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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript - Border Security, Immigration, and Gun Control

Interview

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BLITZER: Happening now, a million dollars. That's what you can buy in Arlington, Virginia, one bus stop. One bus stop. That's what it cost. We'll have details.

Caroline Kennedy's support for the president could lead to a prestigious position in the diplomatic corps.

And facing a crying child. The president shows off his parenting skills at the White House Easter Egg hunt. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

As momentum gathers for comprehensive immigration reform here in Washington, lawmakers are turning their attention to the border with Mexico. Four senators actually watched as a woman climbed the border fence in Arizona last week. And today, another key lawmaker has been visiting the border in Texas.

And Senator James Inhofe is joining us. He's the Republican from Oklahoma. Senator, I know you're right on the border now between Texas and Mexico. You've been studying border security in advance of comprehensive immigration reform. One of your Republican colleagues in the House, Steve King, says the U.S. should just build what he describes as a Great Wall of China along the U.S./Mexico border. Do you think that's necessary?

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: No, it's not necessary. While there are places where fences actually work, a lot of places they don't work. Now, they've had tremendous success in the Arizona border, some 260 miles, I think it is, with fences. Some places don't work as well. Where I am now is closer to the Gulf. Down here, they have fences about half the distance.

That isn't the solution to the problem. You know, anytime there is a demand to get to the United States, a lot of it would be for benefits, a lot of it for food stamps and all the other things we have to offer, until that is corrected, I don't think we're ultimately going to be able to resolve the problem.

I know there's a Gang of 8, some four Democrats and four Republicans. My concern there is what they're doing on this what they call the path to legal immigration, the path to citizenship. And you know, I've been privileged, Wolf, to talk to maybe more of the naturalization ceremonies than anybody else has. And I look at these people who came over the legal way, the hard way, and I can tell you now that my heart bleeds every time I hear people talking about an easier way for illegals to become citizens.

BLITZER: Well, listen to Lindsey Graham. He's a Republican from South Carolina, one of the members of the so-called Gang of 8. He was on CNN's STATE OF THE UNION yesterday. Listen to this, Senator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I believe it will pass the house because it secures our borders, it controls who gets a job. As to the 11 million, they'll have a pathway to citizenship. But it will be earned, it will be long, and it will be hard. And I think it is fair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So if these four Republicans on this gang of 8, including Lindsey Graham and John McCain, Marco Rubio, Senator Flake from Arizona, if they're on board, would that be good enough for you?

INHOFE: Well, not necessarily, no. First of all, there are so many unknown things right now. There's no -- when they talk about a path to citizenship, they don't have any of the details. We now know that Pat Leahy wants it to go through his committee. It's going to have all of these amendments.

And so I would almost say to my good friends, the Republicans and Democrats, they don't know enough right now in terms of what they've put together. There are too many things, too many changes that could take place. There is no specific path to legal entry. And there's no specific path to citizenship. And there's not any answers in terms of the border. So it's a work in progress. That's -- I would -- a safe bet.

BLITZER: If you don't like it, will you filibuster?

INHOFE: No, I wouldn't. I wouldn't filibuster. This is not an issue I just -- you know, I'm into as much as they are. I just know that I am concerned about the citizenship. I am concerned about what is happening with those who have done it the legal way.

And I want to hear the answers to where are there going to be fences, where are there going to be detentions, what type of equipment? I'm the ranking member on Armed Services, I need to know what of our equipment is going to be necessary on any ultimate solution to the immigration problem.

I don't think we're there yet. I don't think that they have the specific answers. And for those who say that they do, they haven't gone through Pat Leahy's committee yet.

BLITZER: Speaking of filibuster, let's move on to guns and new gun control legislation that might be out there. You've indicated with a few other Republican senators you will filibuster new legislation.

But here is the key question. If that legislation only includes expanded background checks, doesn't deal with the magazines, doesn't deal with the assault-type weapons, would you still filibuster that?

INHOFE: Well, I can only speak for myself, Wolf. And the answer is, yes. Now we -- you might not have noticed, but at 5:00 in the morning last Friday, my amendment, the last amendment to the budget bill, it actually passed. We got 53 votes.

We now know in the Senate that we have 53 votes to stop any kind of effort for gun control. And also that affected the U.N. treaty on gun exchanges. And I think you're familiar with that.

So it did two things. It was pretty strong saying that we're not going to accept gun control in the United States Senate. We have 53 senators who say that right now. And as far as background checks are concerned, just look at it logically.

Anyone can get back -- you can get a weapon from someone who has a clean background all from $100 to get a weapon for you. And there is one fallacy that I see in every type of gun control. And that is there is this assumption that a criminal element somehow will obey that particular law.

And we know that is not going to be the case. I haven't seen one yet that will work. And, yes, I would be willing to filibuster.

BLITZER: A lot of your fellow Republicans, though, they're -- they look at the polls out there. There was a CBS News poll that came out the other day, asked, do you favor background checks on all potential gun buyers?

Ninety percent of the American public, according to this CBS News poll, said they favor it. Eight percent opposed it. You're under -- you're in the 8 percent. That's a small, small minority.

INHOFE: No. I do not believe I'm in the 8 percent. I can assure you I'm not in the 8 percent, certainly, in Oklahoma.

When they ask the question, do you want a background check? Sure, everybody can say yes. They don't stop and realize that the criminal element is going to be able to get guns anyway.

If you were to ask the question, now the criminal element can get guns in spite of a background check, are you still for a background check? How would they answer that, Wolf? I think they would answer it maybe 90 percent the other way.

BLITZER: But wouldn't it make it more difficult if all gun transactions required a background check? Because right now there are these huge loopholes, if you buy it at a gun show, or if you buy privately, you can -- anybody, any criminal could go out there and buy it.

INHOFE: You know, Wolf, I disagree with that. I think they can buy it anyway. The criminal element can have access to guns. And the law-abiding citizens, they're going to comply with the law.

And so, you know, I just don't believe that you can have a background check that's going to have a material diminishing effect on the availability of handguns or any other type of guns.

BLITZER: All right. A big battle coming up over...

INHOFE: This is my maybe narrow views, but I believe them.

BLITZER: I was saying, a big battle coming up over immigration reform and guns. I know you're going to be at the heart -- right in the center of both of these battles once you get back to Washington.

Senator Inhofe, safe travels back here to the nation's capital.

INHOFE: Thank you, Wolf.

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