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Protesters Rally Over Immigration Legislation; A Look at Day Laborers Provides Insight Into Immigration; Tornado Survivors Share Stories

Aired April 10, 2006 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KYRA PHILLIPS, HOST: White shirts on their backs, red white and blue flags in their hands, immigration reform on their minds. Huge waves of people turning out right now to push for immigrant rights. Take a look, from coast to coast, rallies in dozens of cities. But while the streets fill, Congress is coming up empty.
Here's our national correspondent, Bob Franken.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even before today's major rallies, demonstrators jammed the streets in Dallas on Sunday. They were there in Miami, too, and Long Island, New York.

It is impossible to document how many of the marchers are undocumented, taking a risk by going public. Regardless, today organizers hope for a massive turn out across the country. They march as the Senate stalls unable to agree on legislation that would allow many illegals to seek citizenship, a concept that's rejected by a majority in the House.

REP. TOM TANCREDO (R), COLORADO: It sends a horrible message. It sends a terrible message to every single person that has ever come in this country the right way.

FRANKEN: Some Democrats join the Republican in acknowledging that the tide of illegal immigration is out of control and presents security risks.

REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: I agree enforcement is key and security is key. But let's do it comprehensively. Let's do -- let's have a holistic approach.

FRANKEN: The Senate has run into the kind of wall that would be the envy of those who want to protect U.S. borders.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Democrats put political advantage over the national interest.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: What happened is the Republicans reached an agreement with Democrats, and then they couldn't hold the Republicans together.

FRANKEN (voice-over): As the demonstrators come together by the hundreds of thousands they hope, they want to communicate that political gamesmanship will not be tolerated, particularly by Hispanics, who have become the nation's largest minority.

Bob Franken, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Eleven million, give or take several million. Either way, there's no way to know for sure how many immigrants are living in America illegally. But those who want to work here are a familiar presence in most big cities. CNN's Sumi Das reports from Los Angeles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUMI DAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On any given day roughly 117,000 day laborers across the U.S. are looking for work on street corners, at home improvement stores and day labor centers. About three quarters of them are here illegally. That, according to UCLA's Center for the Study of Urban Poverty. Center director Abel Valenzuela says that doesn't tell the whole story.

ABEL VALENZUELA, UCLA: Day labor has become the poster child of illegal immigration in this country. They're a relatively small percentage of the immigrant labor force.

DAS: This day labor site is funded by the city of Los Angeles, and Valenzuela says it's an intelligent response to the demand for workers. Employers we spoke with agree.

JESUS NAVARRO, HIRES DAY LABOR: The point here, you can come and hire directly to them. You don't need any paperwork and make application.

DAS: Another employer says he doesn't ask for documents.

GUILLERMO BERT, HIRES DAY LABOR: I don't question their status. I mean, that's not my position. I mean I -- they're here, you know. I come to a labor center, and I hire some people. I'm not a federal agent.

DAS: This center offers classes in construction and English. It's staffed with a site manager and even a marketing coordinator.

Jose Luis Munoz acknowledges he's in the U.S. illegally.

JOSE LUIS MUNOZ, DAY LABORER (through translator): I need to earn money to support my family. I have to look for work. This center has helped us, and that's why I'm here.

DAS: Opponents point out these centers don't require workers to prove their legal status. They say such centers provide businesses with an artificially cheap and mostly illegal labor supply.

TOM FITTON, JUDICIAL WATCH: One of the reasons immigrants are involved in work, quote, "Americans won't do" is because you've got this huge supply of illegal labor that has made it difficult for Americans to work for the wages at the levels that illegal immigrants are willing to take. MUNOZ (through translator): We work hard, and that hard work benefits this country. That's what the government doesn't understand. We're not criminals. We are workers. We work the bad jobs, the dirty jobs and the jobs that pay poorly.

DAS (on camera): Undocumented day labors may be very visible but they make up a small fraction of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. According to UCLA, approximately 88,000 day laborers are here illegally. With that math, day laborers may only account for one percent of the illegal immigrant population.

Sumi Das, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: We're going to take you live to some of those protests in just a minute.

But first, picking up the pieces in the Southeast. That killer tornado that tore across Nashville, Tennessee, on Friday has been classified an F-3 with winds of nearly 170 miles an hour. Nine people were killed in that storm. Countless homes and businesses demolished.

Heavy rain and a handful of tornadoes also took aim at metro Atlanta. An 11-year-old boy died Saturday after being hit by a falling tree branch. Extensive damage is being reported north of the city.

And the tornado that obliterated this part of Kentucky carried winds of at least 113 miles an hour. Four people suffered minor injuries.

Amid all that destruction, stories of survival. CNN's Jonathan Freed introduces us to three people who will forever be linked by one stormy day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEN LITTLE, TORNADO SURVIVOR: That's the only part of the original roof left up here. Yes. So it took all the attic away.

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Len and Ruth Little's house has stood on this hill in Gallatin, Tennessee, for a hundred years. The Littles say it took just 30 seconds for Friday's tornado to do all this.

They saw the twister plowing its way across their field and managed to survive by huddling in their basement.

RUTH LITTLE, TORNADO SURVIVOR: Yes, the dust was coming down from there.

L. LITTLE: Yes.

R. LITTLE: And the ceiling tiles were falling. FREED: The Littles are now worried their insurance may fall short of what's needed to rebuild. So they're gathering everything that wasn't shredded and packing it into the rooms that still have a ceiling in the event they have to move out for good.

L. LITTLE: Before we try to move everything down here because it's try here.

FREED: The Littles' survival story might sound familiar but their tornado tale has a twist.

(on camera) You can see the car dealership.

R. LITTLE: Yes. There's a car dealership.

FREED (voice-over): Turns out their home's destruction probably saved a man who works at an auto dealership, just across the road over there.

CHARLES RUSSELL, TORNADO SURVIVOR: We seen debris, stuff flying up in the air.

FREED (on camera): From the house that was over there?

RUSSELL: From the house that was over there.

FREED (voice-over): Charles Russell says it looked like the Littles' house exploded, and that prompted him and his co-workers to run for cover, holding onto anything they could, while the storm pulverized the dealership.

(on camera) He found a really big heavy toolbox, and he said he just crouched down and hugged the toolbox.

RUSSELL: It turned and started coming this way.

FREED (voice-over): We had met Charles Russell a few days ago, and now had the chance to tell the Littles about the role their house played in his story of his survival.

L. LITTLE: A life is worth a lot more than materialistic thing. If -- if I could sacrifice my home for a life, that would be great.

FREED: Taking some of the sting out of a staggering loss.

Jonathan Freed, CNN, Gallatin, Tennessee.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: It's shaping up to be a much milder Monday for most of us. Let's check in with Bonnie Schneider in our weather center.

Hey, Bonnie.

(WEATHER REPORT)

PHILLIPS: Thanks.

The last number I found is about 70 immigration reform protests planned around the country today. We want to get straight to one of the biggest rallies taking place right now. Tens of thousands of people on the outskirts of Atlanta, right here where we're based. More in, coming by the minute. Our Amanda Rosseter is right there in the heart of it.

Amanda, give us or set the scene for us.

AMANDA ROSSETER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, there are 30,000 to 40,000 people, I hear. It's just a sea of people this afternoon that have come as far away as Savannah, Georgia; Nashville, Tennessee. One minister from Nashville told the organizer of this event today he was bringing his entire congregation with him.

We've seen entire families: babies in strollers, elderly people in wheelchairs. And they have come, basically, to fight for rights and for jobs. They understand the federal issue and the federal plan on the table, and they are vehemently opposed to the Georgia plan that is on the table, the one that the Georgia legislature passed in the spring session. And they are signing petitions today to send to Governor Sonny Purdue to encourage him not to sign that bill.

Joining me now is Eva Cardillas (ph). She is 18 years old, and she has been here for several years. Tell me what the biggest concern is for your illegal friends.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, basically it's the thing of being criminalized under the S529. They're not here as criminals. Actually, they come to this country to work very hard, because their families are starving in Mexico or have, you know, economic issues. So it's about that, being criminalized for something that, although it is against their law, they're here because they're trying to survive.

ROSSETER: And what is their greatest fear? Are they afraid?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, actually they're very afraid of being criminalized. I guess the biggest fear of them -- the concern that we have as far as the illegal immigrants and what are they doing here. I think a lot of people don't understand what people have gone through to come to this country.

ROSSETER: And do all of them understand the stakes? Do they understand the plans there on the table, both -- both state and federal?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, they understand that very much. That's why we're here, actually.

ROSSETER: Eva Cardillas (ph), thank you so much and good luck.

Kyra, back to you.

PHILLIPS: Amanda, just for a second, if you could, maybe try to put it in layman's terms for us, this Georgia state bill 529. Can you give me a couple specifics to sort of lay out what it is these individuals are dealing with specifically here in Atlanta or in Georgia?

ROSSETER: I'm sorry, one more time?

PHILLIPS: The Georgia state bill 529, can you give me a few more specifics?

ROSSETER: Can I give you a few specifics about the legislation bill?

PHILLIPS: Yes. Sorry, I know it's loud.

ROSSETER: Basically, it is -- it is a crackdown on illegal immigration, essentially. And they understand that it would make illegal human trafficking, in particular, and it would crack down on employers who have illegal immigrants in the employ as far as tax concerns.

So that's a big concern today. They understand -- they understand all of the logistics of that, and they are signing petitions to pass that petition along to Governor Sonny Purdue.

One of the interesting stories that we came across were not only students who are here who are college students who are legal, but also young people who are very concerned about their parents. Young people who were born here and who are legal, but their parents are illegal. Their concern is what happens to them if their parents are deported -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Amanda Rosseter, amazing concentration right there in the middle of that rally. We'll continue to check in with you throughout the day. Thank you so much. We're also keeping an eye on the dozens of other protests that are happening across the country.

Well, straight ahead a little boy and a big debate. His 911 calls only got him a scolding. Did that cost his mother her life? When we come back we'll tell you the story.

ANNOUNCER: You're watching LIVE FROM on CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: We'll talk about bird flu in just a moment. But first, a boy in Detroit dials 911 to get help for his dying mother, but help is the last thing that he got. Now his mother is dead, and the only trouble may be -- well, the real trouble may be starting right now.

CNN's Fredricka Whitfield explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): One afternoon in February, 5-year-old Robert Turner found his mother unconscious in their Detroit apartment.

ROBERT TURNER, CALLED 911 TO REPORT MOTHER'S CONDITION: Then I had felt her tummy. She wasn't breathing. And then I had called 911, tell them to send an emergency truck right now.

WHITFIELD: But the 911 dispatcher didn't take Robert seriously.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Emergency 911. What's the problem?

TURNER: My mom has passed out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where's the grownups at?

TURNER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me speak to her. Let me speak to her before I send the police over there.

WHITFIELD: The police were not sent. Some three hours later Robert called again with the same result.

TURNER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't care. You shouldn't be playing on the phone. Now put her on the phone before I send the police out there to knock on the door and you're going to be in trouble.

TURNER: Ugh!

WHITFIELD: When police finally arrived at 9:22 p.m., they found 46-year-old Cheryl Turner dead. The family is now planning a wrongful death lawsuit against Detroit police.

DELAINE PATTERSON, ROBERT'S SISTER: This was a child calling. There was no laughter, and he repeated what he was saying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone should be trained to treat every situation as an emergency. People do not just call 911 as a joke.

"My mom is passed out." The message was clear.

WHITFIELD: The union that represents dispatchers says about a quarter of all 911 calls are pranks.

KIMBERLY HARRIS, LOCAL UNION PRESIDENT: That operator could have had five prank calls, kids calling prior to that call. And please don't, you know, think that I'm trying to make an excuse. You know, that was a tragedy.

WHITFIELD: The dispatcher who took the second call, an 18-year veteran, remains on the job.

HARRIS: I know that operator. I know that she is a very good operator. She is very thorough.

WHITFIELD: Detroit police say the department is investigating the handling of the calls. For Robert, now 6, the rights and wrongs of the case are less important than the sadness he feels.

TURNER: Every time somebody talk about her, I just bust out and start crying.

WHITFIELD: Fredricka Whitfield CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: And here's what Detroit's police chief had to say. "The citizens of Detroit can be assured that our department is meticulously examining every aspect of what occurred, and if disciplinary action is recommended following the completion of the investigation, then that is the course that will be taken."

A lack of information, plus a lack of expertise are adding up to bird flu anxiety in and about West Africa. To date, four West African nations have reported H5N1 outbreaks in poultry. So far, no confirmed cases of human infection. But world health experts fear that cases of bird flu might be going unreported and mistaken for other widespread diseases such as HIV/AIDS or malaria.

In Nigeria, local leaders are reportedly cracking down on a dangerous practice. You may remember seeing this footage on LIVE FROM: starving villagers pulling bird flu-infected chickens from burial pits for food. Local media say people are now being arrested for scavenging at dumps sites.

Is the U.S. planning to go to war over Iran over nukes, possibly using nukes? We're going to hear from the experts, including CNN military analyst Don Shepperd, when LIVE FROM continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Today's the day. The words of former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling as he made his way to court this morning, shortly before taking the stand in his own defense.

Skilling is charged with fraud and conspiracy concerning Enron's book keeping before it nosedived into bankruptcy. He's expected to testify that he believed the company was financially strong when he quit, four months before Enron went under. His co-defendant, Enron founder Ken Lay, has always said he didn't know anything about any wrongdoing.

Millions of people already go to Wal-Mart to shop for food, clothes, and just about everything else. But what about going to Wal- Mart to do your banking? Susan Lisovicz is live from the New York Stock Exchange with that story -- Susan.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kyra.

Well, you know, Wal-Mart, by some studies, represents 10 percent of the total U.S. retail market. So you could make the argument it has so much money coming into it, it is essentially a bank.

But today, amid very skeptical opposition, Wal-Mart went before the FDIC, holding its first ever public hearings today on actually starting a bank of its own.

Wal-Mart says it needs this deposit insurance so it could handle it's credit, debit and electronic check payments each year in house instead of having to pay others to do it. It would be more efficient, save money, which Wal-Mart is good at.

Wal-Mart says it does not intend to open retail branches, but thousands of businesses, unions, charities are opposed to it. They say, really, what this is all about is a back door attempt to get into retail banking and destroy local banks. And let's face it, Kyra, as you and I know, Wal-Mart is a lightning rod for just about anything it does these days, and this is no exception.

PHILLIPS: So any other businesses supporting Wal-Mart's application?

LISOVICZ: Very few. I mean, there's already 100 lawmakers from each -- both the Democratic and Republican parties that are opposed to this. There are -- this is some support from the American Financial Services Association, which is a trade group which represents credit card issuers and other consumer lenders.

Also the Salvation Army and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. These are both charities that have received donations from Wal-Mart in the past. But as you can imagine, whether it's union groups or civic groups, they are opposed to this, small businesses in large measure.

PHILLIPS: Now Wal-Mart's tried to get into banking before, right?

LISOVICZ: And that's one of the reasons why, Kyra, yes, that there is such skepticism with that, that this is just another attempt to do that. Wal-Mart has tried to buy financial institutions in California and Oklahoma and to partner with a bank in Canada. Both efforts were blocked.

This time Wal-Mart is doing what a number of other big companies have done successfully: use a regulatory loophole that allows any type of company to own a specific type of bank. GE, GM, Target, all have operated banks under the same loophole, but there are some very prominent people who say that's not such a good idea, like for instance Alan Greenspan and the current chairman of the federal reserve, Ben Bernanke say such quite a good idea.

(STOCK REPORT)

LISOVICZ: And that's the latest from Wall Street. Coming up next hour, I'll tell you which TV network is making a big push into online broadcasting. Stay with us. LIVE FROM will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Now, Iran. Presidential rumbling and potential U.S. war plans. Today Iran's president is quoted as saying he'll announce good news about his country's nuclear program. That could be bad news for Washington, where the Bush administration is said to be planning military action as a last resort to keep Iran from building nukes.

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