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Al-Masri Killed?; Immigration Nation; Immigration & Religion; Identity Concern

Aired May 1, 2007 - 06:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. The leader of al Qaeda in Iraq reportedly killed overnight.
Plus, a nation divided.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What (INAUDIBLE), send them all back? You've got to be crazy.


CHETRY: Families divided.


JOHN TORRES, DIRECTOR, ICE: Do they take their American citizen child back with them or do they leave their United States citizen child behind?


CHETRY: Thousands rally again today to shine a light on America's immigration crisis, on this American morning.

And welcome. We're so glad you're with us. It is Tuesday, May 1st. I'm Kiran Chetry here in New York.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Roberts here in Washington, D.C.

We've got a lot to talk about coming up on the immigration front today, but we want to begin right now with a breaking story just outside of Baghdad.

Iraq's interior ministry spokesman says the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq was killed overnight. Abu Ayyub al-Masri is one of America's most wanted men. But apparently it wasn't U.S. or Iraqi troops who took him down. CNN's Arwa Damon is working the story live in Baghdad.

Arwa, what more do we know about this? Is there any hard evidence that al-Masri is dead?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, John, actually there is not. Even the spokesman for Iraq's ministry of interior is saying that they have received very strong intelligence that he was killed in clashes in that area of al-Nijabi (ph), just north of Baghdad. Clashes that took place between militants, not any sort of military operations.

But they have not seen a body. They cannot fully confirm this report, nor can the U.S. military that merely says that it had heard this information but that it was looking into it. The U.S. embassy, as well, unable to confirm this report, though they did say that they would not be disappointed if this had taken place.

Now, the area which he is alleged to have been killed, according to the Iraqis, is known to be a large, sprawling desert area with small farm houses on it. It is a known training camp for al Qaeda. But again, no concrete, no solid evidence that he is, in fact, dead.

And we have heard in the past numerous reports put out by the Iraqis that he had been killed. For example, back in November they said he had been killed. And then in February, they said that he had been wounded. And in both cases, the U.S. military was not able to confirm these reports.


ROBERTS: Not too long ago, Arwa, it would have been highly unusual for us to be able to buy a report that al-Masri was killed by rival factions, other Sunni leaders, Sunni militias. But recently there has been increasing frustration among some Sunni tribal leaders, some Sunni militias with what al Qaeda's doing, correct?

DAMON: That is exactly true, John. What we are seeing is that the a lot of the Sunni groups that had aligned themselves with al Qaeda, and it was more of an alliance of convenience to fight a common enemy in Iraq, that being the United States, we're seeing the alliance beginning to crumble as al Qaeda in Iraq is continuing to conduct these spectacular and devastating attacks against the Iraqi population and is continuing to try to impose an Islamic state in Iraq. We're seeing some of the nationalistic Sunni groups starting to move away, distance themselves from al Qaeda.

And again, even if we were to take the fact that al-Masri was dead as being fact, let's assume that he was in fact killed, this is highly unlikely to impact al Qaeda's ability to operate. Even after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed over the summer, it only took the organization four days to name al-Masri as his successor and its operations did not stop. It was able to regenerate itself as it has time and time again.

ROBERTS: And by some indications, at least in Diyala Province, al Qaeda now stronger than it was even under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Arwa Damon in Baghdad, thanks. We'll keep checking back with you throughout the morning as more information comes in. Appreciate it.

Also in Baghdad, the Pentagon confirms that I.D. cards for the heavily fortified Green Zone were found in a Sunni neighborhood. Two hundred and twenty I.D. cards were found, including two for the Green Zone and one of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The announcement comes two weeks after a suicide bombing inside the cafeteria of the Iraqi parliament in which one lawmaker was killed. CHETRY: There are also new numbers from the State Department showing half the of the terror attacks in the world last year were in Iraq. There were 14,000 attacks in total, 20,000 people killed. Two- thirds of those killed were in Iraq as well.

The war funding bill hits President Bush's desk today. Democrats planning to send it on the fourth anniversary of the president's speech on the aircraft carrier with the "mission accomplished" banner behind him. The bill includes a deadline of October 1st to begin pulling troops out of Iraq. The president is promising a quick veto, but says he does want to work out a compromise. He's meeting with leaders of both parties tomorrow.

ROBERTS: Well, this morning, there are new questions about the driver of a gas tanker truck that overturned and caught fire in the Bay area around San Francisco causing a vital section of highway to collapse creating a commuter nightmare. James Mosqueda has a criminal record that includes drug and burglary arrests. He has served time for heroin possession as well. Now California law allows convicted felons who have served their sentences to get commercial drivers licenses as long as they have (ph) clear driving records. The Transportation Security Administration is investigating whether Mosqueda should have been cleared to drive hazardous materials.

CHETRY: Well, we're adding chickens now to the list of animals affected by contaminated pet food. The FDA says at least 30 farms in Indiana fed chickens with contaminated wheat gluten from China. That was in early February that the chickens were processed and apparently did enter the human food supply. But the FDA and USDA said there's little chance of people getting sick and there is no recall.

ROBERTS: Five community college campuses in Pennsylvania are closed again today for the fourth day after threatening e-mails were sent. Two campuses of Delaware County Community College first received the e-mails last week. Police suspect the sender may have been a student.

And the state of Virginia has closed a loophole that let the Virginia Tech shooter buy his guns. The background check will now deny the sale of a firearm to people ordered to outpatient mental health treatment, like Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho.

CHETRY: Well, today is May Day. Marches and rallies planned in dozens of American cities in support of immigrant rights. Last year's May Day boycott brought out more than a million demonstrators. That kind of turnout is unlikely today, but organizers do plan to deliver a strong message about the need for immigration reform.

And we have reporters fanned out across the country for our special coverage. Alina Cho is in New York's Battery Park, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. Chris Lawrence is on the border in Mexico in San Ysidro (ph), California. And Ed Lavandera is in Houston. We also have Keith Oppenheim in Chicago.

And we begin with Keith, in Chicago, where one of the biggest rallies was held last year. And, Keith, this year they say there are going to be some stark differences. What are the main issues this year?

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's all about the politics of immigration, Kiran. I'm in Union Park in Chicago, where the main march for today's rally will get underway. It's certainly proceeding today's event. The atmosphere has been intense.

But the politics are a little bit different from a year ago. Last year it was estimated that 300,000 people took to the streets of Chicago. It was huge. And they were protesting against a House bill that would have made illegal immigrants felons. That bill died in the Senate.

So, this year, the big, political focus is about deportation of undocumented workers that could divide families. So we may hear a lot about deportation today.

Also, organizers say that another big issue, which could bring people to today's rally, is anger about police raids. Last week, for example, there was a federal raid on a counterfeit I.D. operation in the heart of Chicago's Mexican neighborhood. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said that this was a criminal operation that was going on that had to be stopped and that the raid, he said, had nothing to do with today's rally.

But, Kiran, I'm telling you, there are a lot of folks in the Mexican American community here in Chicago that simply don't buy that and they see raids like the one last week as a form of intimidation and say it's another reason they may show up here today to march.

Back to you.

CHETRY: Oh, that's interesting. That's why they may show up, because there are some who are saying that perhaps more people will stay home, rallies being smaller in size last year, because of those fears of deportation.

OPPENHEIM: Absolutely. And I have to tell you, this is one of these days where we really have no idea as to how many people are going to show up. You know, an immigration rally in Chicago is like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. And that really speaks to how this is such a grassroots operation. We've heard a range from as few as 7,000 marchers today to as much as half a million. We don't know and we won't know until they show up.

CHETRY: Yes, and we'll be checking in with you throughout the morning. Keith Oppenheim in Chicago, thanks so much.

And we want to hear from you. We want you to send your e-mail questions to Ask AM, Ask AMERICAN MORNING. Lou Dobbs is going to be joining us at 8:00 Eastern. If you'd like to ask him a question, and he's a vocal, vocal person when it comes to immigration issues, well go ahead and e-mail us. It's And Lou will be here a little later. He's going to answer some of those e-mails, 8:00 a.m. Eastern.


ROBERTS: Kiran, Lou vocal at the very least on the immigration issue.

Should churches give sanctuary to illegal aliens? A lot of churches are now injecting themselves into the immigration debate. We're taking a look next.

And immigration raids are leaving families divided with mothers and fathers separated from their children. Is it right? That tough question coming up.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is on CNN.


ROBERTS: Eleven minutes after the hour now. Chad Myers tracking some extreme weather again in the state of Texas.

Chad, Texas is a big place, but, I mean, how much bad whether can they get?


ROBERTS: Twelve minutes now after the hour. I want to get more on the reports out of Iraq from the interior ministry that the leader of Iraqi in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, has been killed overnight. Apparently he was killed, according to the interior ministry. And they only say that they have intelligence. But they say it's solid intelligence that this happened.

He was killed in some sort of clash between rival militant organizations. Now it's no secret that the United States has been trying, in the last few months at least, to try to exploit the divisions between some Sunni tribal leaders and militias and what's happening with al Qaeda. We want to bring in Sajjan Gohel. He is a terrorism expert. He's with us now in London.

Sajjan, have you heard any that would give a little more credence to reports that al-Masri is dead?

SAJJAN GOHEL, TERRORISM EXPERT: Well, it's very interesting, John, because there had been stories recently on Islamist web forums on the Internet that there was major infighting taking place between al Qaeda in Iraq and other Iraqi Sunni insurgent groups. Now the stories that have come out today seem to have come out from Iraq's own military operators. I think until we get proper U.S. authentic confirmation, it is speculative. But it would be a very interesting development if what has transpired, is that he was killed by infighting.

ROBERTS: And if he was, in fact, killed, Sajjan, what would the impact be. As we saw with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, it knocked al Qaeda down for a little while, not much more than a couple of weeks though, and then they re-emerged and now they seem to be, at least in Diyala Province, stronger than ever.

GOHEL: Well, that is a very important point because Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was hailed as being the sort of co-organizer of the insurgency movement in Iraq. And certainly after he was killed, he became just a footnote in the history of the insurgency. Al-Masri, unfortunately, will be no different.

He's slightly different to al-Zarqawi. He doesn't have a very public profile. Al-Zarqawi, as we saw, his contribution to the insurgency in Iraq was that he visualized, that he filmed terrorist attacks. Al-Masri's played a more behind the scenes role.

And another important difference is that al-Masri was actually hand picked by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy of al Qaeda, to be the leader. Whereas al-Zarqawi was very much his own type of person. But, unfortunately, it's not going to stop the insurgency, because it goes beyond just one man.

ROBERTS: And, Sajjan, at the same time that we see this re- emergence of al Qaeda in Iraq, we're also seeing a re-establishment of terror training camps in that wild tribal area of northwestern Pakistan. What is the nexus between Iraq and what's going on in Pakistan?

GOHEL: Well, there's a very interesting dimension that has emerged. And, in fact, we got a very good indication of that last week when a senior member of al Qaeda, the U.S. had announced, was arrested actually last year. His name was al-Iraqi. Now al-Iraqi was hand picked, again, by al Qaeda central to assist in the insurgency inside Iraq itself.

And what you're finding is that a lot of the al Qaeda fighters in Pakistan are going to Iraq to train some of the insurgent groups. They're actually coming back then to Pakistan and assisting in the activities of the Taliban who are carrying out attacks against the U.S. in Afghanistan. So the problem are very interesting and complicated and have become very diverse, interlinking Afghanistan with Iraq.

ROBERTS: Right. And actually getting real-time combat experience now too. Sajjan Gohel, thanks very much.

If you don't mind, we'd like to keep you around and come back to you a little bit later on as we get more information about Abu Ayyub al-Masri. Again, reports coming out of the interior ministry in Iraq today that he was killed in a fight between rival militant factions. More on that story as it becomes available.

Meantime, to our other top story. Immigration officials enforcing U.S. laws. They say that they are sensitive to the problem of separating parents from their children. That's little comfort to dozens of factory workers in New Bedford, Massachusetts, who were handcuffed and loaded on to planes and flown to a detention centers 1,000 miles away from their children. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS, (voice over): Five years ago, Juana Garcia De La Cruz left her home in Guatemala, her sights set on the United States and what she hoped would be a better life for her family. Her son, Jason, now two and a half, was born here. Garcia is in the country illegally, but worked for this leather goods company in New Bedford, Massachusetts, making equipment for U.S. soldiers in Iraq. She never imagined that agents of the U.S. government could forcibly separate her from her son.

JUANA GARCIA DE LA CRUZ, MOTHER, (through translator): I told them I had a child here and asked if they could give me some time to make arrangements to get my son out of the country. But he said no. He tied my hands behind my back and pushed me towards the others.

ROBERTS: Garcia was one of 361 illegal immigrants arrested during a raid on the Michael Bianco factory in Massachusetts in March.

JOHN TORRES, DIRECTOR, ICE: This literally was our fifth largest work site enforcement.

ROBERTS: John Torres runs the detention and removal department for ICE, the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. He says every effort was made to identify and release detainees who had children they needed to care for.

TORRES: At every stop of the way, they were afforded their rights and seen by medical doctors and re-interviewed just to determine whether or not there were any humanitarian reasons why either they should be released or returned back to Boston.

ROBERTS: Jason stayed with his father in New Bedford. Garcia was flown to a detention center in Texas.

Why were these people sent to Texas instead of being kept in Massachusetts, close to their children?

TORRES: We didn't have sufficient detention space in Massachusetts alone.

ROBERTS: Sixty of those arrested were released right away because they either had dependent children or health issues. But at least 12 people, including Garcia, spent nearly a week in Texas before it was finally determined their families needed them, then they too were released.

The fate of Garcia's family remains uncertain, complicated in part because Jason was born in the United States and therefore qualifies as a U.S. citizen.

This is a real dilemma there though, isn't it, the fact that you can have children who would, because of their birth, qualify as American citizens. Their parents are illegal immigrants. And so the laws of the United States would force you to separate these people. TORRES: Those are the laws of the United States right now. And what we do recognize is that the actions of parents sometimes have an impact on their children. What ultimately may happen is that the parent may be forced to make a choice. Do they take their American citizen child back with them to their home country if they are ordered removed, or do they leave their United States citizen child behind while they're removed.


ROBERTS: The bottom line, say Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, actions have consequences, even though they try to be very sensitive to this idea of not separating families. Later on this morning, we'll be talking with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff about raids like the one in New Bedford, and whether any progress is being made on curbing illegal immigration.


CHETRY: Well, so where do immigration issues and religion come together? Well since August, Alberto (ph) United Methodist Church in Chicago has housed undocumented immigrant Elvira Ariano (ph) and her eight-year-old citizen son after she received a deportation order. It's one example of a growing sanctuary movement in some churches across the country. And joining me now is AMERICAN MORNING's faith and correspondent Delia Gallagher.

And in this instance -- thanks for being here, by the way.


CHETRY: Good to see you this morning.

The pastor says, we know what we're doing is illegal, but we have a moral obligation to do this anyway.

GALLAGHER: Yes, it's one of those classic example where the faith and the state collide. You've heard this Bible verse, you know, give to God what is God's and to Caesar what is Caesars. This is the classic example of the conflict of those two things because, you know, religions have an obligation to deal with the person that's in front of them.

They're on the front lines with a lot of these immigrants and they have to deal with the immediate need of these people for food, for shelter and so on. And then there's the second question of, what is the larger public policy going to be towards these illegal immigrants. And so the problem becomes when those churches then want to get involved in that policy making and advocating for some of these immigrants.

CHETRY: Which is what's happening. They're very public about this. They're not doing this in the shadows.

GALLAGHER: Absolutely. In fact, this is one of the things that's sort of changed. There's been a shift now. Because, you know, sanctuary churches and sanctuary cities have been around since, you know, biblical times. I mean, it is a long tradition of churches to provide sanctuary.

But what has changed here is that these movements, this movement now that's starting in California, in New York, in Chicago, of new sanctuary churches, they're making a public sort of statement with these families and they're actually taking in these families and training them sometimes in the media, how to talk to the media and making them available to media, putting them in the public eye to use them as an example of what happens when families are torn apart. They're specifically . . .

CHETRY: And that's what this, right, because this is an eight- year-old son who was born in the United States, his mother is illegal.

GALLAGHER: Right. And those are, obviously, the most heart- wrenching cases. So those are the ones that they want to highlight as part of the problem, the sort of very humanitarian problem of this issue. And again, the shift is happening with some of these churches getting involved and some faith-based organizations are not happy about this and they would say, you know, this is going too far to advocate some kind of a public policy change and using these families as that example.

CHETRY: Right. Because there are other churches that are staying out of this, correct?

GALLAGHER: Well, right. They have to all decide what are they going to do? You know, it's one thing to provide refuge for the person in need. It might be another thing to take that a step further and advocate using these people.

CHETRY: A fascinating issue. Delia Gallagher, thanks for being with us this morning.

GALLAGHER: You're welcome.

ROBERTS: Still to come on this AMERICAN MORNING, a video making the rounds on YouTube and raising a red flag for Chase bank. It shows people pulling unshredded bank statements out of trash bags on the streets of New York. Is your information at risk?

And lesson learned or not? New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine out of the hospital after that crash that nearly killed him. But wait until you hear about his drive home.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine is home from the hospital. His two grown children wheeling him out yesterday nearly three weeks after the governor was in a crash on the Garden State Parkway. The state trooper was driving 91 miles an hour at the time of the crash and Corzine was not wearing his seat built, something that he says he really regrets. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JON CORZINE, (D) NEW JERSEY: I also understand that I set a very poor example for a lot of young people, a lot of people in general. And I certainly hope the state will forgive me. And I'll work very hard to try to set the right kind of example to make a difference in people's lives as we go forward.


CHETRY: Well, on the drive home from the hospital yesterday, it was noted that Corzine's motorcade was clocked doing 70 miles per hour on Interstate 295. And, of course, he was going over the speed limit at times. The speed limit was 55 and at other times on the highway it was 65. So that was, of course, duly noted by all the New York and New Jersey media.

ROBERTS: Well, you know, sometimes you've just got to really set a good example, although I think maybe he didn't set a great example in terms of not wearing his seat belt, Kiran, but he did serve as a real wake-up call for young people who might resist the idea of doing that.

CHETRY: He was very emotional yesterday too. He tiered up at times when he was talking about it because he says he truly feels blessed to be alive. There are a lot of people who say that when they saw what the car looked like, it really is a miracle he survived that without a seat belt.

ROBERTS: And I'm sure he's still in a lot of pain as well.

Hey, sensitive bank records tossed in the trash and it's all caught on tape. But this morning the tape itself is in question. CNN's Jacki Schechner is here. She's browsing the Internet.

How did this video ended up on YouTube in the first place?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was actually intentionally put online by the Service Employee International Union. The local chapter in New York actually filmed the video last week and then put it up online in the last couple of days. And they've had an ongoing problem with J.P. Morgan Chase for a variety reasons. Locally in New York, they're not happy with the contractors that they use for security purposes. And then globally, or nationally at least, the SEIU has a problem with them in terms of their banking and loan practices.

ROBERTS: So what does it video show?

SCHECHNER: Well, the video shows people pulling documents with sensitive information out of the trash. Names, numbers, Social Security numbers, addresses, that kind of thing. Documents aren't shredded, they're just there tossed. If you've ever lived in New York, you know, they pile up the trash on the cub. There are no dumpsters. So they're just going through these and finding the documents that haven't been shredded. J.P. Morgan Chase, we spoke to them yesterday, and they say they have procedures where documents that have sensitive information are put into locked boxes and then they're shredded in mass. So they're going now and taking a look and reaffirming the procedures to make sure that what they have in place is sufficient and that the bank branches are actually following those procedures.

ROBERTS: So is this another example that some organizations believe that viral video on the internet is a more effective public relations tool than actually confronting Chase bank with this information?

SCHECHNER: Well, that's what's interesting, is that they admitted to us that your consumer security is not really their number one complaint, but they thought this would grab our attention. And frankly, it did. I mean this is something we can all be concerned about. And if I tell you general foreclosure loan practices, you'd snooze out the door. But if you look at something like this, you think, oh, my God, my name, my address, my Social Security number, you're going to pay attention.

The problem is, it's backfiring, John, because the online community is very skeptical to begin with. They think this is very transparent. They think that this is really an attempt to get people shifted in a different direction and they're not happy with the video.

ROBERTS: But do they believe that the video is authentic?

SCHECHNER: They don't, but the SEIU assured me that the video was authentic and J.P. Morgan Chase is actually not questioning the authenticity of the video. They say it's entirely possible that's the case and they're going to look into it.

ROBERTS: Well, troubling if they're leaving people's information laying on the streets of New York. There's no question about it.

SCHECHNER: You can shred your own information at home. But if they're not doing it, then it doesn't do you any good.

ROBERTS: All right, thanks, Jacki.

Top stories of the morning are coming up.

Breaking news from Baghdad. Reports that the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq was killed overnight. CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen (ph) joins us coming up next.

Plus, the sanctuary city. We'll introduce you to the New Jersey mayor welcoming immigrants to town, whether they are legal or not.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is on CNN.


ROBERTS: Breaking news this morning. The leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq reportedly killed overnight, not by U.S. forces, but by rival militant groups.

What it means for the fight in Iraq and the war on terror on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And good morning to you. It's Tuesday, May the 1st.

I'm John Roberts.

CHETRY: And I'm Kiran Chetry, here in New York.

Also on our radar, it is May Day, and there are marches and rallies planned in dozens of American cities in support of immigration rights. And we have you covered. There are special correspondents across the country today bringing you different slices of this issue. So it's going to be good.

ROBERTS: Alina Cho for us, is downtown New York, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. Chris Lawrence on the Mexican border. And Ed Lavandera is in Houston.

We've got our special coverage all morning long for you. We mark this first anniversary of those major immigration rallies May 1st of last year that really sparked a renewal in this immigration debate. And with the presidential campaign about to kick into full swing, it's going to be an issue for the presidential candidates, as well -- Kiran.

CHETRY: It sure is. And a lot of differences between last year and this year that we're going to highlight as well.

ROBERTS: A few flip-flops here.


Well, we begin with some breaking news out of Iraq. The Interior Ministry is saying that the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq has been killed.

Abu Ayyub al-Masri reportedly died in fighting between rival militias overnight. And the big question now: Will his death make a difference for U.S. troops trying to secure Iraq?

CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen joins us on the phone this morning.

Hi, Peter.


CHETRY: So, will it makes a difference?

BERGEN: Well, I mean, remember Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who ran Al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed back in June of 2006. And we've seen the violence in Iraq actually go up a great deal in the past year. So, one person's death doesn't make a difference. And I think the difference between Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the guy who was reportedly killed last night, al-Masri, is that the al-Zarqawi was a very -- you know, played a very prominent role, was coming out with videos. This guy kept a very low provide file. We don't know very much about him.

We know he's Egyptian. Apparently, he joined the jihadist group in Egypt in the early '80s, but he's But he's been strangely silent. And I think the reason that he's been quite silent is maybe part of the reason that he's been killed, if, indeed, he has been killed, which is the Iraqi groups want to put more of an Iraqi face on it.

A lot of them don't like the outsiders. There are Sunni insurgents in western Iraq who are fighting with al Qaeda itself. And in fact, Al Qaeda in Iraq adopted another leader with the name of al- Baghdadi, which is more of an Iraqi name, to put more of an Iraqi face on it. So...

CHETRY: Yes, but they have different aims and different goals. So you're saying that -- because it looks like here, at least what we're hearing the reports of, is that it was rival militant groups that may have led to his demise.

BERGEN: Yes. And this has been going on for some time now, particularly in western Iraq, where Sunni local tribals have been fighting with al Qaeda. And so, you know, to the extent that that has happened, that's a good thing. But, I mean, as to your wider question, Kiran, if this is going to make a big different, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death made almost no difference at all.

The bombs continued going off. And, of course, he was a much more charismatic leader, a much more public leader, a very violent guy.

CHETRY: Right.

BERGEN: The person we're talking about today, al-Masri, a much more low key, somebody who didn't really have a public presence, and we don't know very much about -- Kiran.

CHETRY: But Peter, has there been a change in getting, as Michael Ware and others have talked about, former Ba'athists to try and drive the al Qaeda fighters out of the country?

BERGEN: There has been that. But also, there's been just, you know, local Sunni tribal leaders, and particularly in the west and central Iraq, who have taken up arms against al Qaeda. So those are good developments.

CHETRY: Peter Bergen, CNN terrorism expert, on the phone for us this morning.

Thank you.

ROBERTS: Supporters of immigrant rights will be out in force today at May Day rallies across the country. Last year's rallies brought out nearly 600,000 people. And since them, deportations of illegal immigrants have jumped. Nearly 37,000 more people deported last year, about 221,000 in total.

AMERICAN MORNING'S Alina Cho is live from lower Manhattan for us this morning to tell us about so-called sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants.

What's that all about, Alina?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a growing movement, John.

You know, we are here in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, which as you well know, is a universal symbol of freedom. And it's that freedom that so many immigrants seek when they come here to the United States. But 12 million illegal immigrants here are finding that they're living in limbo, except in some pockets of the U.S., where they're finding sanctuary.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

CHO (voice over): In Hightstown, New Jersey, population 5,200, Mayor Bob Patten brags about how one-third of the residents are Latino. Many are here illegally, but that's OK with the mayor. His policy -- don't ask, don't tell.

MAYOR BOB PATTEN, HIGHTSTOWN, NEW JERSEY: There's 12 million of them in the United States. What are you going to do, send them all back? You've got to be crazy.

CHO: Here, Latino businesses are central to the local economy. One in four students is Latino, which is why all of the schools here teach English as a second language.

In the center of town, the church holds services in Spanish, and 60 percent of the weddings Mayor Patten officiates are Latino marriages. The mayor is becoming bilingual.

PATTEN: Hola. How you doing?

CHO: Hightstown, like San Francisco in the West, is what some have called a sanctuary city, a place where illegal immigrants can walk without fear, even call police if there's a problem. Paula Rancancio (ph) lives and works here.

We feel like somebody's not going to come and take us away and put us back where we came from.

CHO: Rancancio (ph) won't reveal her immigration status but admits she and her mother have been trying to become U.S. citizens for more than a decade. Her 17-month-old daughter, Emma (ph), was born here. So she's already a citizen. A familiar story: a family with mixed immigration status, the focus of today's rallies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the rate we're going, I don't want to be here anymore...

CHO: Stewart Sakowitz (ph) owns a shoe store in Hightstown, has been in business here for 37 years. He says the Latino community has overrun the town and that some business owners are leaving because they can't compete.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These people are all hard-working, good local people. They just don't support local businesses.

CHO: Mayor Patten insists the changing face of Hightstown is good for business. He calls it one square mile of paradise, where immigrants don't have to look over their shoulder...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How's business today?

CHO: ... as they pursue the American dream.


CHO: And there again is that international symbol of the American dream, the Statue of Liberty, and so many new immigrants actually come here to New York to look at Lady Liberty with their own eyes. It is that important.

And as we talk about today's protests, we should mention that organizers say that they will be smaller than last year's. A couple of reasons for that.

Chief among them, there will be stepped-up enforcement by immigration authorities. And that is going to keep a lot of protesters away.

But John, as you well know, the message will be loud and clear this year that deportations are tearing many families apart, and these protesters want Congress and the president to do something about it -- John.

ROBERTS: Yes, it's a big issue, Alina, particularly when you consider that some of these illegal immigrants have children who are born in the United States, and under the 14th Amendment qualify as American citizens.

Thanks very much. We'll see you a little bit later on this morning.

Alina Cho in lower Manhattan for us this morning.

And we want to hear from you on this AMERICAN MORNING. Lou Dobbs will be joining us in our 8:00 a.m. hour. Lou, as you know, very outspoken on this immigration issue.

So, for this morning's "Ask AM," we would like you to send us your questions for Lou. E-mail us at We'll pick some of your questions and we'll get Lou to answer them during our 8:00 a.m. Eastern hour.

CHETRY: It's going to be good.

All right. Still to come this morning, securing the border with Mexico. It's been nearly a year since the president sent thousands of National Guard troops to keep illegal aliens out of America.

Is that plan working? We're going to be live at the border coming up.

Plus, prime real estate, it's up for grabs overseas. How you can turn an American embassy into your next vacation home.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is here on CNN.


ROBERTS: Forty-four minutes now after the hour. Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.

It has been nearly a year since Operation Jump Start began along the Mexican border in an effort to slow the flow of illegal immigrants. Is it working?

AMERICAN MORNING'S Chris Lawrence is live at the border near San Ysidro, California, with an update.

So, Chris, is there any evidence that this is having an effect?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of evidence, John, and it is having an effect.

To give you an idea of where we are right here, San Ysidro is possibly the busiest land crossing in the world. More than 4,000 people come across this border every single hour, and it is a constant game of cat and mouse between the American border agents on one side and spotters on the Mexican side who are attempting to help drivers smuggle both drugs and people through those checkpoints.

We have seen heartbreaking pictures of women and men stuffed into the dashboard of a car, sometimes children crammed into seat covers. And even at times gas tanks, all desperately trying to cross into the United States. But again, this is just one way in which people try to come into the country illegally.

And last year, President Bush launched Operation Jump Start as a way to secure the area between these legal ports of entry. It assigned 6,000 National Guard troops to the border, 40 percent of them in the state of Arizona alone, which had been a real hot spot. The idea being it would buy time for the Border Patrol to train about that same number of agents, so that when the National Guard leaves next year, 6,000 new Border Patrol agents would essentially just take their place.

We checked to see if it's having any effect at all, and in many cases, it is. In Yuma, Arizona, which had been a hot point, a real flash point, the border area there, before Operation Jump Start they were making about 400 arrests a day for people trying to cross into the country illegally. Now, just a fraction of that, down to about 140 arrests per day.

In fact, across the entire southern border, from Texas, here to California, arrests and apprehensions are down. But in a strange case, and what some see as a sign of progress, violent attacks on Border Patrol officers are actually up. And what officials are telling us here is that they see that as a sign that the smugglers are getting frustrated as how much more difficult it is to get into the country now -- John.

ROBERTS: Chris, in addition to everything that's going on right now, the overarching goal is this secure border initiative which is going to take years to put in place. Any idea how that is going at this point?

LAWRENCE: Well, a lot of the local jurisdictions were given the choice to build an actual physical wall, or what's called a virtual wall. Many of them are going to the virtual wall.

And the head of the Border Patrol says he believes when that virtual wall is fully in place with the cameras, the ground sensors, the additional Border Patrol agents, he feels that 95 percent of the people trying to cross into the country illegally will be able to be spotted and apprehended.

ROBERTS: All right.

LAWRENCE: It's an ambitious goal, but it's one he says is possible.

ROBERTS: And we'll talk more with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff coming up in our next hour.

Chris Lawrence, in San Ysidro, California.

Chris, thanks very much -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, are you looking for a nice peace of real estate in Kathmandu? If my dad's listening, yes, I am.

The United States is selling its embassy there, and properties in 20 other international cities. The State Department is moving employees to more secure locations, upgrading and combining facilities. So they have 29 properties, including embassies or ambassadors' homes, that are for sale.

This will get you, though. The estimated price, more than $200 million for all of those. So I guess it's back to the drawing board -- John.

ROBERTS: They've got a really lovely piece of real estate right along the Tigris River in downtown Baghdad that I've been to.

CHETRY: Oh, you were looking, as well?

ROBERTS: I don't know if they'll be selling that palace, though. I think they're turning it back over to the Iraqi government.

Hey, coming up, the rising crime from America's immigration crisis. People smuggling people, and it's not just a problem in border towns.

Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: We have a quick update for you on our top story of the morning. Iraq's Interior Ministry spokesman is saying that al Qaeda's top man in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, has been killed in fighting between insurgents.

We're going to get a live update from Baghdad at the top of the hour.

All day we'll be taking a look at America's immigration crisis, including a new look at rising crime from smugglers on the U.S. border.

Ed Lavandera is in Houston this morning with more on that for us.

Hi, Ed.


Well, for a long time, decades, the -- getting across the border was usually run by loosely-organized mom-and-pop-top operations. But that's not the case anymore. And the people who witnessed what happened in this intersection here in Houston just a couple of weeks ago got an up-close look at the dark underside of human smuggling.


LAVANDERA (voice over): Gunfire erupts in broad daylight at a busy Houston intersection. One man is killed, two are wounded. The gun battle stuns onlookers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bullets were ricocheting off the signs and off the buildings and everything. And I walked to the intersection and a guy was laying dead in the street.

LAVANDERA: Federal authorities say rival smugglers fighting over a load of illegal immigrants could be responsible. Human smugglers known as coyotes aren't just a border phenomenon anymore. They're moving North, and could be coming to a neighborhood near you.

JULIE MYERS, ASSISTANT SECRETARY, ICE: They say increased presence on the border, and so they think that they may be safer if they have a stash house in Phoenix, rather than Tucson.

LAVANDERA: And the coyotes are becoming more violent, often treating immigrants like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've had, as I showed you there, the case where the guy's fingernails were pulled out. We have another case with a grinder grinding a person's knuckles.

LAVANDERA: Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent Alonzo Penya (ph) took us on a drive through Phoenix. He says smugglers are now organized like drug cartels, willing to do anything to control illegal immigrants.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some smugglers don't even want to take -- go to the trouble and the overhead of smuggling a load from the border. They would just rather rip it off here and then tell those aliens, "I don't care what you paid the other smuggler. You're going to pay me now if you want to be released."

LAVANDERA: Last week in Houston, 40 immigrants were found in this apartment, held hostage for days without food and water.

Constable Victor Trevino (ph) worries smugglers are making the streets he patrols far from the border more dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not just at the border. It's coming in to our neighborhood, and it's coming in to our -- the large cities.


LAVANDERA: And to give you a sense of just the kind of big business these smugglers are making, federal officials tell us that a Mexican national trying to get across will pay a smuggler as much as $1,500. And if you're coming from a country south of Mexico, those price changes go anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000. And, of course, that is all up for negotiation once you arrive here at the coyotes' demands.

CHETRY: That's unbelievable.

Ed Lavandera, thanks so much for that report.

ROBERTS: Looking for straight talk? Here's a hint. Avoid talking to the presidential candidates about immigration, the issue that's a political hot potato this election season. Candy Crowley takes a look at the politics of immigration coming up.

We're learning a lot more about the driver involved in that devastating accident in the Bay Area, and it doesn't look good.

And also, have a drink on Danny. Danny DeVito hoping to take this embracing moment all the way to the bank.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is on CNN.


ROBERTS: Fifty-seven minutes after the hour.

Danny DeVito is trying to turn an embarrassing moment into a few bucks. DeVito appeared visibly intoxicated on ABC's program "The View," and then later blamed his drunken ramblings on about, oh, seven limoncellos.

The endorsement opportunities there were obvious. So, DeVito and Harbrew Imports decided to get together to make Danny DeVito Premium Limoncello.

DeVito says his line will be, "The best limoncello you've ever tasted."

Kiran, I've never tasted limoncello. Have you?

CHETRY: I haven't, but I hear it's wonderful. And Danny DeVito, you know you're in trouble when you have to say about seven, you can't even remember how many you had. That's when you should have called it a night a few hours earlier.

ROBERTS: I'll tell you what -- I'm coming up there tomorrow, so let's try a limoncello and see what they taste like.

CHETRY: Or how about -- after the show or before? I say after.

ROBERTS: I think it would be more fun to do it before the show, but maybe we should wait until after.

CHETRY: All right. Let's get the verdict from Stephanie Elam, who's joining us now, minding our business.

Nice to see you this morning.


CHETRY: So, if milk prices are going up, drink limoncello instead.

ELAM: Yes, right. Exactly. Maybe people will choose limoncello over milk, but hopefully not.

We're taking a look at high milk prices, and they're going up a lot more when you look at what's going to happen this fall. In fact, farmers have been dealing with two and a half years of just low milk prices, and now we see a jump here. This is according to a Penn State agricultural economist, saying they'll hit their highest level since 2004 this October.

So that means that we are looking at $3.35 a gallon for milk that we could be paying. Now, taking a look at here in New York, for example, a gallon will cost about $3.54. That's up about 60 cents. But this trend is definitely nationwide.

And it's against the trend, actually, because normally during the spring and the winter, we see a fall in milk prices. But they're going up. And part of the issue, as you may not be surprised, is a rise in cost in energy prices and corn, because it's being used so much in ethanol, cows eat corn. When they eat corn, they make more milk. But now that it's costing more, farmers aren't feeding them.

And so, expect to pay more for your milk. The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.


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