Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Troops Involved in Violent Melee in Guantanamo; Fighting in Ramadi

Aired May 19, 2006 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you tonight's top stories.
Happening now -- on the defensive in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. U.S. troops are involved in a violent melee with terror detainees.

In Iraq, U.S. reinforcements are rushed to the town of Ramadi amid ferocious fighting with insurgents. We'll speak with war critic Congressman John Murtha.

It's 7:00 p.m. here in Washington. Should English be the national language? As the senate raises the stakes in the immigration debate, is racism involved. We'll hear from CNN's Lou Dobbs and a leading critic of the immigration crackdown.

And just days after he appealed to conservatives at one university, John McCain today is booed by liberals at another. Can he find any middle ground as he lays the groundwork for a possible presidential campaign? I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

U.S. forces right now hard pressed on two fronts. We have new details tonight on a clash at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where authorities say terror detainees attacked U.S. military personnel. And in Iraq right now, U.S. commanders are rushing more troops to the city of Ramadi, the scene of some running gun battles, bitter gun battles with insurgents. We have a pair of reports coming in from the pentagon. Barbara Starr is standing by on the latest from Ramadi. Let's begin with our Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre on the clash at Guantanamo. Jamie, what happened?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, when we first heard about it, it sounded like it was a riot. But now it turns out it may have been more of a rouse.


MCINTYRE: The top commander at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Cuba says an attempt Thursday night by one prisoner to hang himself was in fact a rouse to lure military guards into an ambush.

VOICE OF REAR ADM. HARRY HARRIS, CMDR. JOINT TASK FORCE GUANTANAMO: The detainees had slickened the floor of their block with feces, urine and soapy water, in an attempt to trip the guards. They then assaulted the guards with broken light fixtures, fan blades, and bits of metal.

MCINTYRE: Harris called the hour long melee the most violent outbreak in the prison's four and a half year history. It finally ended when U.S. troops fired non-lethal rubber bullets and sponge grenades in a five-minute counterattack. After it appeared the detainees were gaining the upper hand.

HARRIS: We entered with a force of approximately 10 individuals, and we were meeting one to one force with riot batons and shields. Frankly, the detainees were jumping off the beds, on top of the guards.

MCINTYRE: Earlier in the day, two detainees attempted suicide by taking prescription drugs that had been squirreled away. That makes 41 attempted suicides at Guantanamo by 25 different inmates. None has ever died. U.S military officials called the suicides an attempt by the detainees to get attention for their continuing war against the United States. It comes as the United Nations' top anti-torture body called on the United States to close Guantanamo Bay, calling it illegal, along with other secret jails that may house foreign terrorism suspects.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: The president of the United States has talked about the fact that he doesn't want the United States to be the world's jailers. We -- we at some point in the future would very much like to see Guantanamo Bay closed down. But at the moment, it's housing some dangerous people.


MCINTYRE: The incident occurred in the minimum security, or medium security section of the prison, where so-called highly compliant detainees live in a communal setting and have the most freedom of interaction with each other. For that reason the U.S. military also considers it to be the most dangerous part of the detention facility. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jamie, thank you very much.

In Iraq, meanwhile, there's been some intense fighting between insurgents and U.S. forces. U.S. military commanders now deciding to rush reinforcements to Ramadi. Let's get the latest from our pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, U.S. military officials confirming that they are now sending reinforcements to Ramadi in western Iraq's very troubled Anbar Province. There have been running gun battles with insurgents across the city over the last several days. It has been very violent. Insurgents continuing to try and use the city's abandoned train station as a place to launch attacks. Snipers, IEDs, all of it. So finally the U.S. is now sending in a battalion size about 600 troops or so. They're not offering specific information about it. It is expected these additional troops may come from Kuwait. No one is exactly saying for sure. But they are sending these troops to try and get a handle on the violence in Ramadi.

Wolf, it is the second time in the last many weeks that the U.S. has had to send reinforcements to an area. You'll recall back in March, again, about 600 troops sent to Baghdad to try and get a handle on the violence there. Wolf?

BLITZER: Barbara, thank you very much.

Iraqi leaders are getting ready to announce a national unity government, perhaps only hours from now. But unity is by no means complete and neither is the government. Officials say there will be temporary appointments to the crucial defense and interior posts. Not yet ready to name an interior minister or a defense minister.

Joining us now to discuss all of this information, the democratic congressman, John Murtha. He's a very strong supporter of the U.S. military. He's also become a very sharp critic of the war in Iraq. Six months ago, he called for a withdrawal and a redeployment of U.S. troops, calling the Iraq mission a flawed policy wrapped in illusions. Six months later, congressman, has anything changed?

REP. JOHN MURTHA, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: Well, we lost 370 Americans since November 17th. We had 1,000 Iraqis killed last month. We've had no electricity, 2 1/2 hours electricity. Secretary Rumsfeld is over there and he says, they have the satellite dishes, but no electricity. He didn't say that, but that's what's the truth. The oil production is less than pre-war level. Unemployment, 60 percent.

You're not going to solve this by just putting a government together. You've got to have security. And we went in with inadequate forces, it got out of hand, and it's gotten no better. A matter of fact, the only answer is redeployment. All these folks that have half way solutions or an open ended solution, it's not going to work. We have to redeploy out of Iraq as quickly as we can, and then if we have to go back in for our own national security, then we can go back there.

BLITZER: They're redeploying right now, but they're sending reinforcements into Ramadi, given the latest battles between the insurgents and U.S. forces there. What do you make of that development?

MURTHA: Well, Wolf, when I see those kinds of things, I reiterate, they're in a civil war. This is a civil war between a hundred thousand Shias and 20,000 Sunnis. They're fighting each other. We're caught in the middle. We're the unifying force. The only trouble is we're unifying them against us, and our troops go out every day and fight these IEDs. And when I say IEDs I'm sanitizing the explosive devices.

Every day, they go out, they miss them that day. One young fellow at the hospital said six times he was in vehicles that were hit with IEDs. Finally, it blew his arm off. So that's the kind of thing we're seeing all the time. And the explosives are going to actually shake their brain. This is a bloody, brutal war. Rove said the other day, it's a sour -- the American public is soured. And the president said it's unsettling. This is not unsettling, the American public is upset -- they see what's going on over there.

BLITZER: Here's what the president told our Suzanne Malveaux yesterday in an interview. Listen to this.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The point the American people have got to know is we're going to succeed. And we're not going to succeed by listening to the advice of some in Washington that say, let's just pull out now. The Iraqi people want a democracy. They've got a unity government in place, and it's in our national interest that we defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq and at the same time help this country become a democracy.


BLITZER: If the president were right here, what would you say to him?

MURTHA: I'd say that's all rhetoric Mr. President. That's not what's going to solve this problem. We've been in there longer than World War II in Europe, we've been in longer than World War I and longer than the Korean War. So when they talk about disappearing, leaving, cutting and running, that's just rhetoric. The thing that worries me, there's no plan. You open up the strategy for peace and there's nothing in it. There's no plan for success. There was no plan November 17th when I spoke out six months ago. There's no plan today. There's nothing that shows any progress at all.

BLITZER: There is a possibility that as early as tomorrow, they'll announce a new national unity government, albeit two of these key portfolios, the defense and interior ministries which run the military and police will be in a temporary basis. But that would be a step forward if they can start bringing in the Shia, the Kurd and the Sunni together.

MURTHA: Wolf, they keep saying, every step, every time there's an election, every time there's a constitutional election, they keep saying, everything's going to be alright, everything's getting better. What I measure is the situation on the ground. I measure the number of incidents which have increased since November 17th from 500 to 1,000. What I measure is the oil production which is less than prewar levels. 60 percent unemployment. That's what I measure to see if there's success. And if you don't have military security, you're not good. 80 percent of the Iraqis want us out of there.

BLITZER: Here's what the commanding general of the multinational corps in Iraq said today. Listen to this. Well let me read it to you. "I honestly believe that as this -- begins work on the policies -- that will be required to put people to work and make use of the vast resources of Iraq that you're going to see a decrease in violence." That's the military commander on the scene.

MURTHA: You know, they have to be hopeful. They have to make statements that they hope its better. But it's hope, and it's not deeds. I remember, we passed the $87 billion supplemental, the first one, and part of that was $18.5 billion, which was reconstruction, we never spent all that money. We never finished the schools. We never finished many of the things because of the military security. We don't have adequate forces to do the job. The British had 130,000 people there and it was only 2.5 million people in Iraq in 1920. We have 130,000 there and there's 26 million people there. There's no way we can control the situation with the numbers -- the troop commanders have said to me, I have inadequate forces to do the job.

BLITZER: There's an investigation of what happened at Haditha. As you well know, U.S. marines were involved in an incident, civilians were killed. The chairman of the house armed services committee Duncan Hunter says, there's been no resolution, this investigation continues. I want to play for you what he said today. Duncan Hunter.


REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, (R) ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: If there were problems in the chain of command, if there was a cover-up, if anything wasn't reported, let the chips fall where they may. But don't presume anything. Those reports aren't finished yet. But the reports and the investigations are being pursued with great integrity.


BLITZER: He was responding in part to you, because you've suggested this week that there in effect was a massacre.

MURTHA: Well there was. There's no question about it. I know, in talking to a number of people, and the information, I've never given you bad information yet. I talked to about it, in the context of the fact that these troops are under such tremendous pressure and that's what happens when they're under tremendous pressure. When this thing's all over, you're going to see exactly what I've said to be true. That, there was an IED attack, it killed one marine, and then they overreacted and killed a number of civilians without anybody firing at them. That's what you're going to find out.

But my whole point is, I -- I understand what happened. I don't excuse what happened, but I understand it because the pressure. Going out every day, they miss an IED explosive device, they find IEDs, somebody gets killed with an IED. They don't know who the enemy is, the pressure is tremendous. So when you find something like that, you're going to find these people cracking. And that's what happened to this --

BLITZER: The marines say they're still investigating. They don't know what happened yet. The pentagon says the same thing. How do you know what happened?

MURTHA: Wolf, you read the "Time" magazine articles. There are pictures, there are photos. You don't have to talk to the military about the proof. But you will see when the investigation is done that this was an overreaction by our troops, and this is the type thing that hurts us so badly. We're trying to win the hearts and minds of the people. Abu Ghraib was another example where they had inadequate forces, untrained people, undisciplined people in a prison. Had one person in a prison who had a court order against him, he couldn't see his family. He told the army that, and they still put him in a prison. So here we are with troops untrained, inadequate forces. They go out every day and there's tremendous stress and this is the kind of things that happens.

BLITZER: Congressman John Murtha, thanks very much for joining us.

MURTHA: Good to see you Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is off tonight. He'll be back on Monday. We have a lot more though coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM. Should English be our national language? There is a clash in the senate right now, over a new proposal. We're covering all sides of the story.

Plus, Lou Dobbs and a leading critic of the immigration crackdown are live here in THE SITUATION ROOM. They have very different perspectives.

Plus, John McCain playing to the left and the right. He gets booed today in New York City. Can he walk the middle line and win over both sides at the same time, especially if he wants to be president?

And the race in New Orleans. Is it about race? Voters head to the polls tomorrow. We'll take you live to New Orleans for a preview. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back. The scorching senate debate over immigration reform is getting even hotter. Members approved two controversial amendments, one to make English the national language. The other calls it a common and unifying language. Angry critics though are calling both measures racist. Our White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is standing by. Let's go to our Senior National Correspondent John Roberts with the latest on what is going on. John?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good evening to you, Wolf. It's hard to believe that this national debate over immigration could get anymore passionate than it already is. The action in the senate last night has set off another round of high pitched rhetoric over national identity, and as you said, charges of racism. The senate last night passed those two amendments. One which would make English the national, not the official language of the United States. The other, which would make English the common and unifying language.

While neither amendment would appear to supersede language protection laws that are already on the books, what we're talking about here is very powerful symbolism. For supporters, it's an important sense of national identity. For opponents, a symbol of national intolerance. Here's what senators Harry Reid and Lamar Alexander had to say about the idea.


SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, (R) TENNESSEE: But to make this land of immigrants one country, we must have, and honor, our national language, our common language, and that language is English.

SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MINORITY LEADER: While the intent may not be there, I really believe this amendment is racist. I think it's directed basically to speak -- to people who speak Spanish.


ROBERTS: Critics say there's no need for an amendment. That English is already the accepted language of the United States and that any laws codifying that might erode much needed assistance for people who can't yet speak English. But many immigrants that we talked to today don't agree with that position. Their thoughts: if you want to live and work in the United States, as difficult as it might be, you must learn English quickly. And almost to a person, they thought that the amendments were acceptable. Wolf?

BLITZER: Alright John, thank you very much.

The White House is expressing support today for the measures approved by the senate. The new White House Press Secretary Tony Snow says the president wants to make sure people who become U.S. citizens have a command of the English language. But in Texas today, the attorney general Alberto Gonzalez is quoted by "Reuters" as saying, "The president has never supported making English the national language." Gonzalez says he doesn't see the need to have such laws on the books. Our White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is standing by to explain that. Is there a contradiction going on? A division within the administration?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The way they explain it is that it's simply some antics here that a misunderstanding that took place early today, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez saying the president has never endorsed English as a national language. But then his spokesperson said what he meant to say, an official language. They're trying to make a distinction here. Tony Snow saying that the president -- it's consistent to say English is a national language to support that amendment, as well as what they say, a common, unifying language that is part of Americans of course being able to have a command of the English language. Those who want to become U.S. citizens.

What they are not advocating or endorsing is the idea of English as an official language which would really have legal implications here. Because it would mean that essentially they would be changing practices or standards within the government when it comes to bilingual education and other types of things. President Bush yesterday, trying to make the point.


BUSH: If you learn English, and you're a hard worker and you have a dream, you have the capacity from going from picking crops to owning the store. Or, from sweeping office floors, to being an office manager. That's been the greatness of America when you think about it. People have come here with a dream and have worked hard and realized that dream.


MALVEAUX: So, Wolf, it may be all symbolic but it's very important symbolism because it's all apart of the president's strategy to push for this comprehensive immigration reform plan, and part of the argument that he's making is that immigrants need to assimilate into American society. Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks, Suzanne. Suzanne Malveaux, John Roberts, part of the best political team on television. CNN, America's campaign headquarters.

We'll have more on the border battles coming up. Lou Dobbs and a leading immigrant advocate, they'll square off on the issue, they'll join us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk about English, we'll talk about immigration reform, lots more. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Zain Verjee is joining us now with a quick look at some other headlines happening right now. Hi, Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. The "Associated Press" reports an FBI investigation's under way involving the Air Force's Thunderbird aerial stunt team. At issue is whether or not a company that was awarded a $50 million contract to promote the Thunderbird team had an unfair advantage. Officials say that company, Strategic Message Solutions, has ties to a recently retired general. The AP reports the air force directed the pentagon to review the contract award, and in turn, an official says the pentagon's inspector general referred the matter to the FBI.

Mexico wants an investigation into a shooting along the U.S./Mexican border near San Diego. Mexican investigators are looking at footage from surveillance cameras, and a top Mexican official wants to know if there was any excessive use of force. Yesterday, U.S. border officials stopped a suspicious vehicle that they thought might be carrying illegal immigrants. Police say shots were fired when the driver suddenly drove away. The driver was killed.

Four people have been indicted in connection with this 1998 arson fire at Colorado's Vail Ski Resort. An environmental extremist group calling itself the Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the blaze, which caused $12 million in damage. Two of the defendants are already in custody. Authorities are looking for the other two.

We're now being told who sparked the new search for Jimmy Hoffa. A government investigator says a 75-year-old man named Donovan Wells is the informant. He's an ailing prison inmate. The investigator says Wells remembers suspicious activity on a farm near Detroit the day Hoffa disappeared. The inmate passed a polygraph according to the investigator. The FBI has been digging on that farm this week. Hoffa was last seen on the 30th of July 1975. Wolf?

BLITZER: Thank you, Zain, for that. Just ahead, CNN's Lou Dobbs. He'll join us live here in the SITUATION ROOM along with the president of the National Council of La Raza. They'll assess the latest skirmishes in the border battle.

Plus, a not so warm welcome for Senator John McCain. We're going to show you why some graduates today turned their backs on him during his commencement speech. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. The debate over illegal immigration has led to some heated language recently, as emotions are flaring on all sides. Now, language is at the very heart of the border battle. Let's turn to our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield in New York. Jeff?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Wolf, it's semiofficial. The senate Thursday declared that English is the national language of the United States. It also declared that English is the common and unifying language which sounds slightly less mandatory. And if congress does pass an immigration bill, it's sure to reemphasize existing rules that require would be citizens to be proficient in English. More proof if you needed it that this topic stirs intense emotions.


GREENFIELD: To understand why, go back to the massive pro immigration demonstrations earlier this spring, when the display of Mexican flags stirred strong reactions. Later demonstrations were dominated by American flags.

Or, consider the arguments over a Spanish language version of the Star Spangled Banner, with some of the lyrics altered. For some, that flag and that song suggest that immigrants want to be in the United States, but not of it, that they identify more with the culture of the land they left.

For generations of earlier immigrants, their first years in America were spent largely in neighborhoods where the language of the old country dominated. In New York, newsstands display papers in dozens of languages. Today with immigration rates higher than they have been in decades, there is a new boom in non-English media. On TV, Telemundo and Univision are major players with a combined audience of more than 4.7 million viewers. In Los Angeles, Spanish language station KMEX is the most watched station.

But those facts have led to concerns that a younger generation that does not earn English will be powerfully disadvantaged in later life. That's one big reason why California voters of 1998 overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to require strong emphasis on English in the classroom. Not surprisingly, there's no consensus on whether that's made a difference. There's no doubt that Asian Americans now outperform every other ethnic group academically. And there's plenty of anecdotal evidence about Vietnamese refuges mastered English and became academic superstars.


GREENFIELD: At root this debate over language may go to the heart of what it means to be an American. We have come here from every corner of the world. We have no common race or religion or culture or ethnic group. So, a common tongue becomes an invaluable tool for overcoming those differences -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield, thank you very much.

Let's get some more now on the latest skirmishes in the border battle. For that we are joined by CNN's Lou Dobbs in New York and in Los Angeles Janet Murguia. She is the president of the National Council of La Raza.

Janet, what do you think of this legislation now in Congress that would make English the national language of this country?

JANET MURGUIA, PRES., NATL. COUNCIL OF LA RAZA: Well, I think that we all agree, as Americans, that it's important for everyone to learn English, and we accept that fact. And, in fact, we understand that everyone who's in this country and who comes to this country recognizes the importance of learning English. That's not really the issue. Everyone wants to learn English. We recognize English as the common language.

The question is what implications does the word national have? And we are concerned a little bit that it would create real issues for communicating with everyone, not just immigrants, who are in this country when it comes to times of crisis or public health safety issues.

And I just want to make sure that we're not doing something that would actually be very divisive as opposed to inclusive when it comes to creating an environment in this country that is a positive and welcoming and really one that allows us to be effective in communicating with all of the people who are in this country.

BLITZER: Lou, what do you think?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I think implicit in what Janet just said is some suggestion that this is not a warm or welcoming country, and that is based on our not making English, which has been for 200 years the official de facto language of this country. And what is at issue now is using national language or a common unifying language, as the Senate goes about it absurd business right now in so-called comprehensive immigration reform.

The fact is why should anyone resist the idea that English be the official language? Going back to 1996, ballots, all sorts of government publications were all printed in English. Now, we are looking at a landscape littered with languages, not English, and the fact is, it's a requirement of citizenship to speak and understand English in this country.

So, it's a mind boggling suggestion that, I think, Janet and others and Senator Harry Reid said it was outright racist. I mean, this is silliness beyond belief.

BLITZER: Well, you know, I'm going to play that clip from Senator Reid and also what Senator McCain said yesterday because it gets to a very, very sensitive issue in this whole debate. Listen to what these two senators, one Democrat, one Republican, said.


SEN. HARRY REID (D), MINORITY LEADER: While the intent may not be there, I really believe this amendment is racist. I think it's directed basically to people who speak Spanish.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The first people that really experienced it were the Irish. The discrimination against them was quite remarkable. And then the same thing happened to the Poles and the Jews, and when the eastern Europeans came.


BLITZER: And he went on to say that's basically hovering over these allegations.

Janet, let me let you respond. Is this racism?

MURGUIA: Well, I would like to say that we don't question people's motives. I'm assuming that people have the best intentions of wanting to make this be a unifying peace, but I don't think it has that impact. And we worry that it would definitely not have those implications when it comes to how this would be interpreted.

I'm very concerned that it would allow for no communication in other languages by government or any other official representatives of the government when we had a, say, Avian flu crisis or a pandemic, where you really need to get information to everyone who is within this country's borders and to make sure that they are understanding to come forward and to communicate effectively. I worry about those types of implications.

BLITZER: All right. Lou, what about those concerns?

DOBBS: Again, I think the concerns are entirely misplaced. Everyone in this country should be making an effort to speak English as well as possible and for generation after generation coming from all over the world. This is, after all, the most socially diverse, ethnically diverse, racially diverse society on the face of the planet.

And Janet Murguia and others, Senator Reid, are suggesting somehow that we are no longer holding the highest standards of diversity by insisting that our common cultural language be the official language. That's utter madness.

BLITZER: Lou, what do you say to Senator Reid and to Senator McCain who have raised this issue that hovering over this whole debate is a racist undertone, that if these people were not coming from Mexico, for example, by and large, there wouldn't be this debate?

DOBBS: Well, let's start with reality. First of all, I think, both Senator McCain has shown himself to be not so much a straight- talker as a fence sitter and trying to win, obviously, his party's nomination for the presidency in 2008.

In terms of Senator Reid, I mean, where are the racists here? In fact, Mexico has an official language. Mexico's official language is Spanish. In point of fact, 25 states in this country have English as the official language. Thirty-one nations around the world have English as the sole official language. You know, it is absolutely madness to talk like that.

BLITZER: All right. Go ahead, Janet.

MURGUIA: Wolf, no one disagrees that everyone should learn English and that English is our common language. No one disagrees with that, and in fact there is great desire by many who come to the country -- everyone who comes to this country to learn English.

What's interesting is that in this whole debate, this amendment that we're talking about would do nothing to actually allow language acquisition and English acquisition. It basically says that, but there's no funding or resources. There's great demand for English by many immigrants across different sectors, not just the Latino community, and yet we don't put a lot of resources or priority to make sure that we are allowing people to learn the language.

BLITZER: All right. Go ahead, Lou.

DOBBS: The Latino community, the Hispanic community, Janet? Most -- the preponderance, the vast majority of Hispanics in this country, Latinos in this country speak English. Of whom are you talking? The fact of the matter is Senator Reid's comments were patronizing, condescending in the extreme and offensive to most Hispanics in this country.

MURGUIA: I'm not sure what your point is, Lou. All I'm trying to say is that everyone wants to learn English, but we're...

DOBBS: My point is you're not speaking for the Latino or Hispanic community. You're talking about someone, and I think you need to identify who they are. Because it's not Hispanics.

MURGUIA: Well, I'm telling you that there are different immigrant communities who come to this country...

DOBBS: Oh, immigrant communities.

MURGUIA: ...who want to learn English.

DOBBS: That's quite a different statement than the Hispanic or Latino community, isn't it?

MURGUIA: Yes. Latino community, as you know...

DOBBS: Right. That's my only point.

MURGUIA: Yes, and what we are seeing is a big difference between the turn of the century immigrants who came here, that we are actually seeing more integration at earlier stages within these immigrant communities than we saw 100 years ago.

There is more English language acquisition occurring within the first and second generations. Previously, it wasn't occurring until the third or fourth generations. And so we are actually seeing more integration, not less, and more demand for English classes, but yet not resources to help that happen.

This really is something that we can all agree, English is important to learn. We all want to learn English. Everybody has a desire to acquire English as a language. We understand it's the common language. But this amendment really undercuts the ability for us, in an emergency, and in a public health safety crisis to ensure we are communicating with everybody.

BLITZER: Let me ask Lou on that point. Wouldn't this amendment, based on what you know about it and a lot of it is still murky -- would it prevent the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Social Security Administration or the Department of Health and Human Services, if there were a pandemic for providing information in Spanish or other languages?

DOBBS: Not at all. And that is what is curious about this line of reasoning to me, Janet. And Janet and I know each other and talk quite often. There is implicit in the position you're taking and implicit in Senator Reid's position -- and God knows there are far more important issues in this so-called comprehensive immigration reform legislation that is moving through our Senate, sadly, in its current form.

But there is implicit in all of this a suggestion that there will be a retained identity, rather than an embrace of a melting pot. And I think that is what has a lot of people concerned, quote, unquote, "culturally." It happens not to be one of my concerns because I truly believe to be successful in this country you have to speak English. I think that over time that will take care of itself.

But there are groups and ethnocentric groups -- Janet, as you and I have talked before -- who are driving their fund-raising and their reason for existence, talking about racism, trying to maintain disparities and differences with the larger society that is America, the most diverse society in the world. And I think that's a shame. And I think it something we should be worried about that.

BLITZER: All right. Janet, we are almost out of time. But Janet, go ahead. You were shaking your head as Lou was speaking.

MURGUIA: Well, I just think this is not about whether people want to learn English or be part of the country. And in fact, we need to make sure that this bill on the floor is about comprehensive immigration reform. This does nothing to add to that effort.

And, I think, as long at its symbolic, we need to make sure that it truly is symbolic. But as long as there's any sort of a chance that this would have an impact for it to an affect on a public health safety crisis or us communicating with all the population, I think it's a big problem and a big mistake.

But no one disagrees that we all believe English is the common language of this country and that everyone wants -- has a desire to learn that language to learn English.

BLITZER: All right. Good discussion Janet Murguia, Lou Dobbs, as usual. Hopefully you will both come back. I suspect this debate, these issues, Lou, as you well know, not going away any time soon.

DOBBS: Any time with Janet would be my pleasure.

BLITZER: A very civilized, important discussion. Thanks to both of you. Have a great weekend.

Still ahead tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM, pomp and protest. We're going to show you why Senator John McCain actually got booed today during a commencement speech in New York City.

Plus, a critical vote is now only hours away in New Orleans. We're going to take you there live for a closer look at tomorrow's mayoral runoff and what's at stake. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Senator John McCain faced boos and protesters today as he gave a commencement address at one of New York City's most liberal universities. It happened just days after the possible presidential contender spoke at the conservative Christian university founded by the Reverend Jerry Falwell, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Our Mary Snow is joining us now from New York with more on what happened today -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was a commencement speech, but many treated it like a campaign event. Just days after Senator John McCain may have made new friends on the right, today he made some new foes on the left.


SNOW (voice over): It was a day of pomp and protest. One cap read no GOP. Other students held signs that read McCain does not speak for me. Students at the New School who pride themselves on being liberal, protested, saying Republican Senator John McCain clashed with the school's ideas. They pointed to McCain's recent speech at the conservative Liberty University run by the Reverend Jerry Falwell as proof of the clash. From the very start of the ceremony, Bob Kerrey, New School president and former Democratic senator and a friend of McCain, confronted the controversy.

BOB KERREY, PRES., THE NEW SCHOOL UNIVERSITY: Many predicted that a speech today would not receive as friendly of a reception.

SNOW: The prediction proved true. Some student petitioned Kerrey to withdrawal McCain's invitation to speak, saying they didn't want McCain to use their graduation ceremony for a platform for a potential run for president in 2008. One student speaker tossed her prepared remarks to inject her own political beliefs.

JEAN SARA ROHE, GRADUATING STUDENT: I do know that preemptive war is dangerous and wrong, that George Bush's agenda in Iraq is not worth the many lives lost.

SNOW: McCain stuck to his script and was largely the same one he delivered at Liberty University, where he was given a warm reception. Here, more than three dozen students and faculty members stood up and turned their backs to McCain. One of the more heated moments came when he talked about Iraq.

MCCAIN: I supported the decision to go to war in Iraq. Many Americans did not. My patriotism and my conscience required me to support it and engage in the debate over whether how to fight it.

SNOW: At another point...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're graduating, not voting.

SNOW: McCain did not address the protesters. But Bob Kerrey did.

KERREY: Will you stand, not heckling from an audience, where no bravery is required, but will you...


SNOW: And Bob Kerry, too, was also heckled. Now the dose of politics on the college commencement tour this week for John McCain is being closely watched. Political observers say how he straddles both sides of the political fence will prove to be critical in a potential White House run -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Mary. Good report.

There's also a new development tonight in the New Orleans mayoral race on the eve of the runoff between the incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin and the challenger Mitch Landrieu. The Justice Department now says it will place federal polling monitors at various locations across New Orleans tomorrow. Civil rights groups have raised concerns that African-American voting rights may be violated.

Let's turn to our Gulf Coast correspondent Susan Roesgen. She is covering the runoff -- Susan. SUSAN ROESGEN, GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the local district attorney's office here in New Orleans is also monitoring the election, but there were no major complaints in the primary. And the hope is for a smooth election tomorrow, as well.


ROESGEN (voice over): If only 5-year-olds could vote. Political analysts say in the last week, incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin has gained momentum, but they give his challenger, Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu a slight edge.

Landrieu has picked up more big endorsements and he has raised about six times as much money as Nagin, money to spend on critical advertising in these last few hours of the campaign. Landrieu has strong support among both black and white voters.

While Nagin's chocolate city comments back in January, when he said God wanted New Orleans to be a majority African-American city, caused many white voters to desert him. But Nagin has been courting the conservative business vote, reaching out to voters who see Landrieu as the more liberal candidate and worry he will raise taxes and support social programs voters don't want.

The turnout is expected to be about what it was in the primary election, about 36 percent. But with so much of the city standing still waiting for a recovery that's been promised but has not come, that 36 percent could change the city's future.


SNOW: And that is the first priority, Wolf, for whoever wins this election. People want to know, which neighborhoods in this city are going to be rebuilt and which neighborhoods will probably have to be abandoned. People want to hear the mayor spell that out, whoever he may be -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll watch the results come in tomorrow, Susan, with you. Thank you very much.

Up ahead, did one of Saddam's cars actually end up as a war trophy here in the United States? We have the pictures.

Plus, domestic spying and your phone records, the battle heating up in court. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Here's "The Bottom Line" on today's markets. Wall Street ended a tough losing streak, a tough week losing. The Dow, the NASDAQ, the S&P all managed though to gain a little ground today. Bad week, gained a little bit today.

Did one of Saddam Hussein's cars actually end up in Connecticut as a war trophy? U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has announced the seizure of an armored luxury sedan, a white Mercedes, outfitted with bullet-proof windows and listening devices.

The alleged importer, an Army reserve sergeant, has said he bought it from an Iraqi in an upscale neighborhood in Baghdad. He said he believes the car actually, at one point, belonged to none other than Saddam Hussein.

Another lawsuit has been filed against one of the major telephone companies for allegedly sharing its customer records with the National Security Agency. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton has the latest -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this lawsuit is against AT&T, filed in district court in Texas, where the company is headquartered, filed on behalf of AT&T subscribers who are attorneys and reporters. They say that their confidentiality with sources, with clients, has been breached because of the alleged disclosure of call data by AT&T.

AT&T didn't have a comment on this latest lawsuit, but what they have said in the past is they do not give over customer information without legal authorization -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Abbi, for that. Let's find out what's coming up right at the top of the hour. That means Paula is standing by.

Hi, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. Thanks so much.

Tonight, we are going to devote our entire hour to the most anticipated and most controversial film of the year so far. As you know, unless you live under a rock, "The Da Vinci Code" opens today. Is it blasphemous? Is it even a good movie? Is anything in it accurate? We're going to clear up some of the myths in the movie.

Also, a rare look inside Opus Dei, the controversial Catholic group whose members are portrayed as villains in "The Da Vinci Code." Why does at least one former member call it a cult? She will be joining us tonight to tell us what happened to her after 20 years in Opus Dei. Hope to see you all at the top of the hour.

Have you seen it yet, Wolf?

BLITZER: Not yet.

ZAHN: No, you've been working all day.


BLITZER: Haven't seen it yet but hope to see it. Thanks very much, Paula, for that.

ZAHN: Have a good weekend.

BLITZER: Still ahead, a look at the impact of illegal immigration. Is it a breakdown at the borders? And is it causing a burden for some American business owners? Stay with us.


BLITZER: In our "Welcome to the Future" report, CNN's Miles O'Brien has the impact on illegal immigration -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, many employers in businesses like landscaping, construction and food service struggle to stay legit in an arena flooded with illegal workers. How can employers protect themselves and stay afloat?


TAMAR JACOBY, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE: We have 12 million people in this country whose names we don't even know.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Just one reason why Tamar Jacoby of the Manhattan Institute says immigration reform is vital for employers as well as immigrants.

JACOBY: Why are we forcing them to be in the black market when we could have them on the right side of the law, enhancing our security, enhancing our rule of law, and actually enhancing workplace relationships?

O'BRIEN: Right now, employers can use a government Web site to ensure job seekers are legal. But of 5.5 million employers in the country, a mere 5,000 are enrolled in the program.

JACOBY: The databases aren't as accurate as they should be, so right now it's an experiment on the way to the program that we need.

O'BRIEN: If current reform bills become law, the verification system would include biometric ID cards to prevent fraud, and would make it mandatory for all U.S. employers to screen their workers, from mega corporations, to families with household help.

JACOBY: Once you make sure that you can't get a job if you're illegal, that's how you're going to control who comes and who doesn't come.


O'BRIEN: Jacoby says it will take a lot of money and effort to make the worker database truly useful. But beyond that, right now there is no real incentive for companies to use it, since it is voluntary and many employers prefer a don't ask, don't tell policy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Miles.

I'll be back Sunday for "LATE EDITION." Among my special guests, the new Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert. "LATE EDITION" airs 11:00 a.m. Eastern.


© 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