CNN Late Edition-Transcript
KING: Beautiful view of the Jefferson Memorial there. Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm John King reporting from Washington.
Critics of the immigration deal say it's nothing short of amnesty. Even those who aren't dead set against it are still expressing concern of the impact of certain provisions.
Joining us more to discuss this, from Charlottesville, Virginia, the Democratic governor of a border state, Arizona, Janet Napolitano. And here in Washington, the chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray of California. Let me start this way first. In a sentence, could each of you describe your biggest reservations about the bill, beginning with you, Governor.
GOV. JANET NAPOLITANO (D), ARIZONA: Good start, but the details are very difficult. How the temporary worker program is going to be implemented, whether the border security measures are actually going to be installed. These are questions that need to be answered as the bill undergoes further consideration.
REP. BRIAN BILBRAY (R), CALIFORNIA: The worst thing you can do if you try to control illegal immigration is reward 12 to 20 million illegal aliens with citizenship and permanent residency. That's why the border patrol agents oppose this bill.
KING: So, all right then, on that point, Congressman, let me follow up with you. And I want you to listen to a quote from a gentleman who just left here, the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff. This is Secretary Chertoff a bit earlier in the week talking about critics like yourself who call this amnesty and say it's not acceptable.
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CHERTOFF: I understand there are some people who expect anything other than capital punishment is an amnesty.
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KING: Strong words from Secretary Chertoff there. I know you don't want capital punishment for these people. But their point is, they're in the country through mistakes of previous 20, 30 years of immigration mistakes. You can't round them up and throw them out. BILBRAY: John, the big mistake was '86, where we announced amnesty. We told the world we're going to reward people for illegal immigration. And just as the secretary said, we're now lowering the number of people of crossing. By announcing this, you're going to have the next big wave.
We have the largest influx of illegal immigration since the last amnesty. What makes them think that if you do the same thing, you're not going to get the same results? We need to do employer enforcement. That's not what they've been doing enough of, and that's where we need to crack down on.
You've got to control the boarder and control our neighborhoods before you even talk about anything like this. This is absolutely absurd thinking you're going to control the border when you're encouraging a whole new wave to come in.
And you watch, in the next few years, they'll say, we were just overwhelmed by the new numbers. We don't understand. Because you just told the gentlemen in Guatemala, come on in illegally. You're crazy to wait your turn to immigrate legally.
KING: Governor, you live the border every day of your life. You heard Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff talk about the things they will do: Extend out the fence, hire more border security people, bring in the new technology.
Do everything they can to finally, he says, enforce the borders. Is the plan, just from the security standpoint, the things they are promising to do in the grand compromise realistic?
NAPOLITANO: I think it is if they do what they say they're going to do. And that is a key question, because the talk has been very good. Where the budget actually happens, sometimes it's not quite as sufficient.
But you have to break this down into three parts. You need the border security. That obviously has to happen. Very key to a state like Arizona, very key to our country.
But you can't just wave the word "amnesty" and think that you've solved the problem of the 12 million already here. You've got to have some realistic way of doing them.
And I think the Senate compromise is as close of being able to talk about this problem realistically as anything I have seen lately. The temporary worker program built into this compromise I think has a lot of difficulty associated with it because I don't think it matches the reality of the economics of the situation.
KING: What specifically do you mean by that? You mean the worker program would be for things that the economy doesn't need?
NAPOLITANO: No, I mean having somebody come in to our country for two years to work and then saying they have to leave for a year before they can come back and work another two years. And that's just not the pattern that we see.
So, in my view, I think that could be much simpler, much more realistic. And then you've got to have the employer sanctions and enforce those just as the Congressman suggested. We did get into problems after '86 because once somebody got over the border it was basically a "get out of jail free" card.
You've got to have a realistic passage to earn citizenship, and it's got to be tough. Citizenship should be a very tough privilege to earn for somebody to earn outside of this country. And then you've got to make sure those border security measures are installed and sustained over time.
KING: Now, Congressman, you say anyone who broke the law to get into this country should not be able to get a path into citizenship. Am I right about that?
BILBRAY: I don't think they should be able to get a special program. And this creates a special program and a special status for only those who are illegally here. And when I asked the White House, I said, can those who would qualify for the "Y" visa who haven't broken our laws, do they get to pay in and qualify for the "Z"? And they said no.
John, that's amnesty. You're creating a special status and a special program. And what does that tell the person back in Guatemala and El Salvador? Again, we're going to send the message we're going to reward illegal immigration. And how can any common-sense person, let alone a parent, say that's how you're going to get positive behavior by announcing to the world you're going to reward negative behavior?
KING: If we can't get this done without everybody giving up something, what are you willing to give up? What is something that you have been firm on forever that you're willing to give up to get a compromise?
BILBRAY: I think that if once we control, we fulfill the promise of '98, and that's employer enforcement, once we stop paying people to be here illegally, and we crack down on our buddies who are hiring illegal aliens, once we do that, then we can talk about a true temporary program where people come in here, work and go home.
And I'm willing to talk about that. But you've got to fulfill the enforcement part, because if you don't have that kind of enforcement, somebody will come here under a so-called guest worker program and then just go off to another job and disappear.
We're talking about something that's been taking years. And they're proposing that they promise in 18 months they're going to have this under control. Let's do the employer enforcement part.
You've got HR 98, by Sylvestre Reyes and David Dreier, something that's supported by Maxine Waters and Tom Tancredo. That's not just bipartisan. That's bipolar. Why don't we go back and do that. We can agree on that. And once we do that, we can prove to the American people that we're actually serious and that this isn't a shell game just for cheap labor and cheap votes.
KING: Governor, I'm using you as our reality check here because you do live the border in the state of Arizona. I want you to listen to something that Lindsey Graham said.
One of the questions we always have is, does the debate here in Washington have anything to do with how things work out in the real world? Listen to Senator Lindsey Graham describing one of the key provisions of this legislation.
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SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: We're not going to deport them all. What we're doing is punishing them in a way that's practical and allowing people to live their lives without fear, not jump ahead of the line. You cannot become a green card holder under this bill until everybody in line ahead of you gets through the system, so they're not jumping in line.
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KING: Governor, I'm going to hit this point all day long I think until I get run out of here. But is there some intellectual dishonesty in the debate when you say someone is not jumping the line, whereas if I am in this country illegally on this Sunday in May, I can get a new "Z" visa -- call it what you will under this program -- and get legal status and get legal status and ultimately a path to either permanent legal status or perhaps citizenship as opposed to somebody that would be sitting in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, pick your place in the world, wanting to get into the United States, who is going to face a tougher border and a tougher system if they want to come in legally. Are you not jumping the line?
NAPOLITANO: Well, I think as someone who deals with the border every day, that's kind of a Washington, D.C. question because you put a little label on something and then you frame the debate. It's much more substantive than that.
And that's where I disagree with the Congressman. What he's saying is, do the law enforcement first. And then when that's all done, you can take up the more difficult issue. My experience with the Congress is, it's very easy for them to talk about law enforcement. I'm all in favor of it. I'm a former prosecutor myself.
But they won't take up the more difficult issues unless you hook border security in simultaneously. This has to be done comprehensively all at the same time, or they'll never get to the more difficult labor issues that need to be part and parcel of the debate.
KING: I want to ask you a political question, Governor. You're the Democratic governor of Arizona, a key player in these negotiations with your Republican senator, who wants to be the Republican nominee for president of his party. And I'm going to let the Congressman beat him up in just a minute for striking this compromise.
I want you to talk about Senator McCain's role in all of this. And will he pay a price? It's an easy question for a Democrat, I guess.
NAPOLITANO: Well, he may in his own party, but Senator Kyl, who's also a Republican senator and a very conservative one from Arizona, was also part of these negotiations. And while I differ with both Senator McCain and Senator Kyl on some of the details of this bill, I don't differ with them on the basic premise.
If this group hadn't moved something to the floor so that the debate could become open, public and comprehensive, this issue was going to be ignored again until after the presidential. And that is simply not an acceptable solution for this country.
KING: Congressman Bilbray, the Democrats run this town right now when it comes to Congress, but this bill will not pass unless the Republicans come to the table. You know the speaker, the Democratic speaker has said, President Bush, show me 70 Republican votes. I'll bring it to the floor. Can it pass? Will it pass?
BILBRAY: I think it passes if big business is able to basically put the pressure on and say, we give you Republicans a lot of money. We want you to deliver us a cheap vote. And the governor talks about the tough things to do.
You know, the governor's got to understand, the tough thing to do in this town is to crack down on the big businesses that are hiring these people that are undercutting the fair market labor out there. And that's the tough one, the enforcement.
And if it was so easy, I would have to say to the governor, why wasn't it done in '86?
It was avoided because that was the tough part. It's always easy to reward people for negative behavior in Washington, D.C. The elite likes that. But it's tough to take on your buddies who are profiteering from illegal immigration.
And that's where the Republicans are going to be really drawn. Mr. McCain was not involved in the day-to-day negotiations. He supports this. And I think that's a fatal mistake. But I think a lot of people are trying to work this out.
But as somebody who grew up on the border and was the county chairman in San Diego County, I saw what the '86 law did. And it caused not only illegal immigration. It caused more than 300 deaths every year. And that's something we should be outraged.
Remember the Banzai charges. Remember the people running up the freeways. That was caused by the '86 compromise. And we shouldn't make the same mistake again unless we expect the same results.
KING: We need to end it there, unfortunately. But I suspect, in the weeks and months ahead, we will have more on this.
Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona, thank you so much for your time. Good luck with your commencement address later today.
NAPOLITANO: Thank you.
KING: Congressman Brian Bilbray, here in the studio, thank you both so much.
BILBRAY: Thank you, John.