the national debate over immigration reform. What should immigration reform look like? Does a guest worker program go too far, or not far enough? We'd especially like to hear from those of you, who live near the border, operate businesses there, or have come across the border. Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. The email address is With us for the latest from Capitol Hill is NPR congressional correspondent David Welna. Hi, David.

DAVID WELNA, reporting: Hi, Michel.

MARTIN: David, what is the Senate doing today?

WELNA: Well, it's actually the Senate Judiciary Committee that's dealing with immigration. The Senate itself is talking about lobbying reform. But they're only doing that really to give the Senate Judiciary Committee time to try to reach some kind of a consensus on an immigration reform bill. Majority leader Bill Frist has given them until midnight tonight to reach that consensus. They've been working for the past three weeks to try to reach that. And they're really down to the wire on this. And the big, big issue that is left unresolved and that is extremely complicated to sort out for them is what kind of a guest worker program should be sorted out. What should be done about the 11 to 12 million undocumented foreigners in the country, and where to go with this?

Frist is saying right now that he will introduce his own bill on the Senate floor tomorrow that doesn't have anything to do with guest worker programs, it's all about border security, if the Senate Judiciary Committee fails to come up with its own bill tonight. He says if they do come up with a bill that they could add it as an amendment to the bill that he's bringing out to on the floor. But it gets more complicated still, because Democrats in the Senate are saying they think that Frist should let the Senate Judiciary Committee do its work. If they don't come up with a bill by midnight tonight, well, maybe they should work some more on this. This is a huge reform. There hasn't been immigration reform in Congress for 20 years now. It's a very complex issue. It's a hugely divisive issue, including for Republicans. And they say this is how work should be done in the Senate. It shouldn't be some artificial deadline, a forced march, as a California Democrat Diane Feinstein called it today, that Frist is forcing the committee to come up with a bill when they need much more time to sort out these proposals. There are seven to eight competing proposals alone for the guest worker program.

MARTIN: I'm sorry, David. Let me just interrupt for a second about this deadline issue. Why does the majority leader want this deadline so badly? Why is he being so tough about it?

WELNA: This is an election year. And we have many members of Congress who are very nervous about this legislation. It's something that can be used against them in their bids for re-election. They don't want to vote on this any closer to the November election than they have to. And I think Frist sees this as the last window of opportunity for the Senate to deal with this. As you mentioned, the House dealt with it back in December. But, of course, the House bill didn't address the guest worker program that President Bush wants. So, it's up to the Senate now to come up with something. And Frist has given them until the end of next week, when they go on Easter break, to finish this immigration bill.

MARTIN: Why has immigration become such an important issue this year? It's been talked about for years, and this problem is certainly not new.

WELNA: Well, I think part of it has to do with the general anxiety about the borders being left unsecure. And there have been promises from both parties to do something about that. And there has also been a lot of agitation out along the borders. We have the Minutemen who are taking this into their own hands and trying to enforce border security. We also have a lot of pressure coming from the agg business sector saying that we can't survive, if we don't have more foreign workers coming into the country. And so you have Republicans joining Democrats from agg states, such as Larry Craig from Idaho joining with Diane Feinstein, to say let's let a million and half foreign workers into the country and give them Blue Cards, they're calling them. And they would eventually be on the path to what they call earned adjustment of their status, where they would become legal. And they could even be on the path to citizenship. That's something that the Democrats favor more than Republicans, the citizenship element. But I think that business has sort of joined with labor in saying we have to find some way to find legal status for all these workers who are in the country. It's not enough to simply say they should leave because there's no way we can get them out.

MARTIN: Now, you mentioned earlier, my words not yours, but that the Democrats are happy to let the Republicans beat each other up over this issue. But I'd like to ask you, first of all, where is the center of gravity in the Republican Party on this issue. Is it, are they, is the caucus pretty evenly divided between those on the border states, those not, or people closely allied with big business versus agra businesses? I mean, how, what are the divisions in the Republican caucus? And then, briefly after that, tell me about where the Democrats are on this, other than enjoying the fight on the other side.

WELNA: Right. Well, you know, also, presidential politics enters into this in that Bill Frist is considered a contender for the White House in '08 and John McCain, another Republican in the Senate is also considered a contender. They have competing proposals, really, because Frist only deals with border security, McCain's deals with a path for citizenship for people who are right now in the country illegally. And I think that those two camps are pretty much split among Senate Republicans. They haven't had votes in the full Senate, so we don't really know what the head count is on this right now. But we do know from comments that Republicans in the Senate have made that this is something that they're very anxious about. It's, it's, many are saying this is the most difficult legislation that they're probably going to deal with this entire year. For Democrats, Democrats are sort of standing back and letting, as you said, Republicans beat up each other. But Democrats also have differences. There are Democrats such as Ted Kennedy, from Massachusetts, who is very much for opening up the U.S. to more foreign workers and to speeding a path to citizenship for those who are here. And then there are others, such as Diane Feinstein from California, who are mainly concerned with supplying workers for the agg industry, and having citizenship in the end is not the ultimate goal, but rather having some kind of a regular situation. But this is something that has not pitted Democrats against each other. Right now, it's more Democrats pointing to Frist and saying he's forcing the Senate to do something that it's not quite ready to do yet, and they're trying to make political hay out of that.

MARTIN: NPR's David Welna speaking to us from Capitol Hill. Keep us posted, thanks for coming.

WELNA: I will Michelle, thanks.

MARTIN: And joining us now on the phone from Phoenix, AZ, is Congressman John Shadegg, Republican of Arizona. Welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

Representative JOHN SHADEGG (Republican, Arizona): Hi, Michelle. How are you?

MARTIN: I'm great. Thank you for coming in.

Rep. SHADEGG: You bet.

MARTIN: Or joining us on the phone, I should say. Last year you, as I understand it, you voted for the bill sponsored by your colleague James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. Very tough on border control and on enforcement issues did not include a guest worker program, but now as I understand it, that you've changed your mind somewhat and are now supporting a guest worker provision. Is that accurate and if so, why?

SHADEGG: Well, it is accurate that I support a guest worker provision, but it is not accurate that I've changed my mind. I urged our leadership to do a comprehensive bill rather than an enforcement only bill, and I've urged them to do that from the get-go. I believe that this problem requires a comprehensive solution, that you cannot do it by enforcement only. My reason for going ahead and voting for the enforcement only bill is that we needed a vehicle. We needed a bill that addressed the problem of illegal immigration to meet up with the Senate bill, which is taking shape as we speak, so that we can move forward and address this problem because it's a major concern of many Americans. So, I was disappointed that the Sensenbrenner bill did not have a guest worker provision in it, but I think it was kind of the only train leaving the station.

MARTIN: Do you think other members of the Republican caucus felt as you did and voted for this mainly to get the issue moving forward?

Rep. SHADEGG: Well, I think there are clearly many who wanted some form of guest worker provision in the bill and who either voted against it because it didn't have it, or some like me, who voted for it because they feel we need to address this issue, depending upon how intensely they feel a worker has to be a part of the overall solution.

MARTIN: Was the president's point of view important to you on this or were there other factors like what's going on at home?

Rep. SHADEGG: Well, I think the president's perspective on the issue is a valuable one, but I think the Congress needs to chart its own course here. Unfortunately, I think the president had an opportunity to help educate Americans on the need for guest workers as a part of our workforce, on the problem we have with a declining birth rate in this country and the fact that we need workers to do some of the jobs that Americans, apparently will not do, and I'm not certain that by the way he's handled the issue he's done a good job of doing that education rather than by just saying, By gosh it must happen. I think we need to do build the case so that people would understand that there is a huge economic factor here and having no guest workers, having no foreign workers in our workforce is not a viable option.

MARTIN: Congressman, I'm going to ask you stay with us after the break. We're talking about immigration and overhauling U.S. immigration policy, and we're taking your calls at 800-989-TALK. You can send us e-mail. The address is Bill Richardson will join us and Mark Korkorian of the Center for Immigration Studies. I'm Michelle Martin, it's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: This is TALK OF THE NATION, I'm Michelle Martin in Washington. Immigration has become one of the most contentious issues in American politics. Today we're talking about legislation pending in the Senate and we're taking your calls. Our number is 800-989-TALK. Our e-mail address is, and still with us is Congressman John Shadegg of Arizona. Congressman, what's it like for you when you go home? I mean, do people stop you at the grocery store and want to talk about this?

Rep. SHADEGG: Yes, there's great interest here in Arizona on both sides. There are people on our southern border who are literally engaged in, essentially, a daily war where their lands are being overrun. They're deeply concerned about this issue. On the other hand, there are business owners and average Americans up where I live, 200 miles north of the border, who are directly affected by this issue. We had huge, as you know, demonstrations last Friday here in Phoenix and in Tucson. By one side of the issue, that is the pro-illegal immigrant, or pro-immigrant at least, side of the issue, much larger than anybody expected. So, yes, I get stopped and talked to about the issue on a regular basis.

MARTIN: I'd like to bring a caller into the conversation.

Rep. SHADEGG: Sure.

MARTIN: And this is, we're going to go to Fort Wayne, Indiana, and let's talk to Steve. Steve, what's on your mind?

STEVE (Caller): Yes. My comment on the guest worker permit was that it simply appears to give the employers of illegal workers a free pass so they are no longer illegal, they're no longer breaking the law. And it makes people that were employing legal aliens or Americans, it makes them more inclined to cut their wages and benefits enough to declare that they need guest workers, since if you cut the pay and benefits enough of any job, no American would be willing to work it.

MARTIN: Thank you, Steve. Congressman, what do you think about that?

Rep. SHADEGG: I think the caller has an excellent point. That's what makes this balance so difficult. Quite frankly, I think the guest worker program should do the exact opposite. It shouldn't give employers a pass. That's what we're doing right now. Employers in the United States today can effectively say, and I think honestly and legitimately say, there is no mechanism for them to discern whether someone that applies for a job with them is in fact a U.S. citizen or a legal immigrant or perhaps an illegal immigrant because the government does not have an effective program to answer that question. So, we're allowing employers today to hire illegals. Some of them do so knowingly and some of them pay sub-par wages, and indeed pay none of the benefits, don't withhold the taxes that they're supposed to, and that gives employers a free pass to essentially exploit that illegal worker workforce. But the caller's point is exactly right.

If we allow guest workers to come, first of all, we should not allow them to come illegally, and we should not convert those who are here illegally into guest workers other than through a mechanism where we know who they are and we can make sure the employer cannot exploit them. And then we have to be certain, once we have control of how many are here, that we don't allow, quite frankly, too many in. The caller's concern, and it's a legitimate one, is that if we have too many illegals here willing to work for low wages, that will pull down the wage rate and benefit packages for all American workers, and that's a part of the balance here. I certainly don't want to do that. At the same time, there are industries, certainly the agricultural industry, where we, at least here in the Southwest, have to harvest certain crops where it is in fact impossible to find sufficient U.S. borne workers to do the work. So, the caller has a legitimate concern and it's a part of difficult balance that has to be struck in this area.

MARTIN: Steve, thank you for your call. Congressman, what about the undocumented immigrants who are already here? What is supposed to happen to the 12 million people already here?

Rep SHADEGG: Well, I think that's the most difficult part of the question. I think it's fairly simple to say we need to get control of our border. That's step one. I think it's fairly simple to say that at some point in the future, we'll need additional workers and you could deal with them as a guest worker program. But the fundamental issue is, what do we do with the 12 million or so, 11 million, that are already here, number one. And how do we make sure that in handling them, we don't encourage more to come across illegally? I think a part of that answer is that we should not grant, as it is referred to, amnesty. Amnesty would be forgiveness of any penalty for them having come illegally. I personally prefer a mechanism that would say if you got here illegally, you must surface, you must identify yourself, and you must make a choice. If you got here illegally and you would want to stay just to be a worker for a period of time, that is, you want to renounce any possibility of becoming a U.S. citizen, then you can register and follow one path. And you could continue to work in the United States as a legal guest worker or as a legal foreign laborer but you would have no path to citizenship. If, on the other hand, you came and you want to preserve your right to become a citizen at some point, then I think you ought to have to return to your country of origin and come in pursuant to a mechanism established so that we knew it was your goal to work in the United States for a period of time and then to begin a path towards citizenship. That would at least let us sort out those who have come here just for wages and are sending them back to their home country with no intention of becoming ultimately an American, versus those who are choosing to become a part of this country.

MARTIN: Congressman John Shadegg, Republican of Arizona, thanks so much for joining us.

Rep. SHADEGG: My pleasure.

MARTIN: It's going to be an interesting couple of weeks, huh?

Rep. SHADEGG: It's gonna be a very, it's gonna go longer than that. It'll be interesting in the Senate for the last couple of weeks. And then a House and Senate compromise hopefully will emerge beyond that.

MARTIN: Hopefully, we'll speak again, thank you so much.

Rep. SHADEGG: Good, thank you.

MARTIN: Congressman John Shadegg spoke to us on the phone from Phoenix, Arizona. And we're joined now, in Studio 3A, by Mark Krikorian, he is the Director of the Center for Immigration Studies. Welcome thanks for joining us.

Mr. MARK KRIKORIAN (Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies): Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: You're a supporter of the original Sensenbrenner legislation that we were speaking about earlier. John Shadegg said he supported it mainly as a vehicle to get the debate going in the House. But you really believe in the core substance of it. It doesn't include a guest worker program. It would make the people who enter the country illegally felons, it calls for the construction of a 700 mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. Taking each one of these separately, how do these measures solve the problem?

Mr. KRIKORIAN: There all really part of a broader strategy. See, that's what you need to, the way you need to think about it. The way this issue is presented, is that usually, there's only two options. One is we deport everybody on Tuesday. We couldn't do that even if we wanted to, we don't have the capacity to, and it would be very disruptive. The alternative therefore is legalization, is the way it's presented. Deport everybody, can't do it, therefore legalize everybody. Whatever euphemism we come up with, they don't like amnesty, so it doesn't even matter. What the word is its legalization.

The point is those aren't the only two choices. The third choice is we start enforcing the law, and bring about attrition of the illegal population over time. So that instead of growing every year, it starts to declining every year allowing us to back out of this problem that took us many years go get into. There is no magical solution. When people talk about comprehensive immigration reform, what they really mean is magic immigration reform. That somehow, we really have the capacity to screen and vet, and track 12 million illegal aliens and make sure they are who they say they are. We can't even, the immigration service is chocking on its responsibility now, it can't do that. Enforcement on the other hand, and this is the point to the Sensenbrenner bill. Enforcement is something we can do with whatever resources we have, whatever opportunities we have, and to squeeze the illegal population down. Both through normal deportation, we need to increase that, but we don't do very much of it, but also by encouraging those, especially more recent arrivals, to give up and leave. And we in fact, something like 40 percent of illegal aliens have been here less than five years. They aren't rooted here, the can in fact be compelled to self deport, if it becomes impossible for them to get a job, to get a drivers license, all the other things that are necessary for normal life.

We've never enforced the immigration law inside the country at the work force. We've done a little better at the border, but even there it's not much better. So the point is that the House bill is part of, is sort of fits into a strategy of reducing the problem through enforcement. And then maybe taking a second look, not next week or next month, but after a period of years, at what we want to do the loose ends that do remain.

MARTIN: Well, what's wrong with a guest worker program? What's wrong with a, finding a way for a very large number of people, who have in many cases raised families here, are paying taxes here, have established lives here, finding a dignified way for them to live out there days here? What's wrong with it?

Mr. KRIKORIAN: Well, there's two issues, a guest worker program, pure guest worker program, is people who aren't here at all, bringing them in and then sending them back. What you're talking about is using the guest worker program as the vehicle for legalizing, for amnestying people.

MARTIN: But isn't that really the point?

Mr. KRIKORIAN: And, I mean.

MARTIN: Is that really the reason why...

Mr. KRIKORIAN: Well both parts are in the bills, but you're right that the, the using a guest worker program as the vehicle for an amnesty is what people are talking about, it's the most contentious issue. The question is, do we want to encourage more illegal immigration? Amnesties do that. The past, amnesty we had 20 years ago was a deal, amnesty for three million illegal immigrants in exchange for promises for enforcement. The amnesty, the illegals got their amnesty, the promises of enforcement were abandoned as soon as everybody was processed through the system. At the very least, we need to reverse the relationship. There needs to be enforcement first, if only for credibility reasons, because frankly, I just don't believe the promises of enforcement by supporters of the guest worker program. Even if, I'm not saying they're lying, but I'm saying, it's not gonna happen, unless it happens first. Then we'll talk about the other, what happens afterwards. Whether we do, in fact, maybe legalize people after a period of years who are deeply rooted here. I'm not sure I'd be for it then. We can talk about it then, though. It's not even an appropriate topic of discussion now.

MARTIN: Let's bring in a caller. Let's talk to Steve, in Tucson, Arizona. Steve, what's on your mind?

STEVE (Caller): Hi. Thanks for taking my call. First of all, I would like to say that I live 12 miles north of the Mexican border, between Tucson and Nogales. And I see a number of illegals daily, and I have talked to many of them. And they are, quite frankly, are not scared of enforcement, at this point. And they think the talk of enforcement and incarceration of these people is pretty far out, simply because we don't have the resources to do it. The county I live in can't even afford to incarcerate the ones they got. We need to get federal money to help us. I think that's, you know, I think that approach is pretty ineffective. Also I don't think you can shut down the border. I just, even if you build a wall, they're gonna find a way to get through. I think what people are not addressing is the real root of the problem, in that these people do not have jobs at home. They come here, yes, to get better wages and to get more money, because the jobs are not available at home. I think, if we would spend money and time and effort and expertise in helping Mexico and some of our Central American and South American countries to build up their economies, to build up their country, to where people had jobs, you'd see a definite slowdown in immigration. These people don't, don't want to come here. They don't want to leave their families back in Mexico. They don't like to do that. But they have no other alternative.

MARTIN: Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to, I didn't mean to cut Steve off like that, I apologize, Steve. What about his point about though, Mark Krikorian, that you, that, it's really, this is people who are voting with their feet. I mean, they're looking for the opportunities. They're doing what immigrants and what Americans have always done, which is look for opportunity?

Mr. KRIKORIAN: There's a couple of factual points. In fact, research shows that most Mexican illegal immigrants had jobs in Mexico. They just found better jobs in the United States. Likewise, they have developed the expectation that they can find work here, precisely because there is no fear of enforcement. I mean, we talk about illegal immigrants living in the shadows, well, what shadows? I mean, they're on the front page of newspapers, they testify before state legislatures. Illegal immigrants, once they're 50 miles or so past the border, no longer have much to fear from law enforcement. So the idea that this is, this is sort of an inevitable flow, like the tides or the weather, you know, this poverty there and it's moving people here, is false. It's an artifact of government policy. We don't get a lot of low-skilled immigrants from say, Indonesia, because we don't have any long-standing relationship with Indonesia. Even within Mexico, we get disproportionate numbers of people from particular parts of Mexico that we had a relation, that sent Pesaros(ph), for instance, to the United States. So there's nothing inevitable about this, and although, in the long run, economic development is the solution to this, but we're all dead in the long run. Question is what do we do in the next 40, 50, 60 years, and that's something we need to decide now. And not just sort of hope it takes care of itself.

MARTIN: We're gonna take a short break just to say, you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And I'm talking with Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies. Mark, and I apologize again to Steve for hanging up on him. I did not mean to do that. But what do you think is missing from this debate? You've started our conversation by saying, that, it's, if we've been reduced to two sides, which is either you can deport everybody, which everybody understands is not logical, or you can legalize everybody, and you don't find that to be appropriate either. But why do you think we've gotten stuck on those, sort of, two positions?

Mr. KRIKORIAN: That's a good question. I'm not sure why. They're easier to understand, because they both, there's a very small number of people, actually, think we can actually deport everybody. But I mean, there's always some, sort of, constituency for that. Why don't we just round them all up tomorrow and get rid of them. But that's actually a pretty unimportant voice in the debate. The much more, sort of, the dominate voice is this idea that we need to throw up our hands and give up, we need to lie back and pretend to enjoy it, because there's nothing we can do about it. So, we need to come how, sort of, re-label the flow and therefore make it legal. The attraction of those is that, and I don't mean to be too derogatory here, but there's sort of magical solutions, they solve everything in a kind of clean and easy way, neither of those neat solutions is realistic. It took us a long time to get into this problem. We're gonna have to back out of it. And during the time that we back out of it, there's gonna remain a significant, though shrinking illegal population. This is not something we can snap our fingers and allow it to disappear, and make it disappear successfully. So I think the, those two poles are attractive to people because they seem neat and easy. And unfortunately, reality isn't quite that simple.

MARTIN: Just very, very briefly because I want to bring Governor Richardson in, and I do want to thank you for your time, but there is no precedence in American history for a large group of people to go back to countries of origin.

Mr. KRIKORIAN: Sure, there is. During the great wave of immigration, a century ago, about a third of the people, who came, left. Even now, each year something like a 150,000 or 200,000 illegal aliens leave. Some of them give up, because they, it's not what they thought. Some of them may be earn enough money and end up go back and buy their cab or their little plot of farmland. More of them, of course, end up almost, despite themselves, putting down roots and staying, but there's always churn in every immigrant population. And, you know, we've actually looked at the, sort of, expectations and projected, using government data, we can probably reduce the illegal population by half, in five years, if we really put our minds to it. And I'm not talking machine guns and landmines, I'm talking about regular enforcement methods. And then we can talk about it. And that's still a heck of a lot of illegal aliens left. We can talk about it then.

MARTIN: Okay, thank you. Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. He joined us here in Studio 3A. Thank you so much for coming in.

Mr. KRIKORIAN: Thanks a lot.

MARTIN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Michel Martin in Washington.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Michel Martin in Washington. And we're going now to Sante Fe, New Mexico where Democratic Governor Bill Richardson joins us on the phone from his office. Governor, thank you, thanks so much for joining us.

Governor BILL RICHARDSON (Democratic, New Mexico): Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: Last August, you declared a state of emergency along certain border counties. Just briefly, what's happened since then?

Gov. RICHARDSON: Well, there's been some progress in one area. The lack of serious of violent crime has declined in that area about 90 percent. On the other hand, the flow of illegal workers increased, increased a little bit in anticipation of all the personnel that the border emergency triggered to hire and the anticipation also. There was an announcement by the federal government that we get 265 new border patrol agents at the Mexican/New Mexico border. They haven't come yet, they're in training, but that has caused a little bit of an increase in the flow, because of the anticipation of this tightening up.

MARTIN: What is your view of the current debate in Washington? I mean, do you believe that the bill that's currently on the table, the two arguments that are currently on the table, that we've been talking about throughout the program, kind of tightening up on border security, and/or adding a guest worker program, does that address the issue from your perspective on the state level?

Gov. RICHARDSON: No. I think you have to go further. But if you have one without the other, like if you just have a bill with border enforcement tightening and no legalization or guest worker program, it's gonna be a disaster. What you need is tighter border security, equipment, more people, but you also need a plan to have 11 million undocumented workers on a path to legalization. And I think you can setup some reasonable behavior standards, paying taxes, learning English, back taxes, fines, participate, civic organizations. I think its makes an enormous amount of sense. In New Mexico, we've allowed undocumented workers and their kids to go to universities. We give them driver's licenses because we know we can keep tabs on them and insurance rates go down, and traffic violations go down, and accidents go down. So, here at the border what we would like to see, in addition to those two measures, is one, a real relationship with Mexico, where Mexico does more, does more in the area of smuggling, does more in the area of joint patrols, does something about joint border job creation. If you look at Mexico right now, they're having a labor shortage. And this is not good for them. So, it should be in their interest to do more. Lastly, I think you do need to have some tough measures, penalties for those that knowingly hire illegal workers. But unless the Congress deals with this comprehensively, this issue is gonna become divisive, a wedge issue, it's gonna divide Americans. There's a million Americans that marched, or a million undocumented workers, that marched just this weekend. This could be a real, real 2008 presidential issue. So, it's best that the Congress deal with it now in a comprehensive fashion.

MARTIN: What do you say to those who say that, this, in fact, this is an amnesty program and that an amnesty program essentially rewards those who broke the rules?

Gov. RICHARDSON: Well first of all, it's not an amnesty program. And I'm not even talking about citizenship either. What we're talking about is benchmarks for those that are here illegally, will have to pay fines, will have to pay taxes, they don't get ahead of the line of those that are trying to get in legally. They're certain standards of behavior, there's certain jobs that they have to fulfill. I don't believe it's an amnesty at all. An amnesty is, okay, you're in as of this date. You're now legal. You now have a green card. This, I believe that the measures that are in the McCain/Kennedy initiative have some strong benchmarks. Look, it's not gonna be perfect. It's not gonna be unmessy. It's gonna be messy, but this is a serious problem for the country. You can't criminalize millions of workers that are paying taxes, that are here trying to get a better life, but you setup some standards, and you don't reward those that have been violating the law. You get rid of those that have records, that are not paying taxes, that are participating in a lot of nefarious activities, and there are plenty of those.

MARTIN: Why would individuals who are living below the radar, who have engaged, as you put it, in nefarious activities, make themselves be known for the purpose of these enforcement mechanisms?

Gov. RICHARDSON: Well...

MARTIN: I mean, you can certainly see where people who are law-abiding, who just want to live here and have a decent life would welcome an opportunity to come forward. But why would people who are doing the other do that?

Gov. RICHARDSON: Well, the alternative is what a lot of these anti-immigrant groups and Congressmen are saying is, what's the alternative, really? They going to deport them? I heard somebody in your program say, we can deport them. We can't. It's going to be prohibitive, it's too costly. Are you going to go in every door and find 11 million people and then deport them? Many that are paying taxes, that are doing jobs that Americans don't want to do? That's totally unrealistic. Not just the cost, but that's not in the tradition of this country. And look what the House bill has done also. They are making 11 million of those undocumented workers, they're all now felons under that bill, and their family members are felons. That makes no sense at all. That's not America.Building a wall at the border? They're going to get in anyway. I think what makes sense is an orderly path of legalization. Yes, we have to, for our own national security, we have got to find ways to increase border security with detection equipment, more border patrol agents, but again, it's a bureaucracy program. I've been promised, at the New Mexico border, 260 new agents. They're not here yet. They're not here, they're in training or they're, you know, transferring, or whatever. I just get this double-talk, and this is why this frustration, especially among the four border states, mounts. And then the governor of Arizona and I have to declare border emergencies so we can basically get some help.

MARTIN: I'd like to bring in a caller. Here's Mauricio, in the Twin Cities. Is that right? Hello? Mauricio, did I pronounce your name properly?

MAURICIO (Caller): Yes, you did. Can you hear me?

MARTIN: Yes, yes, we can hear you. Welcome. What's on your mind?

MAURICIO: Yes. Yes I'm an illegal immigrant in the United States. I've been here for eleven years now. And I'm calling because I'm a very educated person from the country where I'm coming from, and I'm involved in politics. I enjoy that so much. But my main point is, most Americans, including some people in your panel, are reasonable (unintelligible). Corporate America rules this nation. President Bush was elected by corporate America. He's on the side of those corporations. And because we are working here, many Americans can afford to buy an orange for 20 cents. If we leave, they'll be paying $5 dollars, $3 dollars per orange, perhaps, because, we are willing to work very hard to pick up those things. This is a new globalization, the new economy. There's no way that America will live in the way that will be equally even for everyone. This is capitalism. I'm sorry, but...

MARTIN: Mauricio, I'm sorry, but can I ask you, just what is your work?

MAURICIO: I work in the construction field over here. And I make more money this way over here in America than in my country which I have a high education.

MARTIN: Where are you from?

MAURICIO: I would rather not say.


MAURICIO: South America.

MARTIN: South America. Okay, that's pretty vague. I don't think we can...

MAURICIO: Why? You know, I mean, it's very important to repeat that the whole nation that, Americans cannot feel so (unintelligible) and ignore to the point they ignore the work that we do over here. We are working so hard, maybe comparable to their predecessors when they came over and built this nation.

MARTIN: Okay, thank you.

MAURICIO: And most Americans are able to buy beautiful houses, boats and so on, because we are on the bottom supporting them.


MAURICIO: It's a very complex issue, but... I'm sorry, go ahead.

MARTIN: Okay. No, Mauricio, I'm sorry. We're just running out of time. I just wanted to thank you for calling.

MAURICIO: You're very welcome. Thanks.

MARTIN: Governor Richardson, certainly that's one, and a very important point of view, but just briefly, because we only have a couple of seconds left, you've already mentioned your frustration with getting help from the federal government now, enforcing the statutes that already exist. What confidence do you have that with this complex new legislation that requires so many more administrative tasks that that would be done effectively? Just briefly.

Gov. RICHARDSON: Well my fear is that the tightening border security is the only element that passes. That's going to be a disaster. Because you need --we've got several hundred, thousand here in New Mexico that are undocumented workers. We need a combined security with some kind of legalization plan. Otherwise, there shouldn't be any bill at all, and they should start over again. Unfortunately, it becomes a presidential issue and that's what you don't want. Because this is a nation where there are no votes. There are no positive votes for either party. So what you do is you do the right thing. The right thing is to let people like Mauricio, who sounds law abiding, who's working, who's been here eleven years, who's probably got a family, who's paying taxes, you know, who's politically engaged, he's learned English, you know, give him a chance to prove himself, that he can stay in this country. That's the issue.

MARTIN: Bill Richardson, Democrat and Governor of New Mexico. He spoke to us from his office in Santa Fe. Thank you so much, Governor.

Governor RICHARDSON: Thank you.

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