CNN Lou Dobbs Tonight - Transcript
DOBBS: Bob Franken, thank you very much.
Turning now to a story we've covered extensively here, the millions of illegal aliens who have invaded this country, and many of them criminals for the crimes, of course, they committed while here. Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona this month sent the federal government a bill for $118 million. That's what Arizona said it spent to imprison illegal aliens who are also convicted criminals for crimes they convicted here.
Governor Napolitano is our guest tonight from Washington, D.C.
Governor, good to have you with us.
GOV. JANET NAPOLITANO (D), ARIZONA: Thank you.
DOBBS: This is an unusual step. You believe the federal government is responsible then?
NAPOLITANO: There's a federal law that says that the federal government is supposed to reimburse states either for the costs of incarcerating illegal aliens or take custody of them. So I-we haven't been getting reimbursed our actual costs, and I said it's time to send the federal government a bill. They need to abide by their promise.
DOBBS: You know, one of the things, Governor, that we hear, and I'm sure you hear in the state capital, certainly in Arizona, is what is it that the federal government doesn't understand about "illegal"? And what is it that the federal government doesn't understand about the law?
You cite the law, and you're exactly right. But the law also says that the federal government shall enforce, control and protect our borders. And what's going on?
NAPOLITANO: Well, in Arizona, I think referring back to your earlier interview with Director Bonner...
NAPOLITANO: ... they do not have operational control in Arizona. Over half the border patrol arrests in the country are in Arizona. And that illegal activity is causing grave harm to the state and to the taxpayers of our state. I have to fight for Arizona, and the federal government simply needs to do more in Arizona to get control of that border.
DOBBS: As you say, and Arizona has the more severe problem, the severest problem of all of the border states as best it can be reasoned. What has been the response to billing the government for $118 million?
NAPOLITANO: Well, I haven't received-I haven't received a response. I haven't even received a letter saying the check is in the mail. But, you know, we put forward why those costs have been incurred, why under the law we are entitled to be reimbursed for them.
Arizona taxpayers are entitled to be reimbursed for them. So I await the response of the attorney general. And hopefully it will be reasoned response and we can work this out.
But, you know, we're doing our job. When people commit crimes in our state, we're prosecuting them and we're incarcerating them. But if they've been able to get into our state because they were able to cross illegally, the federal government should pick up the tab.
DOBBS: Well, Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is, I think, one of the most able of our senators, is very concerned about this issue. She's focused on it as well, as you know. The idea that President Bush when he was the governor of the state of Texas was absolutely supportive of the programs that reimbursed states for the costs incurred. What has been the response from the White House? Has there been any?
NAPOLITANO: Well, it has been underwhelming, to say the least. The president and his budgets has consistently zeroed out any money for the states for the costs of incarcerating illegal aliens. Senator Feinstein and Senator Kyl of Arizona jointly are trying to repair that. But you know, in our state we right now are housing over 4,000 illegal aliens in our state prison at the average cost of about $55 a day, a little bit less. That's a big bill for us. And some of them are ready to be actually deported to Mexico, and we can't get the federal government to process the paperwork to pick them up and get them back home. So, that's a frustration as well.
DOBBS: It's a frustration. It's a frustration felt by nearly all of the citizens of the state of Arizona. The passage of Proposition 200 last fall, which you didn't exactly vigorously support, if I can put it that way, governor...
NAPOLITANO: I opposed it, because it doesn't add any Border Patrol Agents to the border, and didn't put any more money into you're state treasury. But...
DOBBS: How do you feel about it now?
NAPOLITANO: We're implementing it now, and we're applying it, and it's the law. And we are applying it in every agency to which-to which it's applicable, and it's going OK. It's going pretty well, as a matter of fact. But I'll tell you, it hasn't stopped this wave of illegal immigration. If the voters thought we were going to be able to stop this wave of illegal immigration by a measure dealing with how you vote, they were-that has not happened to be the case. We have become...
DOBBS: I think it's pretty clear. I'm sorry governor. I think it's pretty clear that even just the wording of the proposition doesn't suggest they thought it would stop it, but at least that it might reduce the financial, the economic burden on tax payers in your state-to deny services.
NAPOLITANO: But these are the big economic burdens. This cost of incarceration, that's $118 million just for the last 18 months. Education and health care, those are not covered in prop 200, those are federally, mandated services, those are costs as well. And quite frankly, from a homeland security standpoint, until you get control of that Arizona border, I don't see how you can say that you have effective homeland security either. So, it's an immigration issue and it's a security issue.
DOBBS: Governor, I couldn't agree with you more. I don't think there's any-frankly, I don't think any American disagrees with you. It brings up the question I want to conclude with here tonight. In Arizona, if it were not for the initiative of proposition 200, there was a frustration with the government-the state government not representing the people of Arizona, to at least the degree they would like, but it was representative of a frustration we're seeing across the country now. Are we moving toward a situation where in your judgment, as a political expert, that people are going to have to go to public referenda, to initiatives in order to gain the representation and control over their lives that their representatives in Washington seemingly won't provide?
NAPOLITANO: Well, they may have to. But, you know, I take the president at his word that he's going to push for some serious immigration reform. We definitely need that, and we need more resources, technology, manpower, what have you, at the border. When they closed off El Paso and San Diego, that traffic all got funneled into Arizona and we're paying an undue price for it.
DOBBS: Absolutely. And Governor Napolitano, we thank you for being here. We appreciate it.
NAPOLITANO: Thank you. You bet.