Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Presidential Summit In Cancun To Focus On Illegal Immigration; Senate Begins Border Security Debate; Mexican Presidential Elections To Be Held In July; Many Hoping For A Thaw In U.S.-Canada Relations; Hector Flores Interview; John Trasvina Interview

Aired March 29, 2006 - 18:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Wednesday, March 29.
Live from Cancun, Mexico, Lou Dobbs.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening from Cancun, where the leaders of the United States, Mexico and Canada are making their final preparations for a trilateral summit that will include subjects such as illegal immigration, border security and so-called free trade.

President Bush has left Washington. He is on his way now for talks with Mexican president Vicente Fox and Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

As the president flies towards Cancun, the full Senate has begun its historic debate on border security and the president's guest worker program which would legalize millions of illegal aliens.

We'll be live tonight on Capitol Hill.

And as this important debate begins, U.S.-Mexican border security is deteriorating. Tonight, we'll report on how the Mexican government has broken a promise and refused to cooperate with U.S. officials on border security issues.

We have reports tonight from Canada, from the United States, and, of course, from here in Mexico, where the president is expected to arrive soon.

We begin tonight with Elaine Quijano, who is awaiting the arrival of President Bush, a short distance from where we're located -- Elaine?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And Lou, those meetings among the leaders officially get under way tomorrow. But long before now, President Bush made clear his position on immigration.


QUIJANO (voice-over): When President Bush sits down with the leaders of Mexico and Canada this week, he will bring with him longstanding views on immigration policies.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're a nation of law and we ought to enforce our borders.

QUIJANO: In the red-hot debate over the issue, the president's proposed temporary worker program has infuriated fellow conservatives. Yet, he remains unflinchingly attached to the idea.

BUSH: ... recognize there are hard-working people here doing jobs Americans won't do, and they ought to be here in such a way so they don't have to hide in the shadows of our society.

QUIJANO: President Bush's position is rooted in his years spent in the Texas governor's mansion, which he says gave him firsthand experience.

BUSH: Illegal immigration puts a strain on law enforcement and public resources, especially in our border communities.

QUIJANO: But his stance now is also tied to his west Texas upbringing.

Wayne Slater of the "Dallas Morning News" has covered George W. Bush for more than a decade.

WAYNE SLATER, "DALLAS MORNING NEWS"": As a young man in Midland, he got to know a number of Hispanics who worked in the community. And so these are not alien people to him.

QUIJANO: In addition, Slater says Bush's time as managing partner of the Texas Rangers exposed them to immigrant baseball players.

SLATER: And I think it strengthened in George Bush's mind was understanding not simply of people as a class or a particular race, but of people who have families, have needs to work, people he understood and feels very comfortable around.

QUIJANO: In this 1999 interview, then presidential candidate George W. Bush outlined the beliefs that continue to drive his immigration policy today.

BUSH: We've got to enforce the borders, but I understand family values don't stop at the Rio Grand River. And see, what I understand is, is that when you're a man and you've got kids to feed and you're making 50 cents, and you can look up north and see the chance to make $50, and your kids are hungry, that you're going to come.

Mi casa blanca es su casa blanca.

QUIJANO: In the months after his election, the president began pushing comprehensive immigration reform. But September 11 happened and any thought of opening the borders was viewed as too risky. Now with the election year immigration debate boiling over, and his approval ratings in the 30s, it's clear some fellow Republicans have no problem distancing themselves from their president on this divisive issue.

(END VIDEOTAPE) QUIJANO: Now, before he left Washington, President Bush reiterated that, in his view, the issues of border security and his proposed guest worker program go hand in hand. A message that of course is not sitting well with his fellow conservatives in Washington. Nevertheless, President Bush essentially saying that he is willing to expend some political capital on this highly-charged issue -- Lou.

DOBBS: Elaine, has the president put forward a proposal that would control our borders and secure our borders to go along with his insistence on amnesty, the guest worker program?

QUIJANO: Well, what president essentially says is that, in essence, he is advocating what so many of his fellow conservatives are advocating. And that is tighter measures at the border.

However, as you know, the very idea that the temporary worker program remains a part of his proposal, any solution that he views must include a guest worker program, that, of course, is viewed as amnesty. And so this is where the impasse lies, Lou.

The president has made clear, though, he does understand the need for tighter controls at the border. That border security is a very big concern. Nevertheless, he is insisting that any solution must include the guest worker program -- Lou.

DOBBS: Elaine Quijano reporting from Cancun, where we will all be reporting on this president, Prime Minister Harper and Vicente Fox, the president of Mexico, as they discuss illegal immigration, border security, and the concept of expanding the security perimeter to the borders of all three nations, rather than each individual nation.

Elaine, look forward to your coverage throughout the remainder of this week.

The leaders of the United States, Mexico, and Canada will also be discussing new ways in which to integrate these three economies during this summit this week. But these three countries could not be more different economically.

Almost 12 percent of Americans and 16 percent of Canadians are living below the poverty line. But in Mexico, that figure is conservatively 40 percent.

The unemployment rate in the United States, 4.8 percent. Just under 6.5 percent in Canada. The official unemployment rate in Mexico is 3.5 percent, although the under-employment rate is as high as 25 percent.

On education, Americans spend an average of 12 years in school. The same in Canada. But in Mexico, the average number of years in school is only seven.

Difficult, difficult challenges in any discussion of integrating economies and certainly even greater challenges in talk of integrating three societies. When the leaders of these three countries met last year, they agreed to work closely, trying to integrate these very different economies. Here in Cancun this week, the very identity of the United States is at stake as the three leaders once again discuss what is being called a common strategy with common borders, something that hasn't been voted upon by the American people, nor the Canadians, nor the Mexicans.

Lisa Sylvester has the report.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): March 2005, the heads of state from the United States, Mexico and Canada gathered in Waco, Texas. They launched what is known as the Security and Prosperity Partnership, an agreement to create a security perimeter and ease trade barriers in North America.

Behind this partnership is a vision of a free flow of goods and people stretching from Mexico all way to Canada.

BUSH: The three of us need to be interconnected and work closely together for the good of our respective peoples.

SYLVESTER: American University professor Robert Pastor has written books advocating a North American community.

ROBERT PASTOR, "TOWARD A NORTH AMERICAN COMMUNITY: It's much more than a partnership. To think about a community is to think that if one of the members of the community is harmed, it harms the other two. And if they benefit, all three benefit.

SYLVESTER: Pastor wants the United States to invest in Mexico's infrastructure and bring jobs to the country, raising the Mexican quality of life. But that is precisely what has critics worried about integrating economies.

The United States, a first-world country, having to absorb Mexico, a developing country, with U.S. taxpayers shouldering the social costs. Mexico and the United States are worlds apart when it comes to labor rules, environment regulations, even legal systems.

The annual per capital GDP of the United states is $43,800. In Mexico, it's just under $7,000. The minimum wage in the United States is $5.15 an hour. In Mexico, it's $4.56 a day.

JOHN BAILEY, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: We find this tremendous disparity in terms of wages and living standards and benefits that are hard to overcome in the short term and that can really distort a kind of an integration of the economies.

SYLVESTER: Evidence so far has shown that trade liberalization, rather than raising standards in Mexico, has had the opposite effect, pushing down wages and benefits in the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SYLVESTER: And it's one thing to have an economic ally, another thing altogether to have an economic dependent, which is what Mexico is quickly becoming. And of course that erodes the very idea of the sovereignty of nations, the sovereignty of the United States.

DOBBS: And the difficulty in this trilateral meeting is these three leaders -- in the case of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, this is, if you will, his introduction to these trilateral talks. In the case of Vicente Fox, President Fox is obviously leaving office. So for him it is a farewell.

The difficulty of this conversation for these three men is, first, a discontinuity of leadership. Second -- secondly, they do not have a political will expressed by the people they purport to lead and represent. To move forward is a very difficult situation for them politically, a difficult situation obviously for the elected officials in all three countries.

Lisa, thank you very much.

Excellent report.

Lisa Sylvester.

On the eve of the summit here in Cancun, the full Senate in Washington has just begun its historic debate on border security and illegal immigration. And there are new developments tonight.

After the House of Representatives passed a tough border security bill, House leaders are now leaving the door open for a compromise on the president's guest worker program.

Dana Bash has the latest for us from Capitol Hill tonight -- Dana.


Well, that Senate debate started about an hour ago. And right now, they are just discussing border security, but eventually they will take up the issue of a guest worker program, the idea of allowing illegal workers to stay legally in the United States.

Now, long term, whether or not that actually passes the Senate, which is a big "if" -- there you see Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico on the floor right now -- whether that passes, one big question is, what happens with the House of Representatives? They, of course, only passed a border security bill, not guest -- a guest worker program. And many conservatives in the House are very much against it.

Well, today, the House speaker, Denny Hastert, actually signaled there may be room for compromise on that issue.


REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We're going to look at all alternatives. We're not going to discount anything right now. Our first priority is to protect the border. And we also know that there's a need in some sectors of the economy for a guest worker program. But, you know, we want to see what the Senate comes forward and we'll go through the conference process.


BASH: Now, you noticed there that he did not endorse the idea of a guest worker program. But just the idea that he said there is a need in some sectors of the economy for a guest worker program made a lot of supporters of the idea, Republican supporters, very happy.

I bumped into Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican supporter of the guest worker program, showed him the speaker's comments, and he actually cheered, Lou. He said that it was huge.

So they're hoping that perhaps there could be some momentum, but it is very early. Way too early to tell. But I can tell you, Lou, that talking to some leadership aides and some at the White House, they are seeing the passion. They are seeing how big of an issue this is around the country, and they know that all eyes are on, that they're in charge of this government here on the Hill and at the White House, and they are trying to figure out they can get something passed and the president to sign something on this immigration issue perhaps by the summer.

DOBBS: Dana, I think it's important that we keep something in context. Are you saying -- how passionate the issue is, are you talking about the demonstrations around the country in support of illegal aliens and against the Sensenbrenner legislation?

BASH: You know, what they -- what they realize is that there is passion on all sides of this issue -- yes.

DOBBS: I'm just trying to understand. Is that what you were referring to?

BASH: Well, in talking to people here, yes. They certainly are listening to that. And it obviously is making the issue and the debate even more raw and even more complicated, frankly, in the Senate. That's why the outcome is unclear, very unclear in the Senate. Much less in the House.

DOBBS: Right. I think it's very important and incumbent upon us to point out that those demonstrations are, perhaps -- there's some countervailing suggestion in the two most recent public opinion polls which put opposition to a guest worker program at more than 60 percent in each of those polls.

BASH: Right. Right.

DOBBS: So as you say, the passions run high. The views diverge.

Dana Bash from Capitol Hill.

Thank you. BASH: Thank you.

DOBBS: Still ahead, false promises by the Mexican government. Tonight we'll have a special report on promises to cooperate on border security that have been with the borders broken.

And illegal immigration a national issue with very local and individual impact. Tonight, we report on an American town's fight.

All of that and a lot more when we return with this broadcast live from Cancun, Mexico.


DOBBS: Welcome back.

We're reporting to you tonight from Cancun, Mexico, where leaders of the United States, Mexico and Canada are set to meet to discuss an agenda of tri-national integration. All three leaders will try to present a show of unity at this meeting. But on the issue of border security, Mexico certainly continues to refuse to cooperate in many ways with U.S. officials.

Casey Wian has the report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the eve of the Cancun summit, Mexican President Vicente Fox declared he will now allow suspected drug traffickers to be extradited to the United States. It's something the U.S. has wanted for years because drug lords often operate their cartels from behind bars in Mexico.

It's also a rare instance of Mexican cooperation with U.S. law enforcement authorities. Violence by drug and illegal alien smugglers is out of control in many Mexican border towns. Paramilitary groups operate with impunity, and the violence is increasingly spreading to the U.S. side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're losing our patience as far as getting shot at from the Mexican side when we're patrolling the riverbanks. And we've pretty much decided that if we are shot at, we're going to shoot back.

WIAN: Mexico claims that armed confrontations by soldiers crossing the U.S. border are not the work of its military. Border sheriffs say that's no excuse.

SHERIFF RICK FLORES, WEBB COUNTY, TEXAS: If there are rogue people operating, the government of Mexico should do something about it. The government of Mexico is allowing this to happen. Again, if they want to put a stop to it, they can put a stop to it.

WIAN: Instead, some Mexican authorities refuse even the most basic requests from U.S. law enforcement. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have talked to the Mexican consulate on this side and requested him to give me a list of the generals on that side, the people that are in charge that can make that decisions. I've yet to have that. I requested this back in January.

He did, however, send me a copy of our Texas attorney general's guidelines on handling immigrants. I was taken aback by it because I know how to do my job.

WIAN: Mexico has shown it has the capability to control its side of the border. During the Minuteman Project last year in Arizona, Mexican authorities all but shut down illegal crossings in the area being patrolled by U.S. civilian volunteers.


WIAN: Border security will obviously be a key issue on the table when the presidential summit begins tomorrow. A key question remains, will President Bush be as strong demanding help from Mexico on border violence as President Vicente Fox has been in demanding amnesty for illegal aliens in the United States -- Lou.

DOBBS: As difficult, as emotional as the president describes it, an issue it is for guest worker amnesty, in particular, but illegal immigration, there's nothing difficult about the concept that this nation, the United States, has a responsibility to make its citizens safe and to control the borders. Those border sheriffs are -- they are frustrated. Their lives at stake. In some cases, losing their lives.

What -- what are they saying?

WIAN: Well, 24 of them, all 24 counties along the border, have gotten together and formed a coalition to demand action from both the U.S. and Mexican governments. They say they're absolutely overwhelmed by a lack of resources from the United States and by attacks from Mexico.

And Mexico is failing to control the escalating drug war on its side of the border. And until that's done, you're never going to have real border security.

DOBBS: It's -- this -- this crisis, lack of border security, illegal immigration, the drug war -- people don't even talk about the drug war, even though we are losing tens of thousands of young lives in America every year to it -- it is -- the only word that comes to mind is unconscionable that our public officials, particularly in the Congress, the Senate and the House, and this president have not dealt with for the good of the American people.

WIAN: And it's amazing how many of those problems would be fixed by just addressing the simple issue of border security.

DOBBS: It's where it begins. Casey, thank you.

Casey Wian. The border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California are, of course, paying the huge price for the invasion of illegal aliens, as Casey just reported and suggested. But there are many other communities all across this country that are feeling the effects of the crisis.

Bill Tucker reports from one such community, Vineland, New Jersey.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Welcome to Vineland, a community of nearly 60,000 in New Jersey's Cumberland Community. It is here in communities like this all across the country that our failed immigration policy is felt.

MAYOR PERRY BARSE, VINELAND, NEW JERSEY: I just find it just very difficult to fathom not having a policy enforced nationally. I find it hard to fathom that people are crossing the borders -- the border in droves. And there doesn't seem to be any regulation.

TUCKER: Vineland isn't anywhere near an international border, unless you count the Atlantic Ocean as one.

(on camera): The reason why there's a large illegal population here in southern New Jersey is that are there farms that need laborers to work them.

(voice-over): And while they come to work, they also bring problems: overcrowded housing, no way in knowing who they are.

CAPT. PAUL LETIZIA, VINELAND POLICE: And oftentimes, when illegal immigrants are involved either as a victim or an accused, to identify that individual and later contact that individual or make necessary arrests, it complicates the whole process.

TUCKER: With no health insurance and unable to afford a doctor, illegal aliens turn to the emergency room, where no one asks emergency status.

DR. WILLIAM DICINDIO, ER, SOUTH JERSEY HEALTHCARE: And so we've become a primary care area. That's a very expensive way to go about giving health care.

TUCKER: Already in the midst of a budget crisis, New Jersey taxpayers spend an estimated $200 million a year to cover the costs of health care to illegal aliens. And there is another cost to the community.

DR. MICHELE TORCHIA, SOUTH JERSEY HEALTHCARE: We provide excellent care regardless of their situation. That does divert energy and dollars from other ways we might grow wellness programs for families. For women, children and whole families here.

TUCKER: These are not choices that can be ignored. BARSE: We're a humane people. And we need to, you know, take care of people's needs. But we've got to address this issue before it gets any worse. It's too burdensome.

TUCKER: It's a message local officials want Congress to quit ignoring and do something about.

Bill Tucker, CNN, Vineland, New Jersey.


DOBBS: Coming up next, I'll be talking with one of the foremost Hispanic leaders in the United States, the leader of one of the most active of the activist organizations. Hector Flores, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens will join me here in Cancun.

And corporate America and many politicians want to see an amnesty program for illegal aliens succeed. Why is that? We'll have a special report for you tonight on what is really driving their agenda.

We'll have all of that and more.

And we want show you some sign of the security that's moving in to place here in Cancun as Prime Minister Harper, President Fox, President Bush prepare for their summit meeting, their trilateral summit meeting.

You're looking at a helicopter assault ship of the Mexican navy. Three large Mexican navy ships have moved into place, a half a dozen smaller ships, as the preparations are now being finalized for the trilateral summit.

We'll be talking about that and a great deal more when we continue. Stay with us as we report live from Cancun, Mexico


DOBBS: A critical aspect of the illegal immigration legislation now before the Senate concerns amnesty in the form of a guest worker program. Corporate America and leaders from both political parties rarely share the same agenda, but they certainly do on this issue. It is the amnesty agenda. And we thought it very important that you understand why they're supporting amnesty.

Peter Viles reports from Los Angeles.


PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Who's really behind the push for guest worker programs or outright amnesty? Lobbyists for just about every business in America that relies on cheap labor: the restaurant industry, the retail industry, hotels, builders, landscapers, hospitals, truckers, fruit and vegetable growers.

TOM DONOHUE, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Let me address the often- heard argument that business supports immigration reform because it would increase the supply of cheap labor. That's simply not true. Why would we want to take people out of the shadows if that's what we were attempting to accomplish?

VILES: Businesses and the president says most of the jobs taken by illegal immigrants are jobs Americans won't do. But critics see something else, an effort to keep wages artificially low by forcing middle class Americans to compete against cheaper foreign workers.

DAN STEIN, FED. FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM: What's the motivation? Billions and billions of dollars of wealth that are going to be redistributed from middle class, hard-working American families into the pockets of the relatively small number of very wealthy people in this country.

VILES: Democrats have long positioned themselves as champions of middle class workers, but in this debate, leaders in both political parties support the corporate agenda. Democrats often argue it's a matter of civil rights.

MICHAEL LIND, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: This is what is cynical. They are trying to portray what is a capitulation to a reactionary policy by the greediest, most unscrupulous, ruthless employer in the United States. These Democrats are trying to portray this as something pro-Latino or a civil rights issue. And in my view, it's complete hypocrisy.

VILES: Both parties also see a chance to court new voters, jockeying that began the first summer of the Bush administration, when columnist Paul Gigot wrote, "Most Hispanics are Democrats. A Bush amnesty is precisely the kind of large political event that could shake up those allegiances."


VILES: It would be a big mistake for anyone, Lou, to think the only jobs at stake here are low-wage jobs. Let me tell you about something from the National Association of Manufacturers watching this debate closely and writing on its Web site this week, "We tend to look at the high end and the need for more visas" -- these would be H1B visas -- "for smart, skilled workers."

So here you have an industry, manufacturing, that has lost millions of jobs and is saying this week it needs more foreign-born engineers allowed into the country to work. Business, Lou, is working this issue from every possible angle.

DOBBS: Business, unions, the Catholic Church, Protestant churches. The combination of forces that play here have only one target, and that's the working man and woman in this country, middle class families, as you reported. They're the only group, by far the largest group, but also the most apathetic and passive politically in the country.

And they are squarely, squarely in the bull's eye of this agenda, an agenda that we're going to continue with your good help, Peter Viles, to reveal to our viewers here. Pete, thank you very much. That brings us to the subject of our poll. The question tonight is, do you believe, as we discuss amnesty and guest worker program, do you believe that the illegal employers of the 11 to 20 million illegal aliens in the United States should also be granted amnesty?

Please cast your vote at We'll have the results coming up here later in the broadcast.

Now let's take a look at some of your thoughts.

Donna in Tennessee, writing to ask -- to say, "how dare illegal aliens demonstrate on the streets of America demanding anything? These demonstrations should be a wake up call for everyone. We are in danger of becoming Northern Mexico. My future is being sacrificed at the alter of special interests, vote pandering and big business."

Sam in Kansas: "Lou, let me see if I've got this right. Those who broke our laws to get into this country are now protesting our laws? Mercy."

Wendell in Iowa: "I'm a World War II Army veteran and I see our great country backing away from the rule of law. Political expediency is trumping facts and sending the USA down the slippery slope to anarchy."

And "Please Lou" -- from Gale in Illinois, "Please Lou, don't do it. A man Tuesday night wanted you to send his copy of your book to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Send it to me. I can read."

We just had to share that one with why you. We'll share more of your thoughts here later in the broadcast. Send us your thoughts at

Well, Mexico's politics, there is the possibility of a major political shift in this country. National elections in Mexico will be held here in July, and the presidential front runner is a man who says he wants to kill NAFTA.

Christine Romans has the report.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mexican politics, aligning with Latin American and away from the United States. The term of President Bush's good friend Vicente Fox ends this year, and presidential elections will be held in July.

Leading the opinion polls, leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. He has blasted free market reforms and topping his agenda is to renegotiate NAFTA, which he says is driving Mexican farmers off the land. He has vowed to spend more money lifting up his country's poor. He's the former mayor of Mexico City and Fox's political nemesis.

LARRY BIRNS, COUNCIL ON HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS: He's a populist, and he is a nationalist. What Washington worries about is that Lopez Obrador is going to look not only to the rest of Latin American as his natural ambiance, but also in the direction of China.

ROMANS: And there's business-friendly Felipe Calderon, who lauds Mexican citizens who protest on American streets for illegal aliens.

FELIPE CALDERON, MEXICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): I celebrate whatever reasons the senators had, whether it was the pressure of our countrymen on the streets, it must be interesting for them to have experienced these kind of demonstrations.

ROMANS: Close behind, candidate Roberto Madrazo. He opposes the United States embargo of communist Cuba and rejects American influence.

ROBERTO MADRAZO, MEXICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): I am going to head a firm government that would coordinate issues with the U.S., but it will not be subordinated to them.

ROMANS: President Fox says whoever wins the presidency he must leave, takes over a stronger Mexico. He claims he has cut extreme poverty and boosted Social Security. Yet 40 percent of Mexicans still in live on poverty, one in 10 on less than a dollar a day. Still rampant are drug and human smuggling and law enforcement corruption.


ROMANS: And illegal immigration to the United States is an evermore important economic tool for Mexico. That means even as Mexican politics look increasingly to the leftist movements of Latin American, the most important relationship for Mexico, it remains the United States -- Lou.

DOBBS: Christine, thank you very much. Christine Romans.

Coming up here, two guests who strongly disagree with what I have to say on the issue of illegal immigration and border security. I'll be joined by Hector Flores. He's the president of the League of United Latin American Citizens. He'll be joining me here in Cancun.

I'll also be talking with John Transvina. He's the acting president of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund. They have considerable reason to oppose my views. They'll tell us all about them.

We'll have a great deal for more you when we come back. Stay with us, as we report live from Cancun.


DOBBS: Welcome back. We're reporting to you from Cancun, Mexico tonight, site of this week's tri-lateral summit among President Bush, Mexican President Vicente Fox, and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Among the groups lobbying Congress to approve amnesty for illegal aliens in the United States is the League of Latin American Citizens. They call themselves the largest and oldest Hispanic organization in the United States. And Hector Flores is the national president of the League of the United Latin American Citizens, and joins me here in Cancun tonight. Hector, it is good see you.

HECTOR FLORES, PRES., LULAC:: It's good to see you again. I'm glad I'm with a fellow abby.

DOBBS: Ancient baby boomer you taught me to say. Let me turn to a couple of issues.

FLORES: I was going to ask you this. (SPEAKING IN SPANISH).

DOBBS: Lovely.


DOBBS: Hector, we have a very simple rule in this broadcast. I get to ask the questions. I deferred once to be gracious, and second we have to honor time commitments and restraints.

FLORES: Absolutely.

DOBBS: What do you expect to gain here on the issue of illegal immigration and border security in this tri-lateral summit?

FLORES: Well, I do believe very strongly that there is going to be some basic understandings about how to protect each other's borders. It's not just about the United States border, but I think it's also about the Western Hemisphere.

I think these three powers, the three powers that are going to be here today, you know -- of course those borders, the impact that they have on our international commerce, but they have on our independent and individually economies is very, very important.

I think once you close these borders, and with what's happening in the United States with the rhetoric, the real passionate rhetoric could hurt these ties we've developed over many, many decades.

DOBBS: You mean the ties between Mexico and the United States, and Canada?

FLORES: And Canada, to be honest with you.

DOBBS: It's interesting to see what we saw over the past week and that is the street demonstrations, organized, it turns out now, by some in the Hispanic media, particularly in Los Angeles with syndicated shows.

The idea -- and I've just got to ask you this. The idea that those demonstrations were organized to -- against the Sensenbrenner Bill, specifically. Does that mean that the Hispanic activist groups such as LULAC and to others that are working tirelessly for what you see as the interest of your constituents, does that mean that border security is unacceptable? FLORES: Absolutely not. The answer is absolutely not. We do believe -- it would be ludicrous for anybody in our country to think that border security is not on our mind, and it's not a pressing issue with us. Obviously, it is and, obviously, we believe in the sovereignty of our country. My goodness, I'm an American citizen. Why would I not worry about what would happen to me and my family and my friends?

DOBBS: Do you worry? Do you worry about the fact ...

FLORES: Absolutely I do. Absolutely.

DOBBS: Do you think that we have the capacity to secure our borders and our ports?

FLORES: We hope that we come up, at least to some way -- I think that people of goodwill will come to the table, will come with some new innovation. Like anything else, we have to also be able to have a -- some mechanism in place so that people can move back and forth and obviously we've had this discussion about the impact of a group, the impact that immigrants have on our group. Amnesty, I know, is a matter of definition. And I know that you think that.

DOBBS: Well on this broadcast we just talk straight. I will even, for the purposes of this discussion, I will accede to you calling illegal immigrants and you agree with me that we're going to call what's happening in the Judiciary Committee what it is. It's amnesty.

FLORES: I don't think so. When you penalize somebody even if it's a civil fine, you're still penalizing them. Even if you have to get in line.

DOBBS: To others you can understand why it looks like they are buying citizenship.

FLORES: When you are criminalize people, it's a different story.

DOBBS: When people break the law, they criminalize themselves, do they not.

FLORES: We're not in favor of criminals that are trafficking in all of those kinds of things.

DOBBS: You and I could go down this road, but it's not helpful to anyone to get into the rhetoric and nonsense of it.


DOBBS: Let's talk about the reality of it.


DOBBS: The number, 11 million, 20 million, by one study. Should there be amnesty for all of them? In your view.

FLORES: Well ...

DOBBS: For all of them.

FLORES: I don't know how we're going to handle that, that's why we have elected our leaders?

DOBBS: The Senate is rolling right ahead.

FLORES: The first issue is going to be how do we protect our borders? I think we're all going to be supportive of that.

DOBBS: Hector, let's shake hands. Because let me tell you, I really believe this. I believe most Americans, once you secure the border, secure our ports and have the capacity to control immigration, are more than eager to begin this discussion on reforming immigration policies.

FLORES: It depends on how do you it.

DOBBS: But the inverse is mindless political nonsense. You know the most underrepresented group in the United States are working men and women, and they're the one who are getting their legs cut up from under them through illegal immigration, depressed wages as you know.

FLORES: All the studies do not validate what you're saying. The studies that have been done ...

DOBBS: Hector, Hector, please.

FLORES: They do not validate. Look I have been in the labor movement.

DOBBS: We've known each other too long. We don't need to play games here.

FLORES: I'm not playing any games. Look at the research and you remember the last ...

DOBBS: Hector ...

FLORES: ... discussion we had.

DOBBS: We're using up time. I commend you to Paul Krugman and Robert Samuelson. Two of the finest economists working today as columnists. Look at their most recent columns on the issue. We're burning up time as we always do because you and I come at it clashing. We get close. We'll get there some day. Hector, we've ...

FLORES: Without a doubt, but I will tell you one thing, just like your report on this issue to inflame people and the passion, we need to balance the program.

DOBBS: Please, I'm trying to balance it.

FLORES: Let's put both sides on the table.

DOBBS: Do you know how I'm trying to balance it? With the truth. Right square in the middle.

FLORES: The way you see the truth.

DOBBS: The way we report the truth based on facts. We have to get going.

FLORES: There are a lot of people who disagree with you.

DOBBS: I don't have to appeal to a constituency.

FLORES: Of course not. You want your ratings to go up. That's what the whole issue is.

DOBBS: That's why we talk about these exciting things like international trade and economy.

FLORES: I know.

DOBBS: We'll be right back. A reminder first, though, Hector Flores, thanks, good to see you as always.

A reminder now to vote in our poll. Do you believe that the illegal employers of the 11 to 20 million illegal aliens in the United States should be granted amnesty?


DOBBS: Hector Flores says absolutely.

FLORES: No, they should not be granted amnesty, they should be coming through a program so we who know is here.

DOBBS: Cast your vote at We'll have your results coming up here later in the broadcast.

Up next are I'll be talking with John Transvina. He's the acting president of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Hector Flores says he's a good man. He'll be my guest. And we will also be looking of course, continuing our look, at border security and so-called free trade. Two critical issues certainly between the United States and Canada and among the three countries at this trilateral meeting.

But, in the case of Canada, how will a new conservative Canadian prime minister change the way Canada works with the United States? We'll have a special report for you on the newest member of the trilateral summit from the U.S.-Canadian border. That report coming up and a great deal more. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Welcome back. While much of this week's attention will clearly be on the U.S.-Mexico relationship, Canada and its role in border security and trade will also be a major topic of discussion. In recent years, the United States and Canada have been at odds over a host of issues with some politicians in Canada making no bones about their animosity towards one President George W. Bush. Katharine Barrett has more now from Peace Arch Park of the U.S.-Canadian border.


KATHARINE BARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Children of a Common Mother." Words in stone over the Peace Arch at this busy northwestern border post, but in recent years that sibling relationship between the U.S. and Canada has been, well, fractious.

The low points, two years ago a liberal Canadian legislator stomped on a Bush doll on television. Two years before that a senior government adviser called President Bush a moron.

But hopes are high that Thursday's meeting in Cancun Between leaders of the world's two biggest trading partners will bring a public thaw in U.S.-Canadian relations.

DON ALPER, WESTERN WASHINGTON UNIV.: I think the new prime minister Stephen Harper is more in tune ideologically and certainly economically with the Bush administration. So I think it's kind of like saying OK, let's see what we can do to, you know, forget about all of the problems we've had in the past and do the best we can in terms of building a strong future.

BARRETT: But policy differences will not vanish overnight. Border security is job one. Canadian border agents hope the new Harper government will soon change the law that does not allow them to carry guns. Twice this year, Canadian agents have closed the gates and abandoned their posts as armed suspects headed north towards the border.

DAN DUNSKY, CANADIAN POLITICAL ANALYST: The Canada-U.S. border is Canada's economic lifeline, 52 percent of our GDP depends on trade between the two countries. The nightmare scenario for any Canadian politician right now is a terrorist attack in the United States from -- committed by somebody who came over the Canadian border.

BARRETT: But a U.S. proposal for all travelers entering the United States to have passport or pass cards is meeting resistance all along the 4,000-mile northern boundary. Border communities on both sides fear a drop in tourism and cross-border commerce.


BARRETT: But no amount of warm words from Canada's new leadership will make up for the fact that Harper's Conservative Party is a minority government. Canada's Liberal wing and its complains about U.S. policy will continue to make themselves heard -- Lou.

DOBBS: But to salve the pain, at least the Canadians will continue to enjoy a $50 billion trade surplus with the United States. Mexico a $75 billion trade surplus with the United States. Katharine Barrett, thank you very much.

Coming up at the much to the hour here on CNN, THE SITUATION ROOM with the my friend Wolf Blitzer.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. You're going to play a key role. President Bush south of the border. He'll be arriving shortly in Mexico. He'll confront the issues that divide his own party, namely immigration. Lou Dobbs himself squares off against Univision anchor Jorge Ramos. It is a debate right here THE SITUATION ROOM. That's coming up.

I'll also speak about immigration with Senator Ted Kennedy. He'll be in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll ask him tonight why he agrees with president when it comes to immigration.

Plus, back breaking work at low wages. We'll find out why one major farm owner says cutting off all illegal immigration will lead to the collapse of American agriculture.

Lou, all that coming up at the top of the hour.

DOBBS: Looking forward to it. Thank you, Wolf.

And still ahead here live from Cancun, Mexico, I'll be talking with John Trasvina. He is the acting president of the Mexican- American Legal Defense and Education Fund. That and a great deal more still ahead. Please stay with us.


DOBBS: Welcome back as the sun is setting here in Cancun. On this broadcast we've reported there are as many as 20 million illegal aliens living in the United States. Most of them from Mexico. My next guest says that's just Lou Dobbs talk, as he puts it. He says no one responsible estimates the number of illegal aliens that high.

Joining me now from Los Angeles is John Trasvina. He is the senior vice president of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

John, good to have you with us.

JOHN TRASVINA, SR. VP MALDEF: Hello, Lou. Being in Cancun has mellowed you some. It is a good thing.

DOBBS: It is a very good thing. It hasn't, however, changed the facts or the issues or the critical and urgent nature of them. John, how many illegal aliens do you estimate, since you reject the study that extrapolated that as many as 20 million illegal aliens last year were living in the United States?

TRASVINA: Well, the most authoritative studies says 11 million or 12 million. Congressional Budget Office says that there is 21 million foreign-born workers in United States, whether they came here in 1915 like my father and are U.S. citizens or just came recently. So 20 million is very exaggerated.

DOBBS: And the scale difference, 12 million, 20 million, 15 million. The fact is that is a huge number of people to be in our country without the permission of this government representing American citizens.

TRANSVINA: That's right.

DOBBS: Excuse me. Do you believe that they should be granted amnesty, John, in entirety?

TRANSVINA: Well, I think what the Senate did -- the Senate Judiciary Committee did on a bipartisan basis is the right approach. Legalization over a long period of time for those who learn English, pay taxes and work and contribute to the country. Those individuals ought to get legalization. They ought to be able to work here legally.

DOBBS: And, as I talked with Hector Flores at LULAC, the idea that border security is critically important. I would like you -- let me throw out how I view this situation and you tell me what's wrong with it. I don't believe you can reform immigration policy without being able to control immigration into this country. And I don't believe you can control immigration unless you can secure and control your own borders. Do you disagree with that logic?

TRANSVINA: Our immigration policy ought to be for the U.S. national interests, that's the economic interest, the security interest and the labor interest. All components are a part of that. That's why the Senate Judiciary Committee's bill that does address border security as well as the other factors is much better than what the House approach has been.

DOBBS: All right, but before we get to the specifics of that, do you disagree with the logic of what I said?

TRANSVINA: I don't disagree with the logic that comprehensive immigration reform, border security, economics, labor, family reunification are all basic components.

DOBBS: Would you reject amnesty or the guest worker program, if we were unable to secure and control our borders?

TRANSVINA: Well, part of the legalization program helps us secure our borders. It helps people come forward, identify who they are. And we can screen out those who are not law abiding, those who are not paying taxes and those type of things. So it all goes together. It's not either/or proposition at all.

DOBBS: The Pew Hispanic Center says that illegals fill 24 percent of the farm jobs in this country, 14 percent of the construction jobs. That means that Americans are working the overwhelming majority of those jobs, yet the president is saying that Americans won't work on those jobs. Who's telling the truth?

TRANSVINA: Well, both are telling the truth. Those are not contradictory statements. A large part of many industries, whether it's a service industry or agricultural, are dependent upon these workers and moving forward in a future-thinking approach, in terms of American jobs. We're a growing economy. We're going to need more of those types of workers. So that's why having a guest worker program going forward, legalizing the people already here, makes a lot of sense.

DOBBS: It makes a lot of sense particularly to employers who are hiring illegal aliens. It makes a lot of sense to unions who are desperate for membership. It makes a lot of sense to those who are looking for cheap labor, as I say. But does it make sense in the greatest -- at the greatest extreme to say we need to have border security before we can control the rest of it is just talk until we can do that?

TRANSVINA: No, we can have both. You don't confuse the experts in the Senate who have come up with a bipartisan bill that works.

DOBBS: As you say, we'll see. John, it's good to have you here. Come back soon.

TRANSVINA: Thank you very much.

DOBBS: Still ahead, we'll have the results of our poll and a look at what's coming up on tomorrow's broadcast live from here in Cancun, Mexico.


DOBBS: Results of our poll tonight. An overwhelming 93 percent of you do not believe that the illegal employers of the 11 to 20 million illegal aliens in the United States should also be granted amnesty.

We thank you for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow for our continuing live coverage of the trilateral summit from Cancun. My guest, among them tomorrow, the ambassador for Mexico to the United States. For all of us here in Cancun, thanks for watching, good night.

And "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer begins right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou.


© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines