MARIA ELENA SALINAS: (Speaking in Spanish)
As many of you know, the U.S. and Latin America have been negotiating the FTAAthe Free Trade of the Americasthat would create a free trade zone in Latin America by 2005. Let's begin with Senator Lieberman. Do you support it?
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: I certainly support the goal. And let me talk about that. Let me describe the Bush policy toward Latin America in a Spanish phrase: (Speaking in Spanish).
"Many words and little action and a great opportunity lost."
Look, all of us on this stage agree that the Bush economic policy has been a powerful failure. It has stifled the American dream, has lost 3.2 million jobs, 2.5 million in manufacturing.
American manufacturing is bleeding. The president sent his secretary of the treasuryfinally, after many of us have been calling for it to do soto China to try to get them to stop linking their currency to the dollar, which is an unfair advantage they get over American manufacturing - came back empty-handed. We can't do that. We've got to beI'm for trade, but for fair trade.
Let me say the same is true with regard to fair trade for the Americas and Latin America. We have turned our back on our allies to the south.
I want to say something about what Governor Dean said. He said here tonight, again, something that I read he said on an interview with The Washington Post, which I found to be stunning, which is that he would not have bilateral trade agreements with any country that did not observe fully American standards. Now that would mean we'd break our trade agreements with Mexico, with Latin America, with most of the rest of the world. That would cost us millions of jobs.
One out of every five jobs in America is tied up with trade. So if that ever happened, I'd say that the Bush recession would be followed by the Dean depression.
We cannot put a wall around America. We cannot put a wall around America, and we cannot leave our businesses and workers defenseless. We have to have trade, which is good for our economy and good for our relations with Latin America.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Governor Dean?
HOWARD DEAN: Thank you for the opportunity to respond. We do have to have trade relations which rely on equality and labor standards throughout the world. It doesn't have to be American labor standards; it could be the International Labor Organization. I believe Mexico will do that. I believe that Mexico wants open trade relationships with the United States.
And I believe, given the reform that's gone on in Mexico under Vicente Fox, that we will in fact be able to negotiate with Mexico the same labor standards, the same human rights and the same environmental standards over a period of time. And I think we need to do that. We cannot continue to ship our jobs to countries where they get paid 50 cents an hour with no occupational safety and health, no overtime, no labor protections and no right to organize. We're going to move every job out of this country.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Let's go to Senator Kerry.
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Maria Elena, may I say just briefly that Governor Dean, in his interview with The Washington Post, referred to American standards, not international standards.
HOWARD DEAN: Either is fine with me.
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Well, then that's a reassuring change of position. I totally support the application of international labor standards to all of our bilateral trade agreements, and I have fought for that on the floor of the Senate over and over again.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Senator Kerry, in Mexico the salaries for many workers is $1 a day. Can we ask Mexico to pay $5 to $10 an hour like we do in the United States?
JOHN KERRY: Well, we can ask them, but they'll say no. If I could just put this in a context a little bit. You know, it's interesting that the Standard & Poor's went up to 1,000, and the Dow went up to 9,400, which proves that good things happen when George Bush is on vacation, folks.
In fact, I think the only jobs created in the United States of America by George Bush are the nine of us running for president of the United States.
But I want to speak to the larger question because it's critical. I don't support the free trade agreement of America as it is today, I don't support the Central American free trade agreement as it is today because they do desperately need to have increased labor standards, environment standards, to bring other countries up. You can't have trade be a rush to the bottom, and you can't leave other nations with a one-way street, and you can't abuse people the way it has been.
But more importantly, we need to jump-start jobs here at home. We have an extraordinary ability, an entrepreneurial capacity second to no people on the planet.
This president isn't asking Americans or giving Americans the opportunity to do that. Education could be more invigorated, science could be more invigorated, the most anti-science administration in modern history. We need to push energy. Energy independence for the United States of America will create thousands of jobs in our country. We need to push the
And most importantly, we need to guarantee that our children are not made the abused of political slogans, Leave No Child Behind. You have to fund education, and you have to guarantee that we're not content to just spend $50,000 a year on prison. Head Start needs full funding, children need to be funded in this country.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: What do you tell the Latin American countries that are telling the United States, "You're only looking toward the Middle East, why don't you look south?"
JOHN KERRY: I think it would be wonderful to have a president of the United States who could find the rest of the countries in this hemisphere. And I will do that.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Ray?
RAY SUAREZ: Congressman Gephardt, we've heard mixed support for NAFTA, as it's been working for the last almost 10 years, and mixed levels of support for free trade in the Americas. Where do you stand on these two questions?
RICHARD GEPHARDT: Well, I'm surprised, frankly, to hear the outpouring of support for standards for the environment and labor in treaties like NAFTA and the China free trade treaty. Most of the candidates here voted for those treaties without proper standards. I was the one who took on my own president, and I agreed with Bill Clinton on most things. I was his majority leader, but I thought on this it was wrong, because we didn't have those standards in the provisions of the treaty. We had side agreements that didn't mean anything, but we needed in the treaty.
They're right. We do have a race to the bottom. Remember what Henry Ford said? "I got to pay my workers enough so there's somebody to buy the cars they are making." It never changes. It never changes.
So, we've go to do that. But let me go to another part of this question. I will be a president who will bring trade standards. I will lead the world to globalize the economy of the world, as we must, with standards on the environment and on labor. But
I'm going to do something else. In 1993, I was the majority leader who led with Bill Clinton to get this economy straightened out. Bill Richardson was my chief deputy. We were out on the floor. We didn't get a Republican vote in the House or a Republican vote in the Senate. We passed it by one vote in both houses. Dick Armey said it would create a depression in the country. He was the minority leader. Let me tell you something. He wasn't wrong; he was dead wrong. You remember?
Twenty-three million new jobs in seven years. Unemployment was in 3 percent. We took a $5 trillion deficit and turned it into a $5 trillion surplus. We know how to do this. I know how to do it. And when I'm president, we'll get this economy moving again. I'll get rid of the Bush tax cuts. I'll get everybody health insurance that can't be taken away from you. I'll have an energy program I call Apollo 2 (ph) that'll make us independent of Persian Gulf oil. I'll have a pension program so that you can move your pension credits from one job to the other. I'll accelerate spending in the highway trust fund.
RAY SUAREZ: Congressman, we'll touch on many of those subjects later in the conversation.
RICHARD GEPHARDT: These are important issues. This president is a miserable failure on foreign policy...
RAY SUAREZ: Congressman, we'll get to health care soon.
RICHARD GEPHARDT: ... and on the economy. And he's got to be replaced.
RAY SUAREZ: Congressman Kucinich, if we follow the advice and the assurances that you just gave and start to pull out of some of these treaties, if we start to demand these standards abroad in the places that America acquires the things it sells in its stores, won't the price of everything that you see when you walk into a Wal-Mart go up, everything that you see when you go into a Kmart or, indeed, even to the supermarket?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, the real question, Ray, is what kind of profits do the Kmarts and the Wal-Marts of the world make?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, Kmart, not too much.
DENNIS KUCINICH: But on the misery of those people in Third World countries who are working for pennies an hour and are finding themselves unable to support their own families. I mean, all this talk about trade here belies something that really needs to be looked at and that is NAFTA makes it impossible to be able to protect workers' rights. Now, those people say they're going to put conditions on NAFTA. If you put conditions on NAFTA, that's WTO illegal.
So what we need to dothe only way that we can go back to trade which will work for the American people and for people all over North America is to make sure that we have workers' rights, human rights and environmental quality principles in trade. And by workers' rights I mean this: the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike.
The right to join a union, the right to decent wages and benefits, the right to a safe workplace, the right to a secure retirement. Those have to be written specifically into our trade agreements and they were not. We had intellectual property written into the trade agreements. And we need specifically written into the trade agreements prohibitions on child labor, slave labor, prison labor. But you know what? Unless we cancel NAFTA and withdraw from the WTO, we aren't going to get there. So all of this is just talk. I'm the one, first day in office, cancel NAFTA, cancel the WTO, return to bilateral trade with all those conditions we've just spoken about.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, let me get your response on this, Senator Kerry, because I know that you've been a big supporter of free trade over the past years. Earlier today I went to the University of New Mexico bookstore, as I'm bound to do, and I bought T-shirts for all my children. None of them were made in the United States, though they were all made in this hemisphere.
JOHN KERRY: Correct.
RAY SUAREZ: Very clearly labeled in the collar. Is the answer making those things here or just making sure they're made there in a better way?
JOHN KERRY: No, I think DennisI admire what he is saying and I am as strongly committed as he is to those worker rights and to the efforts to raise the level, but it would be disastrous to just cancel it. You have to fix it. You have to have a president who understands how to use the power that we have as the world's biggest marketplace to properly leverage the kind of behavior that we want.
You also have to have a president who is prepared to have an enforcement structure, particularly an attorney general whose name is not John Ashcroft, who is preparedwho is prepared to enforce the laws. And the president himself, through the powers of the various sections of the trade agreement, has the ability to get tougher.
The fact is that Bill Clinton was absolutely correct. We not only were responsible fiscally, we not only created 23 million jobs in AmericaI mean, we created more jobs than ever before and we traded. What's happened is, in the last three or four years that relationship has gotten out of whack. And this president doesn't care about it.
We need a president of the United States who is prepared to enforce a new standard between our countries, and I intend to do that, but I also know that we have to trade. You can't shut yourself down and hope to grow your economy and expect to put the American people to work the way we need to.
RAY SUAREZ: Maria Elena?
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: (Speaking in Spanish)
I'm going to begin with you, Senator Graham.
(Speaking in Spanish)
Forty-one million Americans do not have access to medical care or health care.
(Speaking in Spanish)
One-third of Hispanics of the 38 million Hispanics in this country do not have health care. At a time of record federal government deficits, how can this country bring the number of uninsured down?
BOB GRAHAM: We can do it in this way. One, by practicing pragmatic common sense. Two very smart people, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, 10 years ago tried to pass a comprehensive health-care reform. They were unable to do so.
I think the lesson from that is that if we are going to get health care to those currently uninsured, we need to set the goal of all Americans having access to health care and then proceed in a step-by-step basis.
I would personally advocate that we provide first for children, then for the working poor, and third for the early retiree. If we did those three groups, we would cut by two-thirds the number of Americans who do not have health coverage. And we could do that at a cost of approximately $70 billion a year, a cost that I think is one the American people can afford and would support.
So I think that there is a way to get to the resolution of one of our most serious national concerns and that is how do we provide effective health care in this rich country to all Americans.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: (Speaking in Spanish)
You have said in the past that all Americans should have health insurance through the government. That's a national health insurance. How do you pay for it?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: The way that you get universal coverage is that you have a single-payer system.
And if you have a single-payer system, then you will be able to cover everybody. Everybody in this country already gets health care. If you fall out and you don't have insurance, somewhere you will be cared for. Probably in an emergency room.
It'll probably be the most expensive care you can get. And the cost will just get shifted throughout the system to other payersmany times, people who pay for insurance through their employer. What I've proposed is a single-payer system that will take advantage of the fact that we are already paying 15 percent of our gross domestic product on health care, de-couple it from employment so that it's not a burden on job creation, it's not a burden on small businesses, it doesn't come out of the payroll tax, which is the most regressive tax, to begin with. And with the revenue that we have from that, from that 15 percent, we can then afford a system much like the federal employees have under what's called FEHBP, a federal system in which you have a single payer but the administration takes place by the companies that individuals choose.
The most important part of this is that the physician or the provider and patient relationship has to be central to the health care system. Because if you do that, then you will have a dynamic in favor of quality of care and taking care of patients and people's illnessesor wellness as well, frankly, because prevention is a big part of this. But you will have a dynamic in favor of quality that the current profit-driven system does not have.
We are wasting an awful lot of money on profit on the one hand and disconnects between the different public system on the one hand, private system on the other. We're wasting an awful lot of money that could be better put to provide us with a rationalized system, a single-payer system of health care for everybody.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Senator Edwards? The Bush administration just implemented new regulations for emergency rooms to limit the amount of services that they provide for people who go there. Now many Hispanics depend, or many minorities, and poor members of our society depend on emergency rooms as their only sources for medical care. What do you do?
JOHN EDWARDS: Well, all the candidates on this stage have a health-care plan. There's only one candidate in the election in 2004 who has no health-care plan, and that's George W. Bush.
We have differences about the approach to this issue. I, for example, do not believe that we should solve the health-care problem in America by raising taxes on working familiesthe very people that you're asking about and that we're trying to help. So I start with a very simple idea: children first. For the first time in American history, I will make sure that every child is covered, and I'll do it the only way you can, by making it the law of the land. And in order to get this accomplished,
I'm going to ask responsibility from everybody. Responsibility for the parents of these kids to make sure that they're covered. Second, responsibility from the government to make sure that in fact they can pay for it. And third, responsibility from big HMOs, big insurance companies, big drug companies, that if they won't acceptbecause if we don't bring the cost down, we're never going to get health care under control in this country. And if they won't accept responsibility, we will hold them responsible. I will do what I have done my entire life, first as a lawyer for 20 years, and since I've been in the Senate fighting, for example, with Senator McCain and Senator Kennedy for the Patients' Bill of Rights.
And the last thing I'll just mention is the plight of Hispanic families. My plan will cover 3 million Hispanic children. In addition to that, I'd double the investment in public health facilities, the safety net that takes all comers, that makes sure that all kids and all families have a place to go to get the health care they need. And then, finally, to deal with the language disparities that Hispanic families face every day, we should set up a national translation center, open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, so that we don't have children of Hispanic adults translating to doctors about the problems that their parents are facing.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you, Senator. Ray?
RAY SUAREZ: Governor Dean, how would you get more of the 41 million uninsured covered? And would you have to repeal all or part of the Bush tax cuts to do it?
HOWARD DEAN: (Speaking in Spanish).
Every child under 18, 99 percent eligible, 96 percent have it. Everybody under 150 percent of poverty has health insurance in my state. Every senior under 225 percent of poverty gets prescription help. Now, if we can do that in a small rural state and balance the budget, surely the United States of America can join with the Japanese and the French and the Germans and the Irish and the Italians, the Swedes and the Norwegians, the Israelis, the Canadians. Every other industrial country in the world has health insurance for all its people, and we can do that, too, if we can do that in a small state like Vermont.
Here's what we're going to do. We are going to repeal the Bush tax cuts. You can't pay for health insurance if you have those tax cuts, including the tax cuts for middle-class people. Most middle-class people never got a tax cut from George Bush, and I'm sure they'd rather have health insurance for everybody than the $100 they got from George Bush's tax cut.
Second thing, George Bush spent $3 trillion, if you include the interest, on tax cuts for people like Ken Lay, when these people out here had their tuitions go up, their property taxes go up and their state taxes go up because of George Bush's economy. For less than a third of George Bush's tax cuts, we can cover every man, woman and child in America, in many ways building on what we did in Vermont, and that's exactly what we should do, and we should not wait.
RAY SUAREZ: Congressman Kucinich? How do you get more of the uninsured covered, and do you have to repeal the Bush tax cuts to do it?
DENNIS KUCINICH: (Speaking in Spanish)
I've introduced a bill which states that health care is a right, not a privilege, and it's to get the profit out of health care, and here's a copy of it. It's H.R. 676, the sponsors are Mr. Conyers, Mr. McDermott, myself and a number of members of Congress.
Congress right now has in front of it a plan that would cover all medically necessary health services, all individuals. Individuals would not have to pay premiums, deductibles or co-pays. But what it would do is it would take the profit out of health care. And with the exception of Ms. Moseley Braun, all the others here will retain the role of private insurers. And we have to understand that the insurersthe insurance companies and the pharmaceuticals right now, they own us. We need to take our health care system back.
This is the plan that will do it. And, you know, you can talk about balancing the budget in Vermont, but Vermont doesn't have a military. And if you're not going to cut the military and you're talking about balancing the budget, then what are you going to do about social spending? Hello?
RAY SUAREZ: Senator Lieberman, how would you cover more of the uninsured? And would the Bush tax cuts have to go in order to do it?
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: You bet parts of the Bush tax cuts would have to go, and they ought to go. Leadership is about priorities and priorities are about values. You know, this president loves to talk about values, faith-based values, but is it really good faith-based values? Remember what the Bible says about don't harden your heart to the poor, open your hand to them? Is it really good faith-based values to give tax cuts of tens of thousands of dollars to millionaires in America and have 9 million children without health care in this richest of all countries in the world? The answer is, of course not. So we've got to take back some of those high-income tax cuts.
But I disagree with Governor Dean and others who would adopt so large a program that it would force an increase in middle-class taxes. That's not fair. The middle class is stressed today. They've got it up to here. And they've got more than $100, let's be honest about it. A lot of them got thousands of dollars. They got the end of the marital tax penalty, child care tax credits and so on. I want to protect those, and we can, with a systematic step-by-step proposal.
This is an outrage that particularly hits the Hispanic community--3 million Hispanic children uncovered. I want to create "Medikids." I think it's the best plan that's been offered. Every baby born in America will leave the hospital not just with a birth certificate but with a Medikids card that will guarantee them health insurance up until the age of 25. You won't have to go down to the welfare office to sign up. You won't be mandated if you don't want to buy plans to cover health insurance.
We can do this. And as president, I'm going to bring the right priorities and values to the Oval Office. And I will make every American currently uninsured eligible for a high-quality, affordable health insurance.
RAY SUAREZ: A quick response from Ambassador Braun.
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: I want to take issue. A single-payer system will not raise taxes on the middle class. And indeed, the plan I've proposed will free up middle-class incomes because it'll take some of the pressure off of the payroll tax.
We can fund this within current spending without raising taxes. And I think it's very important that people understand this is not new tax burden on anybody. This is universal health care in a way that makes sense.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: We're nearing the end of the debate so let's try to be brief with our answers. We're going on to the next subject.
It seems like politicians nowadays are afraid to use the A-word, amnesty, as if it were a contagious disease. So let's talk about legalization or regularization of undocumented workers.
Senator Kerry, would you support legalizing undocumented immigrants in this country?
JOHN KERRY: Absolutely. I supportedlet me say I'm not afraid to say it, I supported and was prepared to vote for amnesty from 1986. And unfortunately, the events of 9/11 obviously changed the capacity to do that.
I believe we have to change it. It's a matter of human rights, a matter of civil rights, a matter of fairness to Americans. And it is essential to have immigration reform.
I want to say immediately that anyone who has been in this country for five or six years, who's paid their taxes, who has stayed out of trouble ought to be able to translate into an American citizen immediately, not waiting. In addition to that, we have about 37,000 people served in the armed forces of the United States who are legal residents. They should automatically become American citizens for having served their country in that way.
And thirdly, I believe we need to be sensible about the use of the matricula cards. We need to be able to negotiate with President Fox. We have to change the guest worker program.
We have to recognize that there are enormous challenges to fairness in this country. It still costs Latinos too much just to cash a check, to buy a home. There is rank discrimination and we need to apply the laws. And I am going to do that from everything including remittances so people aren't charged exorbitantly when they send money to their families abroad.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you. We need to go on. Congressman Gephardt, we know you introduced legislation in Congress for legalizing undocumented workers. Now, there are many voters in the U.S. who feel that legalizing undocumented workers would be giving them some type of an award for having broken the law. Do you fear that your
proposal would alienate those voters? And if so, are you willing to take that risk?
RICHARD GEPHARDT: I put the bill in. I wrote the bill with my friends in the Hispanic Caucus in the House. I am proud of that bill. I stand behind it fully. It's the right thing to do for this country.
We're all immigrants unless we're Native Americans, and we need to recognize the hard work...
We need to recognize the hard work and productivity and the loyalty and the military service of people that are in this country and are not in legal status. My bill is simple. It says, you've been here for five years, you worked for two years, you haven't broken laws, you can get into legal status. It'll bring power and productivity out of all these people.
But let me go back to health care for a minute, I didn't get a chance on it. Let me just say this...
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: A few seconds.
RICHARD GEPHARDT: Two seconds. This issue is a moral issue. There are over 400,000 New Mexicans who do not have health insurance. Thousands of others have anxiety every day they're going to lose their health insurance. I think the right thing to do is to get rid of the Bush tax cuts because my plan will put more money in the pockets of the average family than the Bush tax cuts.
Finally, why would we not want to go back to the Clinton tax plan? Why would we want to keep anything of the Bush tax plan? It's a miserable failure.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you. Let's go on to Senator Graham. Senator Graham, in your state, there are many, many immigrants. Of course, we have the Cuban-American immigrants who have a completely different situation. But for those that come from other countries, would you support legalizing them?
BOB GRAHAM: This has to be put in the larger context of our relations with Latin America. This president came to office claiming that he would build a new era of relationships within the hemisphere. He has. Unfortunately, he didn't tell us that they would all be policies of benign neglect and indifference.
In Mexico, President Fox has been rendered a political lame duck halfway through his terms, largely because George W. Bush did not fulfill the commitments that he made.
In a country, in a commonwealth in which we have had a long historic relationship, Puerto Rico, they have 50 percent higher unemployment, 50 percent higher children without health coverage. And we have not yet solved what kind of relationship that country wishes to have with the United States.
I believe that we should have a policy of earned amnesty for those people who came into the United States undocumented. And that would provide that if they, after receiving a work permit, then met the standards of that permit, after a period of time they would be eligible to get a permanent residence status in the United States.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you. Congressman Kucinich, is it realistic to think that, in the environment after 9/11, that we could have a legalization program to legalize undocumented immigrants in this country? Is it realistic? Could it possibly happen in Congress?
DENNIS KUCINICH: One of the tragedies of 9/11 is that we've forgotten who we are as a nation. In the fear that's covered this country, we've forgotten about the optimism and hope that led so many people to sail under that light of Lady Liberty. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. America must remember where we came from as a nation. And in doing that, we need to extend our arms once again to the world community and bring those, the tempest-tossed, to the United States.
Yes, I'm for amnesty. Yes, I'm for legalization of status. Yes, I'm for broadening citizenship possibilities. Yes, I'm for enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act and making sure that those workers who come from Mexico have all of the protections of federal law and including universal health care.
Yes, I'm for repealing NAFTA, because there are so many reasons why people left Mexico because of NAFTA. Yes, I am for lifting up the cause of human rights.
(Speaking in Spanish)
RAY SUAREZ: Governor Dean, many of the functions of the old Immigration and Naturalization Service are now included under the new Department of Homeland Security. How do you balance the needs of the United States to both protect itself, during a time of high overseas threat, and process people who want to be immigrants to this country during an era of very high immigration?
HOWARD DEAN: Let me make two observations. First of all, I think it's important not to use profiling. Profiling doesn't work. There's been a lot of studies about it. It doesn't work in Hispanic communities. It doesn't work in African-American communities. And it doesn't work against the Arab-Americans either.
Secondly, I think for 9/11 to have affected our immigration policy is ridiculouswith Latin America is ridiculous. The last time I looked, not one of those 19 hijackers was Latino.
So the problem here is that immigration is a hot topic because people, like the president, use code words like "quotas" to try to frighten people into thinking they're going to lose their jobs to somebody who is a member of the minority community. And for that reason alone, the president ought to go back to Crawford, Texas, with a one-way bus ticket.
I am tired of being divided by race. I'm tired of being divided by gender. I'm tired of being divided by sexual orientation, by income and by religion. I want a country that's based on a community again. Yes, we can have a decent immigration policy in this country. But the problem with this administration is they can only think about one problem at a time. They are bogged down in Iraq, they are not defending us from Osama bin Laden, and they are not paying any attention to Latin America, which is the most important hemisphere in American history.
RAY SUAREZ: Senator Edwards, there are communities in North Carolina that probably never imagined in 100 years that they'd have to hire an English-as-a-second-language teacher or have bilingual classes. So your state is being marked by this new immigration too. How do we both protect the country and make it possible for people who want to come here to come?
JOHN EDWARDS: Well, let me say a word about my personal experience with this issue. I grew up in a family where my father worked in a mill all of his life. And when I was young, we moved to a small town in rural North Carolina, which is where I grew up. That town is now half Hispanic.
My family moved to that town because my father, who has a high school education and is still living, believed that by working hard and doing the right thing that his kids would have the opportunity for a better life. These Hispanic families? They came to Robbins, North Carolina, for exactly the same reason.
And those who came and live there, who work hard and are responsible, they have earned the right to be American citizens. But I want to tell you, they've also earned the right to something else that we haven't talked about tonight. We still have two public school systems in this country: one for the "haves" and one for the "have nots." We have got...
These Hispanic children who live in areas of poverty, in poor communitieswe have got to make a commitment as a nation that we're going to stop this idea of having two public school systems, that in fact we will make a commitment as a nation that every child in America, no matter where they live, what the color of their skin or the income of their family, will get exactly the same education as the richest parent in America can afford for their children. That's the commitment we need to make as a people.
RAY SUAREZ: Maria Elena?
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: (Speaking in Spanish) About 39 states have already discussed or debated giving undocumented immigrants access to driver's licenses. The California legislature just approved it and Governor Davis is about to sign it.
How do you stand on that?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: Let me say, the amnestyI would agree with legalization. But the real issue is our relations with the rest of this hemisphere. And this administration has missed the boat altogether. They have turned their backs. We should be reaching out to the rest of this hemisphere. We should be welcoming people to this country. And instead of pandering to fear, as the Ashcroft andthe Bush-Ashcroft administration has done, they have pandered to fear since 9/11 and they use that as an excuse really to shut down opportunities for people to share in the American dream who want to, hardworking people who are willing to contributewho are contributing to this country.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Well, what about for those who live here now?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: That's correct. Well, those who live ought to have their statusought to be able to get driver's license, ought to be able to participate as citizens participate. We need to be normalize our relations with documented, as well as undocumented people who are here in the United States. And I think that really moving away from the kind ofagain, the fear that has characterized this administration's approach to these issues is the first step that we have to take.
My late mother used to say, it doesn't matter if you came to this country on the Mayflower or a slave ship, across the Rio Grande or through Ellis Island, we are all in the same boat now. And this electionthis election really does pit which direction our country is going to head. Are we going to put ourselves in a position to move forward, to reach out to others, to resolve these issues instead of having people locked up and their phones tapped and their e-mails tapped and locked up in secret arrests and the like?
Instead of doing that, can't we begin to reconcile our relations with others, to work well with others at the international community to begin to restore the kind of hope and optimism that has always characterized this country? Because I believeif I can finish thisI believe the real issue here is our generation's responsibility to make sure that we leave no less for the next generation than we inherited from the last one. And working together is the only way we're going to be able to that.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you. Let's go to Senator Lieberman. And I want to ask you, Senator Lieberman, how do you separate the good guys from the bad guys? How do you separate the immigrants that come to this country with a legitimate interest in working and contributing and those potential terrorists that are here?
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Let me begin by saying this. Immigration for me is not just another issue. It's me, it's my family, it's my familia. My grandparents came here as immigrants seeking opportunity.
It pains me, it outrages me that every year hundreds of Mexicans coming to America for exactly the same reason that my grandparents did die in the desert because of our current immigration policy. That is no longer acceptable.
My wife's family survived the Holocaust, came here to escape communism in Czechoslovakia, they were welcomed. It pains me that refugees are subjected to a cap and to suspicion of being terrorists, refugees from tyranny around the world today, by the Bush administration.
This can't go on any longer. I've lived the American dream. I know what new Americans contribute to this country. I know the commitment to faith, familia i patria, faith, family and country, that new Americans have. George Bush has been terrible on this. He has used 9/11 as an excuse for not doing what he promised to do in reforming immigration laws. He has let down our neighbors to the south in Mexico and so much of the rest of the world. I have offered the most comprehensive, aggressive immigration reform plan. Yes, earned legalization. Yes, temporary worker visas for workers from other countries.
Yes, let's lift the cap on people coming here for family reunification or to seek refuge. And let's put some due process in our immigration laws, so the Justice Department under John Ashcroft can't again do what they did after 9/11, which is to arrest almost 800 undocumented immigrants, put them in jail without charges, without counsel, with notice to their families. That's not America at its best. And as president, I'll stop it.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: I think we have just 30 seconds, if you can please answer, what do you say to Americans about the contributions of Hispanics to this country?
RICHARD GEPHARDT: This country is a melting pot. It's a fabric. I often quote Martin Luther King, and I say that we're all tied together. I say we are one people. Hispanic population in this country has defended us. Many, many Hispanic citizens have died in our military without even being citizens of the United States. They've won the Congressional Medal of Honor. They work hard. Their families make an enormous contribution to this country. And as I said a moment ago, we're all immigrants unless we're Native Americans. And I'll say it again: We're all tied together. That's my philosophy that I'll bring to the presidency.
Martin Luther King said, "I can't be what I ought to be until you can be what you ought to be." That's what I really believe. And when I'm president, we'll have policies that'll make that come true.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you, Congressman. Ray?
RAY SUAREZ: Thanks to our candidates tonight.