CNN Lou Dobbs Tonight - Transcript
DOBBS: Turning now to an issue we've been reporting on extensively for years, the estimated 20 million illegal aliens in this country and our federal government's failure to enforce either our border or immigration laws. My next guests have actually proposed legalizing hundreds of thousands of those illegal aliens who work in American agriculture. Senator Larry Craig of Idaho and Congressman Howard Berman of California say their plan will benefit our nation's agriculture industry. They were our guests here a couple of weeks ago, and we ran out of time in what was an extensive discussion, I think it's fair to say. And they've graciously agreed to be with us again.
Senator, Congressman, it is great tot have you both back with us.
REP. HOWARD BERMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you very much, Lou.
SEN. LARRY CRAIG ®, IDAHO: Good to be back.
DOBBS: And Senator Craig, Congressman Berman wasn't given quite the attention that you and I were by the "Idaho Statesman" newspaper, but...
BERMAN: How about that?
DOBBS: But it was kind of fun to look over their review of our discussion. Let's...
BERMAN: The headlines were-yes, headlines were, "Rupert (ph) Boy Makes Good."
DOBBS: There you go. The fact of the matter is-and I'm going to turn, if I may, to you, Congressman Berman, the issue, as you know, in this country right now has reached a critical point. The needs of agriculture are critical. Agriculture itself is critical to the well- being of this nation.
But the idea of legalizing illegal aliens and creating an amnesty for whatever the number is-you estimate a half a million-is anathema to many who are critical of what is happening in this country. How do you respond?
CRAIG: This is not an amnesty. If I told you, you had done something illegal, you'd come into this country illegally, and you had a choice of two penalties, 30 days in the county jail or working 360 days over a six-year period picking crops in agriculture, most people would say, give me the 30 days.
This is an extended process for an earned adjustment which requires people to continue to work in a particular industry as a condition of getting legal status. In addition to paying the application fees and other costs attendant to the adjustment.
It is-it is no more an amnesty than the present situation, which is to ignore the presence of 8, 10, 12 million people in this country, which is a situation we're in now. Only it's a much healthier proposal than the status quo.
DOBBS: It at least has the courage of recognizing that there is a problem. And the courage, if I may say, even though I don't agree necessarily with the solutions you've put forward, at least you have the courage to put forward a solution. Senator Craig, let me ask you this... we're dealing with, as we discussed the last time, we're dealing with people who have broken the law. First, the illegal aliens who have crossed our borders illegally. And secondly, the employers who have hired them illegally.
Is it really an appropriate response to say we're going to legalize those who have broken our nation's laws?
CRAIG: Well, most important, Lou, we have a border we have not controlled for nearly two decades. We also have a very real need for a workforce. And if you don't have a way to make a workforce legal, so they can come here and work and go home, then you get the situation that we currently have.
And so what we're trying to deal with is readjusting and changing the law that creates a legal workforce for the very real needs of American agriculture. And I think that what Howard has so clearly said was, we give people the right to earn a position. We also do a background check and we begin to clean up and identify a portion of the 8 to 12 million undocumented people that are in this country. And I think that's what the American citizens want.
DOBBS: I think the American citizens based at least on-and I would certainly would not speak for any group of people, but at least those who watch this broadcast and the way they've responded to our polls and interact with us, I will tell you are definitely, definitely against the president's proposal on amnesty as it's constructed now. They are very concerned about the lack of border security. But as you say, the issue is critical. We need to make some adjustments.
Let me ask you both this question as we try to deal with it. In our last discussion you asked me to put forth a proposal. Mine is very, very simple. And that is simply a work visa. I discovered the Sonora, Arizona border as a young reporter 30 years ago. The fact is that work visas and green cards worked very well then. There was no impetus for a gained citizenship in this country, no expectation of it. And certainly, it worked effectively. Why is that not an adequate solution, if I may ask you first Congressman Berman?
BERMAN: Well, if you are going to give a work visa to people in this country who came here illegally then I would say your proposal is an amnesty. Since you seem to say that any proposal to deal with the status quo is an amnesty. And we're talking about authorizing work on condition that you continue to work as a condition of a adjustment program. I'm not quite sure what the distinction is.
And if you are going to ignore the people who are now in this country and only apply to people who are outside the country, then you are leaving the status quo, which is what-that's what people are really angry about. They are angry that there are 8 to 12 million people illegally.
DOBBS: I'm sorry, who is angry? Who is angry?
BERMAN: The American people are very upset by the present situation. It's huge cost to taxpayers, it's very unhealthy, leads to all kinds of exploitation. It's a humanitarian nightmare, it jeopardizes our national security. This is not a problem that we should be ignore anything longer.
DOBBS: Congressman? Senator? Democrat and Republican. You just articulated, Congressman, the issue. Why in the world is not the United States Congress and the United States Senate absolutely insisting on control, not operational control, but real control of our borders, absolute security and controlling the flow of immigration across our borders?
CRAIG: Lou, you ask a very important question. We are investing billions on the border. We are hiring tens of thousands of border guards. And we are attempting to control the border.
But here is a very real human reality. On the other side of that border, the American side of that border, there is a need for a very large workforce of a certain kind. And human beings will go where they feel they can better themselves, even if they put themselves as risk on the border.
Lou, you are absolutely right. In the '50s, we had a bresarro (ph) program. We gave visas. We identified the worker and the work. And that program worked very well. Then we changed the law and we turned our back on a law that was very bureaucratic, very time consuming.
Last year in Idaho, we believe there were some 30,000 workers, foreign nationals, only 1,100 of them had been worked through the legal H2A program. And yet that 30,000 were desperately needed to harvest the crops of Idaho, to change the sprinkler pipes and to put food on the Americans' tables.
So what Howard and I are attempting to do is, No. 1, correct the current problem and then reform the H2A law to do much of what you are saying, to identify a worker and a visa and a job to make them legal so they can move across the border, do their work and go home. We think that in the end is absolutely the appropriate way to handle this.
DOBBS: Congressman Berman, your thoughts?
BERMAN: Well, I think Senator Craig said it very well. We are trying to do something about this problem. And the three alternatives is to take an approach like ours, to leave the status quo or to create the pretense that somehow we are going to search through the streets and roads and homes and apartments of America to find 10 to 14 million people and deport them. If we do that, we don't have the resources for anything else. And I don't think the price the American people are willing to pay constitutes the creation of that kind of an operation.
DOBBS: Those have to be the last words. We thank you for being with us again. Congressman Berman, Senator Craig we thank you. You are both very gracious to come back and further the discussion. Thank you both.
CRAIG: Lou, thank you.