CNN Lou Dobbs Tonight - Transcript
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DOBBS: The real I.D. Bill, he supports that as well. All right, Bill Tucker, thank you very much.
Joining me now Senator Larry Craig of Idaho. As Bill Tucker just reported, Senator Craig is the co-sponsor of the controversial ag jobs legislation that would legalize million illegal farm workers in this country. Senator Craig joins us tonight from Capitol Hill. Senator, good to have you with us.
SEN. LARRY CRAIG, ® IDAHO: Well Lou, it's good to be back with you. And I really do want to caution you on the words you use.
My legislation would address and allow people to earn a legal status who have been here at least a year and a half or two. We believe that would be no more than about 500,000, maybe 6 at the most. It really works to controlling our border.
And, Lou, as you know and I know, we've got to gain control of our borders. And the way we do that, are laws that work.
DOBBS: That is certainly one of the ways. I consider being cautioned, Senator. And let's go right to it.
Our numbers put it at 870,000 illegal aliens who are conducts farm work along with their spouses. And, of course, children which raises the number potentially to something in the neighborhood of perhaps 3 million.
So having been cautioned, I just thought I would go immediately to the facts to preserve my cautious stance. Let's talk about the people who would be made-given legal and lawful status. According to our reading, an illegal alien who is given temporary status would be allowed to maintain permanent status after one year. Is that correct?
CRAIG: No, he would not be gained permanent status until he had worked at least 360 days or a five-year period. Usually that work period for agricultural is somewhere around 100 to 120 days. So there is an-and that 360-day period would have to be gained in agriculture. So they would have to toil in the fields of America for at least three to possibly five years to gain that permanent green card status.
DOBBS: I guess my reading is incorrect then Senator. Because as I read it, say, the Department of Human Services secretary shall upon application by the alien adjust an alien status from temporary to lawful permanent resident when the alien has performed at least 360 workdays or 2600 hours in the United States.
CRAIG: In the United States in agriculture.
And at that point what is the end game here? It is effectively a pathway to citizenship, is it not?
CRAIG: Well, certainly if the individual gains a green card, they then like anyone else who holds a green card can make application for citizenship.
What is also important here, Lou-and it's something we found out after 9/11, we've got 8 to 12 million illegals in our country. And, frankly, it's been 1200 days and an awful lot of political talk and nobody, nobody has done anything about it.
What I do in this provision is make sure they have a full background check. And if they are a felon, or if they have acquired their third misdemeanor, they are out of country.
So we do a very thorough background check on these folks who would fall eligible. Some would not come forward. But the reform of the H-2A law which is behind this provision you and I are talking about now creates something like the old Bresaro (ph) program where you identify the worker with the work. They sign up, they come and work and then they go home.
That's the kind of border control and legal process that we simply got to get our country back into to control these work forces and to control our borders.
DOBBS: Controlling our borders. Would you also agree that's one way to get at the root of this illegal immigration crisis?
CRAIG: Well, Lou, we've got about 7500 miles of land border and about 86,000 miles of water border, we've invested about $2.5 to $3 billion in border control since 9/11 and they are still pouring across the borders. I don't know how much more we can do. But I do know the reason they are pouring across is because the laws are not effective, they are not enforceable, and somebody has to step forward and create not only the border shield but the legal shield of the kind that I think I'm proposing.
DOBBS: Senator, let's go to a couple of statements you just made. One that laws that aren't enforceable, laws that certainly aren't being enforced. What in the world here are you really suggesting? Are you suggesting the United States just run up a white flag to our northern border, our southern border, and just say we're not going to try?
CRAIG: No, no, Lou. I'm standing in the floor of the Senate yesterday and next week and that's not raising a white flag. That's saying that the laws are bad and they got to be fixed to solve the problem. We've got more people...
DOBBS: These laws Senator-I'm sorry.
CRAIG: We have more people-Lou we spent 2.5 billion of your tax dollars lining up at the border trying to build that human wall across our southern border.
DOBBS: Well, let's look at the economics of that.
CRAIG: They are still pouring across.
DOBBS: Let's look at the economics then. If, because of excessive immigration both legal and illegal we're depressing wages in this country by $200 billion, we're carrying an estimated $50 billion on the part of the taxpayer, because of the need to care for illegal aliens through health and other social services. $2.5 billion sounds like a minor deposit on what should be put forward to secure our borders and to stop illegal immigration, doesn't it?
CRAIG: We've done more in three years to secure our borders, post 9/11, than we have done in the last 20.
Now the reason it isn't working as effectively as we hoped it would, and the border still remains a sieve today-we'll do more. I've got an amendment on the floor right now with Bob Byrd on the supplemental to pour more money into it.
I want to control that border. But I am not so naive as to assume we don't have to straighten up our laws, either. It is our law that is driving the flood of immigrants into this country.
DOBBS: Well that's funny because President Bush satisfied said it was $5 an hour that was driving it. But if you think it's the laws, I'm sure the president will take note of that.
Personally, I think it's a lack of will on the part of the men and women who have been elected to represent the middle class and working American citizens, frankly, that you can put the blame squarely at their feet. CRAIG: Well Lou, I would hope you would judge me as not a person with lack of will. I'm here tonight. I'm on your program. I am subject to a high level of criticism today, because I'm the only one out there with a proposed solution to a very real problem in our country.
Now I don't know whether mine will work. I believe it will, 590 interest groups across the country: the AFL-CIO, the Farm Bureau, and you you name it, they believe this will work if it is enforced.
But frankly, we've got to do something. We're investing in local law enforcement. We're investing in border control. Now we've got to invest in a legal process that works.
I have the will, I am not standing idly by. We're debating it full-bore on the Senate floor. I don't believe that deserves a criticism.
DOBBS: Senator, let me ask you one question before you leave. Do you think you are going to get passage of your legislation?
CRAIG: Lou, I think we're very close. But you are right, it is a phenomenally divisive issue. You see most Americans and some politicians would like to talk about it-and, oh, do we love to talk about it, but we don't do anything about it, because nobody really has an answer to this problem.
When you've got this huge economic magnet like America is, you've got to control your immigration or everybody wants to come. And for 20 years we've ignored it. Now we're faced with the reality of trying to shape it. And we're going to work hard to get it done.
DOBBS: Senator Larry Craig, we thank you for being here. And as you say, you are asserting your will on this legislation. I can't be in all candor-my will would be not aligned with yours. But we thank you for coming here to discuss yours. Thank you very much. Senator Larry Craig.
CRAIG: Lou, thank you.
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