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Senate Deeply Divided Over Illegal Immigration Reform; Amnesty Agenda: Rising Opposition to New Bill; Lebanese Army Shelling Refugee Camp for 2nd Straight Day; Interview with Charlie Rangel, John Cornyn

Aired May 21, 2007 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, the Senate begins debating the so- called "Grand Compromise" on comprehensive immigration reform. That pro-amnesty deal facing rising criticism, skepticism, both within and outside Capitol Hill.
One of the bill's leading congressional opponents and critics, Senator John Cornyn, joins us.

Also, new concerns about the threat to the country from wide-open borders and the escalating drug violence in Mexico. U.S. officials not apparently too concerned about the rising violence in Mexico.

We'll have that report.

And some lawmakers refusing to accept the Bush administration's appeasement of communist China on international trade.

We'll have that special report on why.

And we'll be joined by the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Charlie Rangel.

All of that, all of the day's news, and much more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Monday, May 21st.

Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

The Bush administration's so-called "Grand Compromise" with leading senators on illegal immigration reform today facing major new challenges in the Senate. A large number of those lawmakers expressing outrage that the White House and pro-amnesty senators tried to force the Senate to approve that bill in less than one week.

The legislation also facing rising opposition outside Congress. Pro-illegal alien groups and border security advocates alike declaring the bill is completely inadequate.

Dana Bash reports on the opening of a heated Senate debate on amnesty and illegal immigration. Lisa Sylvester reports on the rising opposition and skepticism within Congress about the so-called reforms.

And Christine Romans tonight reporting on the strong criticism of the compromise from many groups outside Capitol Hill.

We turn first to Dana Bash -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, just a few minutes ago, Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate agreed to allow two full weeks of debate on this immigration bill. So there will be a debate this week, they'll leave for Memorial Day recess, and come back for another full week of debate.

Aides to the Democratic leader conceded that this is a way to bow to critics who say they need ample time to debate this bill.


BASH (voice over): It began with a plea from the Senate majority leader.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: If we put rhetoric aside, we have the opportunity to pass a law that treats people fairly and strengthens our economy.

BASH: Yet, in the next breath, the Senate's top Democrat started ticking off flaws in the bipartisan immigration plan, things he wants changed, like a guest worker program that allows 400,000 workers or more into the U.S. per year for two-year terms.

REID: We must not create a law that guarantees a permanent underclass, people who are here to work in low-wage, low-skill jobs.

BASH: It was a telltale sign of the wrenching debate ahead. Both liberals and conservatives have long lists of complaints about what is in the nearly 400-page immigration bill.

SEN. JIM BUNNING (R), KENTUCKY: No matter what you call it, X, Y or Z visas, this bill will grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants all over this country.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: I want to share a few things about how a bill should become law.

BASH: Leading Republican critic Jeff Sessions displayed a poster evoking the cartoon Schoolhouse Rock.

ANIMATED VOICE (SINGING): I'm just a bill. Yes, I'm only a bill. And I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill

BASH: He scolded negotiators for using backroom wheeling and dealing, not open committee hearings, to hatch the plan.

Already, Republicans who helped craft the immigration proposal are under fire back home. Addressing his state party's convention over the weekend, Georgia's Saxby Chambliss talked up the immigration plan and got booed by fellow Republicans.

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: We've got to face the fact we've got to create a meaningful, truly temporary worker program for those segments of our economy that need temporary workers.


BASH: Now, the fact that not only is the Senate going to debate this immigration bill for two weeks, but that they're going to be home for a week in between, really could change the dynamic of what happens with this bill on the Senate floor, Lou. Because as you well know, when members of Congress go home and talk to constituents, especially on an issue like immigration, it really could change the way they view this particular bill.

We know for a fact that the senators are getting lots and lots of phone calls, but it's quite different when they have to meet their constituents face to face -- Lou.

DOBBS: Constituents that one would hope they feel like representing for a change.

The idea that the Senate leadership decided to make this a two- week debate period with that interval, as you said in between, what, pray tell, changed their minds?

Senator Reid wanted this to be rammed through in five days, more than 300 pages. We still don't know what's in it. Neither do, of course, the senators who would have been expected to vote on it by week's end.

BASH: Well, what changed it is exactly what you just said. Several of the Republicans who said that they already know they don't support this, they made it clear that they wouldn't approve the procedural measure to really start debate on this unless they were guaranteed ample time to debate it. They said that's two weeks.

DOBBS: You said Republicans. Do you mean Democrats would have been perfectly willing to go ahead with this, what is utter and complete nonsense of voting on something they haven't even read?

BASH: Well, there certainly are many Democratic critics of this bill. There's no question about it. The most vocal in terms of the process here happen to be Republicans in this case.

DOBBS: Thank you very much for sorting out those who are vocal and those who are also in the same view.

Thank you very much.

BASH: Thank you.

DOBBS: Dana Bash, from Capitol Hill.

Many lawmakers who oppose this purported legislation say it will simply open our borders further to a new flood of new illegal immigrants. Those lawmakers also concerned about the impact of this legislation on the taxpayer, if legislation were to become law.

Lisa Sylvester has that report from Washington.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Democrats aren't crazy about it. Conservatives are branding it an amnesty budget- buster.

ROBERT RECTOR, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Every one of these individuals that you give a Z visa to is on his way to citizenship and is going to cost the taxpayer probably net over his lifetime a half a million dollars.

What did they do to deserve that? They broke our laws.

SYLVESTER: A group of senators led by Ted Kennedy and Jon Kyl hopes to push the bill through the Senate this week.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Immigrants made the America of today and will help make the America of the future.

SYLVESTER: But most senators saw the entire draft bill only Saturday. A survey by "The Washington Times" this weekend found fewer than 20 senators publicly backed the immigration deal. Forty have serious concerns.

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: A lot of people have been selling it and hadn't read it yet, so I think there will be a lot of surprises to come. And we'll have a lot of amendments, I'm sure.

SYLVESTER: Senator Jeff Sessions says amnesty will be given almost immediately to anyone in this country who entered illegally, but many of the enforcement provisions lack guaranteed funding.

SESSIONS: But let me tell you, American people, just because we authorize something like this does not mean in any sense that somewhere down the line a future Congress will put up the money to pay for it.

SYLVESTER: Some lawmakers want the bill scrapped and to start all over. Congressman Dan Lundgren has introduced his own bill in the House. It calls for more enforcement provisions and would create a blue visa that would grant lawful status to illegals who entered the United States five years ago or earlier.


SYLVESTER: Now, the one thing most senators agree on is that they want to change this legislation in some way. Senator Jeff Bingaman will introduce an amendment to reduce the temporary worker program from 400,000 workers to 200,000 workers. And Senator Kay Hutchison wants acquire all illegal aliens who want legal status to have to return to their home country.

So, Lou, these are just a few of the lawmakers who are picking this bill apart -- Lou.

DOBBS: Is there any sense of embarrassment among the senators, Republican and Democrat, pro and anti-Grand Compromise, just a sense of embarrassment that this is what passes for process in the United States Senate in this day and age?

SYLVESTER: I know that a number of these senators on both sides of the political aisle have been hearing an earful from their constituents, who are saying where are the hearings on this? Where are the committee hearings? Why hasn't this been introduced in the proper process?

So, a lot of people are raising that very question -- Lou.

DOBBS: Lisa, thank you very much.

Lisa Sylvester from Washington.

Senator John McCain today had a number of blunt remarks for a colleague on the campaign trail just days after he had harsh words for a colleague in the Senate. Senator McCain criticized former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's position on illegal immigration.

In a conference call with conservative bloggers, Senator McCain said, "Maybe I should wait a couple of weeks and see if it changes," referring to Romney's position. McCain also said of Romney, "Maybe he can get out his small varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his yard." That remark apparently a reference to Governor Romney's explanation about his hunting experience and charges Romney hired illegal alien landscapers.

And during a Senate meeting on the immigration proposed compromise last week, a shouting match between Senator McCain and Senator John Cornyn. At one point, Senator Cornyn accusing McCain of spending too much time on the campaign trail. McCain's response, a two-word expletive ending with the word "you".

We'll discuss that illegal immigration compromise in just a moment, and Senator McCain, with Senator Cornyn, who will be among our guests here later in the broadcast.

By the way, Senator McCain has missed 45 votes at last count.

Turning overseas, Lebanon's pro-American government tonight is laying siege to a Palestinian refugee camp controlled by radical Islamists. Lebanese officials say the terrorists are inspired by al Qaeda. Lebanese army troops today blasted that camp and the city of Tripoli with tank and artillery fire for the second consecutive day. Also, a bomb explosion today in Beirut.

This, the worst fighting in Lebanon since the end of that country's civil war 17 years ago.

Nic Robertson has the report from Beirut -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the bomb blast in Beirut was a second in as many nights. It ripped through three apartment buildings, setting them on fire. At least six people wounded. Ambulances rushed to the scene.

The Lebanese army also rushed to the scene. Hundreds of soldiers securing the area, setting up checkpoints around the city. That standoff in the Palestinian camp close to the northern town of Tripoli continued through the day.

Very heavy gunfire, exchanges of gunfire early in the day. It tapered off to a lull around the middle of the day, picking up again late in the day. The Lebanese army firing shells into the camp.

An effort to bring a truce and get food and water into some of the 30,000 Palestinians in that camp fell through. Huge concerns about the welfare of Palestinians in that camp. But the standoff around it continuing through this night -- Lou.

DOBBS: Nic Robertson reporting from Beirut.

In the war in Iraq, insurgents have killed another 13 of our troops. Six of those troops were killed in a single roadside bomb attack in Baghdad Saturday.

Seventy-one of our troops have been killed so far this month in Iraq, 3,422 of our troops killed since the beginning of the war. 25,378 of our troops wounded, 11,365 of them seriously.

Three hundred and thirteen of our troops have been killed in Afghanistan. They are fighting Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists. Today President Bush said it's time for American allies to share more of the risk and the burdens of that war.

More than 25,000 of our troops are now fighting in Afghanistan. Other NATO nations have deployed 22,000 troops, but only Britain and Canada are taking part in major combat operations against the radical Islamists.

Still ahead here, an astonishing verbal attack by former President Carter against President Bush. What President Carter said, what he's saying now.

And Governor Bill Richardson makes it official. He wants to be president.

We'll have a special report on whether Governor Richardson has any chance of winning this race.

All of that, a great deal more coming right up.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico today officially announced he wants to be president. He joins a crowded Democratic field being led by Senator Hillary Clinton. And Governor Richardson says he will break through what is a crowd by touting his roots and his resume.

Candy Crowley reports.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With a smile on his face and friends at his back, Bill Richardson officially launched his campaign with a stinging broadside.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Whether it will be willful ignorance or an ignorant will, we are left with the ravages of an administration that will take years to rectify.

CROWLEY: The governor of New Mexico made his announcement in California, home to millions of votes and an exploding population of politically active Hispanics.

RICHARDSON: En Espanol or en Ingles? En Ingles? OK. (SPEAKING FRENCH)


CROWLEY: Trilingual, he is the son of a Mexican mother and an American father. Richardson was largely raised in Mexico, but was born in California, because his father insisted.

RICHARDSON: I didn't spend much time here. In fact, it was about eight hours, because I went right back. But now there's a California primary, so I'm -- I'm trying to improve on those roots.

CROWLEY: It is classic Richardson, a loosey-goosey campaigner who describes himself as an imperfect guy, a normal person. He thinks voters will relate.

But do not mistake him for ordinary. He has what is arguably, perhaps indisputably, the best resume in the race: congressman for 14 years, ambassador to the U.N., secretary of energy, governor of New Mexico, reelected with 69 percent of the vote, and diplomatic troubleshooter in North Korea, Sudan, Iraq, helping to negotiate the release of hostages.

He thinks he is right for the times, for this war, for this world.

RICHARDSON: The key is diplomacy. The key -- the key is bringing people together. The key is not doing things alone, as we have before. The key is mediation.

CROWLEY: He is an Energizer Bunny type, known more for pragmatism than vision. His announcement speech was largely devoid of flourishes and heavy on problem-solving.

RICHARDSON: We have to recognize that no fence ever built has stopped history. And a border fence won't either. If you build a 10- foot fence...


RICHARDSON: ... someone will use an 11-foot ladder.

CROWLEY: He runs a shoestring campaign, and raised $6 million this first quarter, impressive for a non-household name, but a figure that pales in comparison to Barack Obama's $25.7 million.


CROWLEY: Along the campaign trail Richardson repeatedly refers to his non-rock star status. He struggles to find the national limelight, but still believes time and resume are on his side -- Lou.

DOBBS: Candy, wouldn't it be nice if we could start evaluating candidates more upon the -- to paraphrase Martin Luther King, on the content of their character rather than the funds that they've raised?

CROWLEY: Absolutely. I mean, it's one of the huge flaws in our electoral system, is that, you know, the guy with the most money generally wins. And, you know, if you have money, you attract attention. If you attract attention, you get money. And it becomes this vicious circle that doesn't let a lot of people in.

DOBBS: Perhaps 2008 will be the end of that vicious -- that vicious cycle, particularly vicious to the interests of the United States and the common good. Maybe everybody will awaken to that.

Candy, thank you very much for that excellent report.

Candy Crowley.

In his announcement today, Governor Richardson addressed the Senate's Grand Compromise on illegal immigration. Governor Richardson called the proposed Senate bill a step in the right direction, but he also said the bill would separate families, which he could not support. On securing our borders, the Democratic candidate for his party's presidential nomination had this to say.


RICHARDSON: You have to recognize that no fence ever built has stopped history. And a border fence won't either. If you build a 10- foot fence, someone will use an 11-foot ladder. Instead, use that money to secure the border with more Border Patrol officers.


DOBBS: The governor also said Mexico must do more to stop illegal aliens entering this country before the border can be considered secure.

W turn now to tonight's poll.

The question is: Do you believe there could be any clearer signal to Congress that their so-called comprehensive immigration reform compromise is being outright rejected than when both this broadcast and the editorial board of "The New York Times" have rejected the proposal? Yes or no?

Please cast your vote at

Time now for some of your thoughts.

Richard in Florida said, "What is going to happen if the new immigration reform bill does not pass? Will the Bush administration then start enforcing our current immigration laws?"

Don't hold your breath.

And Chris in California said, "How is giving a path to citizenship to the millions of illegal aliens fair to the millions of legal immigrants who will never have citizenship? If I cut up my work visa, can I claim illegal status so I can become a citizen?"

We'll have more of your thoughts here later in the broadcast.

Up next, Senator John Cornyn joins us with more on this amnesty deal.

And former president Jimmy Carter, he's backing away from some scathing remarks he made about President Bush. We'll have that story.

And President Bush standing by his embattled attorney general, even calling the Senate's threat of a no-confidence vote political theater. Will the vote finally force Gonzales to resign? Will it be taken?

We'll be at the White House for that special report.

All of that and more straight ahead.

We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Former president Jimmy Carter tonight is backing off his blunt assessment of President Bush. President Carter asked in an interview with the "Arkansas Democrat-Gazette" Saturday which president was worse, George W. Bush or Richard Nixon. Carter responded.


JAMES CARTER, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think as far as the adverse impact on our nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history.


DOBBS: Today Carter clarified his remarks, saying he was just comparing the foreign policy of the presidents, Bush and Nixon.

President Bush played down the criticism, saying he's making decisions based on what's best for the country and he's used to all the criticism.

President Bush today played up his support for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Gonzales is facing rising calls for his resignation for his role in the firing of U.S. attorneys. President Bush said Gonzales' critics are plain wrong.

Ed Henry reports now from the White House.


ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like the cactus on his Texas ranch, the president is dug in and carrying water for his embattled attorney general, Alberto Gonzales.

BUSH: He has got my confidence. He has done nothing wrong. There's been enormous amount of attention on him, that there has been no wrongdoing on his part. And I, frankly, view what's taking place in Washington today as pure political theater.

HENRY: That's a shot at the latest Democratic maneuver against Gonzales -- votes of no confidence in both chambers of Congress because of Gonzales' handling of the firing of eight U.S. attorneys and new allegations the target list was longer than the Bush administration let on, as well as dramatic testimony alleging Gonzales went to the hospital room of an ailing John Ashcroft to convince him to sign off on the warrantless wiretapping program.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I thought I just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man.

HENRY: That seems to contradict Gonzales' claim to senators last year that there was never any serious disagreement over the surveillance program.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: We should have been gone a long time ago. If there is such a resolution of no confidence, I am surely going to vote for it. I think a number of Republicans will.

HENRY: Six Republican senators have gone further, outright calling for Gonzales to resign. But the no-confidence vote is nonbinding and the president, the decider on personnel matters, isn't giving in.

BUSH: I stand by Al Gonzales and I would hope that people would be more sober in how they address these important issues. And they ought to get the job done of passing legislation, as opposed to figuring out how to be actors on the political theater stage.


HENRY: Why does the president keep digging in? One reason is that Gonzales' deputy, Paul McNulty, has already stepped down. And the White House right now cannot afford to have two messy Senate confirmation battles going on at the same time -- Lou.

DOBBS: Two messy confirmation battles. How does that compare to having an effective Justice Department?

HENRY: Well, certainly among the critics include Republican Senator Arlen Specter, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee who has been saying that he's not going to be effective and that's going to be problematic moving forward -- Lou.

DOBBS: And at the same time, David Aguilar, the head of the U.S. Border Patrol, also facing a no-confidence vote that has been taken by the leadership of the Border Patrol, the senior officers in the Border Patrol and the Border Patrol union.

Thank you very much.

HENRY: Thank you.

DOBBS: Ed Henry, from the White House.

Up next, one of the Senate's leading critics of this new so- called "Grand Compromise" on illegal immigration. Senator John Cornyn joins me.

We'll have a special report for you on the rising opposition to that "Grand Compromise" outside the U.S. Congress.

And new violence in Mexico as the drug cartel wars escalate. U.S. officials either aren't worried or they have a plan. We'll tell you which.

And did congressional Democrats sell out middle class working men and women on the issue of free trade? Well, one of those criticized of doing just that is the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Charlie Rangel. He'll be here.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Gasoline prices are now at a record high, jumping 11 cents over the past two weeks. The national average price of gasoline is now almost $3.20 a gallon. Gasoline prices are expected to go even higher before this Memorial Day weekend upcoming and the beginning of the summer driving season.

In Chicago, drivers there are already paying the highest amount for gasoline, an average $3.59 a gallon. The cheapest, Charleston, South Carolina. Gasoline there only running on average $2.87 a gallon. Did you ever think that we would say only $2.87 a gallon?

Rising concern tonight as well about the so-called grand compromise on illegal immigration. The groups most vocal supporting amnesty are today expressing dissatisfaction with that deal worked out in Washington. Amnesty advocates are complaining that that immigration reform proposal isn't sufficiently humanitarian.

And business, big business, balking at the bureaucracy of verifying all of those new workers as being legal. Christine Romans has the report.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. conference of Catholic bishops has reservations about the Senate's immigration reform death. MALDEF, the National Immigration Forum and the National Council of La Raza call a proposed points system for new immigrants anti-family.

CECILIA MUNOZ, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF LA RAZA: It is essentially saying that the country doesn't want your family members so much, the family members of Americans, and instead we want people with PHDs probably from Europe and maybe from Asia.

ROMANS: It is unrealistic, she says to think guest workers will not want to put down roots and bring their families. That flaw, she says, could create the next wave of illegal immigration. At the same time, the powerful Chamber of Commerce says this deal is no gift to big business.

RANDEL JOHNSON, CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: We do have concerns with regard to some of the details on the temporary worker program and how many hoops and hurdles an employer would have to go through to recruit U.S. workers before and what exposure to liability before they can ease the program and what the employee verification system -- how it will work, who will pay for it?

ROMANS: There about 150 million workers in this country.

SUSAN MEISINGER, HR INITIATIVE FOR LEGAL WORKFORCE: The employee verification provisions are going to be burdensome. They're going to be onerous for employers, and they're not going to really provide the sort of control that I think Congress anticipates that it will provide.

ROMANS: Business and advocacy groups hope to shape this bill along the way, but another avid amnesty supporter outright rejected the bill. The "New York Times" editorial board said quote, "It is painful for many reasons to oppose this immigration deal. It is no comfort to watch as this generation's know-nothings bray against amnesty from their anchor chairs and campaign lecterns, knowing that it gives hope to the people they hate."


ROMANS: The rhetoric much less heated from organizations like MALDEF, La Raza and others. They say they will work with what they call severe flaws in the plan to change them during the legislative process. That's democracy. An official for the National Immigration Forum said the only thing worse than a bad bill is no bill at all.

DOBBS: I'm sorry, who said that?

ROMANS: That was the National Immigration Forum.

DOBBS: Said that?

ROMANS: As much as we don't want an unacceptable bill, we're equally terrified of no bill.

DOBBS: That is utter idiocy to suggest that no legislation would be worse than bad legislation. That's how we got here.

ROMANS: They're all saying this is a starting point. There are a lot of things they want to change, Lou. But they don't want to go back. They say the status quo is just unacceptable here.

DOBBS: Well you know, whatever they're saying, the only people who haven't been consulted on this so far about 280 million Americans who have had no representation in this discussion, in this so-called grand compromise, whatsoever.

While the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the business roundtable, La Raza, LULAC, MALDEF and all these socioethnic centric groups have been at the table.

And then to suggest pass this legislation by this Friday. That was the demand of Senator Reid as of just last week. I mean, the arrogance of this thing is -- it's breathtaking. Both the ignorance and the arrogance involved in it from the United States Senate, of all places.

ROMANS: As it stands, there are a lot of concerns on all sides about the details of this bill and a lot of people are saying they want to keep working at it. They want to keep working and change some things.

DOBBS: They want to change some things. How democratic of them.

It's amazing that they would actually allow people to have a view and to have that expressed and perhaps be represented on Capitol Hill. Perhaps this is a newfound commitment to democracy if not to reason. Good lord, what a mess.

And these arrogant, little elitists, a dozen of them coming together and jamming this down the throats of their colleagues in the Senate, as if they don't represent anyone in the United States.

It's mind-boggling. It is unbelievable. It is disgusting, and I could go on with modifiers to that one, Christine, as you well know. Thanks, Christine Romans.

A reminder now to vote in our poll, do you believe there could be any clearer signal to Congress that their so-called compromise on illegal immigration is a disaster than when this broadcast and the editorial board of "The New York Times" have both denounced the proposed legislation? Yes or no, cast your vote at We'll have the results upcoming.

I am so excited about the editorial board of "The New York Times" and myself agreeing on something at long last. Maybe we didn't get there in the same direction, but at least we both agree.

Rising concern tonight about the federal government's wide open borders policy after a deadly weekend in Mexico and deadly weeks. This, the latest episode in an escalating drug cartel war that is terrorizing a third of Mexico's state and apparently U.S. officials aren't very concerned about that is occurring just across our border. Casey Wian has the report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three Mexican police officials in the northern border state of Nuevo Leon were gunned down over the weekend. The shootings carried all the signs of the drug cartel executions now occurring regularly throughout Mexico.

FELIPE CALDERON, MEXICAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The government needs the firm support of society because the challenges are not minor. We are ready to meet them head on.

WIAN: Residents of the border town of Cananea are still reeling from last week's battle between federal troops and drug cartel members that left 23 people dead including five local police officers.

More than a thousand killings have been linked to Mexico's warring drug cartels so far this year. In other words, the cartels are killing nearly eight people a day.

GENARO GARCIA LUNA, MEXICAN FEDERAL SECURITY SECRETARY (through translator): We are not going to take steps backwards. The federal authority will not retreat.

WIAN: Some Mexican lawmakers are now questioning the wisdom of President Felipe Calderon's deployment of 24,000 federal troops to fight the cartels. Meanwhile, U.S. border state governors and local law enforcement say the violence is spreading to the U.S. side, but the Bush administration downplays the threat, claiming the border is more secure.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We've already seen a tremendous change in the momentum at the border. Not only in terms of apprehensions going down, showing there's a lesser flow, but we're hearing from local law enforcement and local ranchers that they are seeing fewer people come across.

WIAN: That's not what we are hearing. These photographs were taken the morning after the Senate announced its immigration reform compromise.

Residents along California's eastern border say they've seen larger groups of illegal aliens crossing since the amnesty deal became public.

It's an often repeated trend since President Bush first began discussing the guest worker amnesty program with former Mexican President Vicente Fox six years ago.


WIAN: The border patrol however says it has no evidence that more illegal aliens with now crossing in search of amnesty and no evidence they are crossing in larger groups. A spokesman says it's too soon to know for sure, Lou.

DOBBS: Do they have any evidence at all of anything?

WIAN: They do say that apprehensions are down. They say that's because they're doing a more effective job on the border as we've reported, though a lot of people dispute that contention.

DOBBS: Well, amongst those, as you reported, the university of researchers at Arizona State University, is that correct, Casey?

WIAN: Yes, absolutely. They say economics are driving more people across the border and now it appears from people who live there that amnesty is -- the prospect of amnesty is driving more people across the border as it has countless times before, Lou.

DOBBS: One thing about this administration, it has so politicized every department of the federal government that one cannot take the word of a Michael Chertoff at homeland security or David Aguilar, the head of the border patrol straightforward or at face value because they are on a political agenda assigned to them by the political office of the White House. I mean, it is -- it is truly a troubling development in this issue and a host of others.

WIAN: It's interesting you bring up that issue, Lou. I spoke with one very high-ranking federal law enforcement official who is stationed near the border today, didn't want his name used. But he actually accused local officials and border governors of using the issue of Mexican drug violence for political purposes.

DOBBS: Well, I guess it's not unheard of that elected officials would find political advantage in these issues.

I do think that it is important for us to say here and now in following your report that President Felipe Calderon of Mexico has to be given great credit for what he is doing to fight. In some ways he has very little choice because of the ineffectiveness of his predecessor or his outright apathy or perhaps corruption on the part of Vicente Fox for five years. But Felipe Calderon, is actually going after these drug cartels.

And as you reported, unfortunately, without little -- well, very little, precious little assistance from the United States or support. And while I credit the Calderon administration in Mexico, I have to say this administration has an opportunity here to step up and be a leader and a partner and doesn't seem to be seizing it. Thank you very much, Casey -- Casey Wian from Los Angeles.

Up next, plenty of opposition to the so-called grand compromise on illegal immigration. I'll be talking about one of the strongest critics, Senator John Cornyn joins us.

And Democrats accused of selling out the middle class Americans, working men and women in this country on the issue of so- called free trade. I'll be talking with one much the most powerful members of the Democratic leadership, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Charlie Rangel, joins us here. Stay with us.


DOBBS: The new illegal amnesty compromise has plenty of critics, a rising number of critics in fact in the Senate, and among them is Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas.

Senator Cornyn says this agreement doesn't go far enough to protect our borders and is frankly not a very strong concept. During those negotiations, Senator Cornyn came under verbal attack by one of the compromise's biggest supporters, Senator John McCain. Senator McCain using expletives directed at Senator Cornyn during a heated exchange.

Senator Cornyn joins us now from Capitol Hill. Senator, I have got to say, you're a man of immense constraint. If a man had said what Senator McCain is reported to have said to you, I would hope I would show as much class and constraint as you did, sir.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Well, thanks, Lou. You know, Senator McCain apologized to me afterwards, and I have to say that we've probably all said things that we've later regretted.

But this is a pretty spirited debate and I can't think of many more important issues.

DOBBS: Well, this deal doesn't make any sense. And I've got to say, senator, it looked to me -- and I tried to exercise some forbearance, I saw this as an opportunity to secure our border, secure our ports, maybe an opportunity for a great assimilation, and what I saw here is a lack of honesty, forthrightness, and sincerity, frankly, across the board. How could this come to pass?

CORNYN: Well, there was an effort, as you know, after the failed attempt last year to pass immigration reform and where Republicans, I have to confess, as a Republican blew it because we didn't roll up our sleeves and work our way through the issue like we should have in a way that would come up with a better bill.

So now we're in a weakened position with Senator Kennedy basically leading the efforts in the Senate and frankly I think everybody tried to come up with a good product but, unfortunately, I think it falls short of a number of key respects.

DOBBS: What are the -- if I may ask very quickly, the very, your top objections to the outlines of this thing?

CORNYN: Well, let's talk about confidentiality. In 1986, the amnesty that was granted then, the law said that your application for that amnesty would remain confidential and could not be used by law enforcement personnel.

A few short years after that "The New York Times" wrote an article calling that the cause of one of the most massive frauds ever perpetrated against the federal government.

We got the same provision in this bill. We need to fix that through an amendment and I'll be offering one.

DOBBS: And one of the things in the -- is the idea that illegal alien gang members can simply renounce their membership and are accepted as qualified candidates for the so-called Z-visa, that law enforcement would have one day to determine whether to do a background check and determine whether or not someone could be admitted to that program? I mean these are absurdities, are they not?

CORNYN: Well, the key for me is we need to have a credible, workable, enforceable program. If we don't, then we will have perpetrated the same ruse on the American people that happened in 1986 where we got the amnesty, but we didn't get any enforcement and I don't think they'll forgive us for making the same mistake again.

DOBBS: I guess one of my questions is why should any citizen in this country trust either the House of Representatives or the United States Senate when we can listen to a Senator Harry Reid say he wants this bill voted on by this Friday, he had said that up until this weekend.

CORNYN: Right.

DOBBS: Irrespective of whether or not it's been read, whether or not it had been carefully evaluated. This is -- yours is the great deliberative body in government worldwide. How can it be reduced to this kind of absurdity?

CORNYN: Well, I had the same question. Of course this is the draft that we got about midnight on Saturday night. It's called a draft for discussion purposes only.

I think because of the ridiculousness of dropping this kind of voluminous document on us, expecting us to actually to be able to discuss with it our constituents, analyze it and make sure it will work under pressure, Senator Reid has finally now agreed to let this continue on for a reasonable period of time to have adequate debate and then amendments. I hope we'll be able to make it better.

DOBBS: Make it better? Frankly from what I've seen, senator, I'm not sure -- I thought one of the best starting points for legislation frankly was that of yours, Senator Kyl, the Cornyn-Kyl legislation of a year ago which went nowhere because of this administration.

Are we simply at a point where the American people are not going to be represented in this deal whatsoever? I mean, you have La Raza, MALDEF, all sorts of socioethnic centric groups represented. You have the Catholic Church represented, for example. You have the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest business lobbying group, the business roundtable at the table, but the American people -- where in the world do they find representation in this?

CORNYN: One of the biggest concerns I had during the discussions, Lou, is different senators would say, well, the groups will never agree to this.

You know what, I wasn't elected by a group, I was elected by roughly 23 million Texans and that's who I represent. I don't represent any groups and I think they deserve to have their voice heard. We'll hopefully have time now for them to see what is actually in this legislation and to make sure that their interests are represented as opposed to some special interest group.

DOBBS: Senator John Cornyn, as always, good to have you here.

CORNYN: Thanks, Lou.

DOBBS: Up next, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the very powerful Congressman Charlie Rangel. He'll be here. We'll be talking free trade and sellout by the Democratic leadership. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Coming up at the top of the hour, Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Wolf, what have you got for us?


Billions of dollars of American aid are flowing to Pakistan, but now there's word Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda are operating there with more freedom than ever. What's happening with your money?

Also, barbs fly between Jimmy Carter and the White House after the former president's scathing assessment of the Bush administration. We'll find out what Mr. Carter said and if he's standing by his words tonight.

Plus, Michael Moore's controversial new documentary. We're going to show you why this one could land him in some serious trouble with the U.S. government. All that, Lou, coming up, at the top of the hour.

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

Democratic leaders approving a compromise with the Bush administration on free trade. Critics say the deal is bad for American workers. They say Democratic leadership turned their backs on the very people who voted them into office last November.

Congressman Charlie Rangel is the powerful chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, one of those Democrats who approved the trade deal.


DOBBS: As you know, Mr. Chairman, a lot of criticism on this deal within your own party. Congressmen like Bob Sherman, Marcy Kaptur - some of - Marcy Kaptur among the great voices of conscience in the Democratic Party say this deal isn't transparent and doesn't make sense to her. What do you think?

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D-NY), WAYS AND MEANS CMTE: I think they have a valid point. There are so many pieces, moving parts that it had to touch basis with. I was dealing with the U.S. Secretary - the U.S. representative for trade. I was dealing with the secretary of treasury. I was dealing with the president of the United States. I was dealing with labor leaders. I was dealing with the freshman class, the Black Caucus, the Asian Caucus, the leadership and the Republicans.

But I'm not in nearly as much trouble as I was when it was announced. Really.

DOBBS: Well, the issue of transparency. The second part, of course, is the issues of both labor protection and environmental protection, labor standards, environmental protection, the White House is saying effectively whatever comes out of this will be side letters, it will not e incorporated into the body of anything that passes Congress.

How do you react?

RANGEL: That's 100 percent wrong. For so many years when we were excluded from participating as Democrats in formulating some type of trade policy, as we said earlier, the policy by the Constitution belongs to the Congress. The negotiations we delegate to the executive branch.

So what we agreed to was really to labor and environment will be have to be put into the agreement. Two agreements that have already been sealed, the government has agreed to open them up and put it in.

And the other two the legislature will have to open it up and put it in. The question isn't, is it going to be a part of every trade agreement? The question is how do you intend to enforce it?

DOBBS: That's one of the questions. A lot of people have held up the Jordanian free trade agreement that's been around now for just about eight years and it is a disaster.

RANGEL: There is no question that we have a problem with China. We have a great problem with Jordan. We see a potential problem that we're not going to have with Colombia in my opinion, but what we're doing is establishing an international standard that America should be proud of the fact that when you do business with us, not only are we concerned about now, for the first time, the impact that it's going to have on American businesses and American communities, but we're concerned about how you treat your people. Whether they get access to health care. Whether they will have disposable income. Whether we can help you, the developing country, with the environment.

DOBBS: The question, becomes, at least to me and I think to lots of people who voted last November, what in the world are we doing here for American workers who have been left out of the equation?

What about our folks?

RANGEL: I agree with you. I'm saying today as chairman what I said when I was in the minority, that the United States trade representatives, when they're negotiating with a foreign country, should not be negotiating as lobbyists for our multinationals.

When they sit at that table, and U.S. is in there, it means that yes they're supposed to get a better than fair deal for our businesses but they have to consider the impact that it's going to have on American jobs, American communities and American industry.

This is now a part of the policy. This policy is going to be in every agreement. If you're talking about Peru, Panama, Korea or Colombia, this is going to be - and they have to be held accountable not - to the United States.

DOBBS: This Congress has subordinated itself to the executive in fast track authority. It has for 30 years. It has in point of fact allowed 30 consecutive years of trade deficits. Will you extend the president's fast track authority?

RANGEL: I think not, but as we explained earlier...

DOBBS: ... May I quickly hallelujah? Is that OK?

RANGEL: Yes, but...

DOBBS: ... in a purely American way, not a partisan way at all.

RANGEL: If we take a look at an international agreement that has been going on for years that no one has any high expectations that it's going to succeed, the question of how Europeans subsidize their farmers, how we're addicted to subsidies for our farmers, how are you going to break that lock? I don't know.

But I might say that if it appears as though the only reason it's not succeeding is because our trade representative does not have the authority for this negotiation, one the committee is thinking about just at that period, not to have Doha (ph) international trade negotiations to fail because we didn't give us the authority to participate.

Other than that we're not looking at it.

DOBBS: I've got to take back my hallelujah, don't I?

RANGEL: No, no, no, no. You can keep up to the big one.

DOBBS: Congressman Charlie Rangel, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Good to have you here.

RANGEL: Good to be back, Lou. Thank you so much.

DOBBS: Thank you.


DOBBS: Coming up next, the results of our poll. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: The results of tonight's poll, only 82 percent of you believe there cannot be any clearer signal to Congress that their so called comprehensive immigration reform compromise is being outright rejected than when both this broadcast and the editorial board of the "New York Times" have denounced the proposed legislation.

Thanks for being with us tonight, please join us here tonight when we examine the Bush administration's efforts to create a North American union without the consent of course of the American people or Congress. But who needs that? Please be with us. For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins now with Wolf Blitzer - Wolf?


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