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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Critical Vote on Amnesty; Missile Showdown; Gang Violence in Los Angeles

Aired June 7, 2007 - 18:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight from Capitol Hill, political brinkmanship. The battle over the Senate's amnesty legislation is nearing a climax. This grand compromise, is it a make-or-break vote tonight, or is it political theater with the American people already sold out?
We'll have complete coverage.

Also tonight, Vice President Dick Cheney facing charges he abused his powers in the showdown over the Bush administration's wiretapping program. Did the vice president punish a Justice Department official who refused to support that wiretapping program?

We'll have the story.

And federal and local law enforcement officials are trumpeting their efforts to crack down on illegal gang violence. But many of those same officials are also behind sanctuary cities.

We'll have that story for you as well.

And two senators at the forefront of the Senate debate on illegal immigration will be joining us here tonight -- Democratic Senator Jim Webb, Republican Senator Jim DeMint.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Thursday, June 7th.

Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

The grand compromise on illegal alien amnesty may collapse in the Senate, or it may be a sellout of the American people.

Over the next few hours, senators are expected to vote on whether the legislation will live or die.

Senate majority leader, Senator Harry Reid, says he will withdraw the amnesty legislation were senators not to limit the debate. The threat provoked outrage among some senators of both political parties.

Dana Bash reports now from Capitol Hill on the last-minute brinkmanship over this amnesty legislation.

Lisa Sylvester tonight reporting on a major setback for the pro- amnesty senators and their supporters, primarily in corporate America.

And Casey Wian reports from Los Angeles tonight on the rising gang violence in this country and the refusal of many law enforcement officials to acknowledge the cause.

We turn first to Dana Bash on Capitol Hill -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, tonight we expected to learn the fate of the immigration bill. The Senate has been debating for about two weeks. Senators will cast a procedural vote, and if that fails, the Senate majority leader vowed the bill is over with, the bill is gone.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The majority leader?

BASH (voice-over): A pessimistic prognosis for the bipartisan immigration bill.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: This bill isn't going anyplace, but it's not our fault.

BASH: Senate Democratic leaders want a final immigration vote by week's end. To make that happen, they're trying to limit debate, saying two weeks is enough.

Not fair, say Republicans, who argue senators need more opportunities to change the controversial bill.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: This is no small matter. It's a big issue, a big problem. And it requires broad bipartisan cooperation to bring a bill like this to conclusion.

BASH: Democrats are already warning that a collapse of the immigration compromise crafted with Republicans and the administration would rob President Bush of victory on an issue that tops his agenda.

REID: And the headline is going to be "Democrats vote to continue the bill, Republicans vote against it -- the president fails again.

BASH: But other Senators say they are the ones who will look bad if the highly publicized immigration bill fails.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY WHIP: If we can't do this, we out to vote to dissolve the Congress and go home and wait for the next election.

Can we do anything anymore?

Are we men or mice?

Are we going to slither away from this issue and hope for some epiphany to happen?

No. Let's -- let's -- let's legislate. Let's vote.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BASH: And as we speak, senators are furiously meeting all over the Capitol, trying to find a way to avoid this immigration bill collapsing. In fact, right now there's a meeting in the Republican leader's office in the Senate. He has got opponents of this immigration bill in there.

They are trying to find a way to whittle down the number of amendments that they want to offer to change this immigration bill. And we're told, Lou, that it could be as many as 300 they are trying to whittle this number down from.

DOBBS: How can, Dana, either -- senators of either party look at their constituents with a straight face, knowing that this bill provides no support for Customs and Immigration Enforcement, for Citizenship and Immigration Services, all necessary to -- actually administering the law in this country? Doesn't provide as a condition precedent to any of this border and port security, and talk as Senator Trent Lott just did like it was some sort of macho contest when there hasn't been a single public hearing on this legislation?

BASH: Well, that's kind of a hard question to answer, Lou. I can tell you that that is the kind of -- maybe a little different language, but that is the kind of complaint that you are hearing from some of the opponents of this legislation, especially the Republicans, who say, hold on a minute. Yes, we've had two weeks to debate this and a chance to offer several amendments that we think will make this, from their perspective, better, but they say they've got a lot more and they want more time to debate it.

DOBBS: All right, Dana. Thank you very much.

Dana Bash from Capitol Hill.

Opponents of illegal alien amnesty won a critically important victory in the Senate by just one vote. Senators supported an amendment to restrict the proposed guest worker. A huge setback for big business interests, which had been aggressively lobbying for more, and, of course, for wide open borders.

Lisa Sylvester reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It was the closest of votes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ayes are 49, the nays are 48.

SYLVESTER: An amendment introduced by Senator Byron Dorgan sunsets the guest worker program after five years. That would allow Congress a chance to review the program to assess the impact on American workers and to see if the guest workers are actually returning to their home country.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH CAROLINA: It's a new program. And what if you get all of these people in here and 75 percent of them stay illegally and don't go home? What are you going to do, another immigration bill?

SYLVESTER: The sunset strikes at a core provision supported by big business. Proponents argue it could derail the legislation.

Senator Ted Kennedy made a plea to keep the guest worker provisions intact.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The fact is, if you have a secure border, workers are either going to come in through the front door or the back door. If they come in the back door, as they are now, they are going to be exploited, humiliated.

SYLVESTER: But that argument was disputed by Dorgan, who said if the borders are secure, there should be no back door for illegal aliens to come through. The Dorgan amendment underscores the deep division among senators.

BRIAN DARLING, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: The Dorgan amendment, which passed by one vote in the Senate, shows how fragile this coalition has become, and the fact that this one amendment made pull apart the bill and kill it for the year is indicative of the fact that this bill is on the verge of collapse.

SYLVESTER: The bill's supporters late Thursday were scrambling to come up with a counter-amendment that would undo the five-year sunset and restore the guest worker program to its original form.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: Now, as of this moment, a counter-amendment has not been introduced, but there are some other procedural maneuvers that the Democratic leadership can use to try to kill the Dorgan amendment. And at least one other introduced by Senator Cornyn dealing with confidentiality of illegal aliens -- Lou.

DOBBS: At this point, Lisa, is this -- has this become really scripted, political theater with the outcome assured that namely the American people are about to be sold out by senators of both parties?

SYLVESTER: I think if you talk to people on the Hill at this very moment, it's a bit of a tossup. But what is going on is, behind closed doors, you do have these political leaders that are trying everything that they possibly can to get this through.

DOBBS: Lisa, let met interrupt you for a minute. Let's listen to Senator Kennedy live here just for a moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New Hampshire yields for a unanimous consent as to the order of speakers following him. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, I would ask unanimous consent that following the senator from New Hampshire that I be recognized for up to six minutes, and the senator from California, Senator Feinstein, be recognized for up to 10 minutes.

NGUYEN: Without objection.

DOBBS: Some of the discussion and debate going on now, Lisa, as you well know, moving toward the amendments that have been agreed to apparently and worked out by both the Republicans and the Democratic managers. And, of course, that by Senator Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader who is demanding a cloture vote after two failed this morning.

It looks as though the negotiations are hot and heavy right now, Lisa, for us to have that cloture vote, which would, of course, limit debate for a period of 30 hours, effectively setting the procedural basis to push through this amnesty legislation.

SYLVESTER: Senator Reid and others know if they were to take another cloture vote, which they want to do this evening, unless they are able to resolve the number of amendments, it will fail again. It failed, as you mentioned, twice before today.

That's why it's so critical that they are able -- from their perspective -- that they are able to figure out how many amendments, which amendments. And that is a very messy ordeal.

DOBBS: Consider me a skeptic on this, if you will, Lisa. But my guess is that with the Bush White House, with the Democratic leadership in the Senate and the Republican leadership in the Senate committed to this legislation, that you're going to see some very heavy bargaining. I would at this point bet on a highly-scripted political piece of theater that results in its passage if I had to place a bet right now.

We will see.

Lisa Sylvester, thank you very much.

Lisa Sylvester.

We'll have much more on the showdown over this legislation in the Senate.

Among my guests here tonight, Republican Senator Jim DeMint, Democratic Senator Jim Webb.

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill today, the general chosen to be the president's new war czar today expressed his doubts about the direction of the American strategy in Iraq.

At is confirmation hearing, Lieutenant General Douglas Lute said he has serious concerns about the Iraqi government's ability to control the country. The general said that so far the results of the U.S. troop increase, the so-called surge, had been, as he put it, uneven.

General Lute also confirmed reports that he was initially skeptical about the surge strategy. Before the buildup, of course, began.

In Iraq, insurgents killed another of our troops. The soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.

Twenty-three of our troops have been killed so far this month, 3,502 of our troops killed since the beginning of the war. 25,830 of our troops wounded, 11,622 seriously.

Iraq, of course, is one of the issues being discussed at the G8 subject meeting in Germany. But the focus today, the showdown between President Bush and President Putin of Russia over missile defense. Putin said he would drop his objections to the U.S. missile shield if the United States were to place the radar in Azerbaijan rather than in Europe.

Suzanne Malveaux reports from Rostock, Germany.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Emerging from their much-anticipated showdown over missile defense, a surprise. Russian leader Vladimir Putin offered a proposal to end his heated standoff with President Bush over U.S. plans to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. Considered a welcome step to repairing U.S.-Russia relations.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He made some interesting suggestions.

MALVEAUX: The suggestion, to cooperate with the United States in building the missile defense shield. But on Russia's terms.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): This will create necessary grounds for common work.

MALVEAUX: While President Bush envisions putting a radar in the Czech Republic and 10 missile interceptors in Poland to confront potential missile launches from rogue states, Putin sees this setup in his own back yard as a threat to Russian security. Instead, Putin wants to use an old Soviet-built radar system already based in Azerbaijan, which it shares with that government. This would give Russia some involvement in detecting threats.

After Putin laid out his plan, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley huddled with the president's team. U.S. secretaries of Defense and State will meet with their Russian counterparts to study the plan in the weeks ahead. Putin suggested that if he got his way, he would no longer have to consider aiming his arsenal at Europe.

PUTIN (through translator): This will make it possible for us not to change our stance on targeting our missiles.

MALVEAUX: With the chill thawing now between these two, the talk of Cold War was replaced with talk of a summer trip.

BUSH: I told Vladimir we're looking forward to having him up to my folks' place in Maine at the beginning of July.

MALVEAUX (on camera): But Mr. Bush's next stop on this trip is Poland, a site where he wants to put those missile interceptors. An idea that Putin is dead set against.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, Rostock, Germany.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: And for those G8 leaders today, a reminder of North Korea's rising military threat. North Korea test-fired several short- range missiles off its western coast. The White House said those North Korean tests are "not constructive". The tests coming as North Korea continues to build up its ballistic missile forces and refuses to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

Still ahead, two senators at the center of the illegal alien amnesty debate. Republican Senator Jim DeMint, Democratic Senator Jim Webb, they join us.

Also, gang violence soaring in this country. But many law enforcement officials refuse to accept. What is to blame?

We'll have the story.

And did Vice President Dick Cheney abuse his powers in the political fight over warrantless wiretaps? That special report is next.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The mayor of Los Angeles wants more help cracking down on gang violence in his city, but Los Angeles, of course, has declared itself to be a sanctuary city, thereby preventing law enforcement from questioning the immigration status of suspects in Los Angeles.

As Casey Wian now reports, the mayor's request comes as federal officials are arresting and indicting dozens of illegal alien gang members.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): ICE agents have arrested 124 illegal alien gang members in Los Angeles during the past 90 days. They're looking for 20 others, including Gerber Oliva Diaz (ph). He's been deported seven times and has a rap sheet including murder, kidnapping and grand theft auto. ROBERT SCHOCH, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, ICE: The foreign national gang members that we are targeting are not poster children for the American dream. ICE will not allow these individuals to continue to break Immigration and Customs laws and threaten the safety of our communities.

WIAN: Los Angeles is tiring of its reputation as a criminal illegal alien sanctuary. The city attorney is now cooperating with ICE to identify illegal aliens who violate anti-gang injunctions.

L.A.'s mayor and police chief pleaded with the Senate this week for more federal funds to fight gangs.

CHIEF WILLIAM BRATTON, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPT.: We cannot just fight a war on terrorism. We need to fight a war that's closer to home that's taking 16,000 lives every year.

WIAN: Meanwhile, the Justice Department Tuesday charged three leaders of the violent cross-border gang MS-13 in a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy, including allegations two of them ordered murders in the United States from their El Salvador jail cells.

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: MS-13 is an extremely violent gang, composed primarily of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador, with members also running criminal operations in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and throughout the United States.

WIAN: ICE recently conducted a threat assessment survey that found gang membership surging in most U.S. cities, and membership of violent transnational gangs is comprised largely of foreign-born nationals. Yet some officials continue to downplay the role open borders play in gang proliferation.

PATRICK WORD, NATIONAL ALLIANCE GANG INVESTIGATORS: Too often, the public has been confused linking the immigration issue as the major cause of the gang issue in this country. It is simply a cause, but not the cause of the gang problem.

WIAN: The U.S. now has 800,000 gang members and just 708,000 state and local police officers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: In Los Angeles, the policy known as Special Order 40, which forbids police officers from questioning criminal suspects about their immigration status, remains in effect. Still, federal officials welcome the city's cooperation in at least deporting illegal alien gang members -- Lou.

DOBBS: It's hard to square that up at all with the concept of a sanctuary city, though, isn't it, Casey?

WIAN: It certainly is. And the way officials answer that question is that when they encounter illegal aliens through the front door, interviewing them as criminal suspects or witnesses in criminal cases, they don't want to question their immigration status. But when they're going through the back door, as they call it, working with federal officials about violent gang members, they do want to cooperate.

DOBBS: The expert saying that immigration, as he put it, is not the primary cause of this rising gang violence.

What is the primary cause?

WIAN: He didn't -- he didn't specify what the primary cause was, but they're certainly downplaying the issue of illegal immigration. They talk about needing more resources and needing more jobs and community education and those things, but a lot of folks will tell you that if you secure the borders and deport illegal alien gang members, you solve a large part of the problem very quickly -- Lou.

DOBBS: And how many times did you report that those gentlemen had been deported?

WIAN: Well, this one murder suspect had been deported seven times. So he was obviously in law enforcement custody on several occasions, a murder suspect. He's still on the loose and they are looking for him.

DOBBS: And the U.S. attorney referring to MS-13, the most notorious of these gangs, referring to members as immigrants. I thought that the primary membership of MS-13 was, in point of fact, if foreign born, they were illegal aliens in this country.

WIAN: Absolutely. And that's why they have spread so fast. They go back and forth across the border, grow in their home countries and grow here.

DOBBS: Well, it's nice to see political correctness from the part -- on the part of the U.S. attorney general when talking about something as important as MS-13 and cracking down on gang violence in this country.

Thank you very much.

Casey Wian.

WIAN: OK.

DOBBS: Let's take look now at some of your thoughts.

Dick in Las Vegas wrote in to say, "Senator Harry Reid sees undocumented Americans living in the shadows. I see illegal aliens parading in American streets waving Mexican flags."

Tom in Minnesota, continuing the theme of shadows, Tom in Minnesota said, "Some members of Congress keep saying they want to bring illegal aliens out of the shadows. I would like Congress to bring themselves out of the shadows with their back room deals and pork barrel politics."

Edward in Illinois said, "Lou, I hope this sickness that a lot of our congressmen have is not contagious."

We'll have a lot of your thoughts here later in the broadcast. We have already heard hours and hours of debate on the so-called grand bargain on illegal immigration reform. We are also hearing senators twist and torture the language when it comes to describing illegal aliens.

They are not alone in doing that. Witness the national media.

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called illegal aliens "undocumented Americans".

Senator Dianne Feinstein calls them "good citizens without citizenship".

And just this morning, one of the architects of the amnesty legislation, Senator Ted Kennedy, preferred to call them "undocumented aliens".

Getting closer, but we are not quite there yet.

Still ahead, one of the most controversial provisions in the amnesty legislation -- senators on the guest worker program, which you may recall the president said is necessary to securing the border. Speaking of tortured language and logic.

Well, now some companies are accused of exploiting those workers they bring into this country. We'll have the report.

And accusations that Vice President Dick Cheney abused the powers of his office. That report from Washington.

And make or break time for the grand compromise, the grand bargain on illegal legislation. Senator Jim Webb joins us here next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: As the Senate debate on amnesty, wages on, there are disturbing allegations about the country's guest worker system that exists now. Corporate America says they need more guest workers. But now critics say the system that they have is exploiting foreign workers, luring them into this country, denying them fair pay, and their rights. And in some cases keeping them from returning home as well. Christine Romans has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): House testimony portrayed legal guest worker programs all too often as modern-day slavery. California Democrat George Miller:

REP. GEORGE MILLER (D), CALIFORNIA: Guest workers come to this country with the hope of providing their families with a better life, but in far too many cases arrive here to find they were cruelly deceived.

ROMANS: To get a low-waged job here they pay recruiters in their home countries sometimes $5,000, taking out high-interest loans, selling their land and borrowing from family. Once here and connected with an employer, by law they cannot change jobs. Room and board is deducted from wages. Worker advocates say some unscrupulous bosses even confiscate their papers so they can't return home.

An unknown number overstay their visa to work other jobs illegally to pay their debts. Critic says they have few protections and no leverage in a system that treats foreign workers as commodities.

MARY BAUER, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: There's no doubt having a class of workers who can be abused with impunity hurts U.S. workers.

ROMANS: The Department of Labor says it's wage and hour division over the past two years has cited more than 3,600 H2A visa violations and assessed more than $500,000 in penalties.

In the hearing room, disagreement over whether employers even try hard enough to find American workers first.

RAY MARSHALL, FMR. LABOR SECRETARY: The mythology is that these workers only take job that American workers won't take. There's no such job.

JAMES HOLT, AGRICULTURAL LABOR ECONOMIST: We are sort of engaging in an "Alice in Wonderland" kind of discussion here. We know there are not enough U.S. workers to fill these jobs.

ROMANS: He says a legal program is essential.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: But Chairman Miller questioned just how well the immigration labor bureaucracies can possibly administer any new, expanded guest work program, given concerns about how people are treated, now. At least the concerns aired in this hearing today.

DOBBS: You have reported on this problem time and time again. There is no secret here -- we know that these legal H2A workers are being exploited in many cases. What I find fascinating about this amnesty legislation in the U.S. Senate, is this is really an amnesty program for American illegal employers, corporate employers, growers.

It's really disgusting what is happening here. And to see not even part of the Senate debate is remarkable. Chairman Miller offering any hope we will see better enforcement of guest worker programs and the rights that accrue to them, under that legal guest worker program?

ROMANS: He's actually issuing some legislation. He wants legislation for the abolition of indentured servitude of the guest workers, is what he calls it.

DOBBS: It fits the description perfectly. Thank you very much, Christine Romans.

Big business likes the Senate brand bargain. Corporate America, parts of it, challenging those tough employer sanctions -- it seems they don't like that part. Companies specifically taking aim at restrictions that would require employers to check the legal status of employees. Heaven forbid! Bill Tucker reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For big business, the Senate grand compromise could be a little grander.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I'm going to build you a good, affordable home, I need workers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you're going to depend on me for a clean hotel room, ready when you check in, I need workers.

TUCKER: Business also wants the H1B visa program to be unlimited, with all foreigners who earn advance degrees exempt from visa requirements, prompting this question on the Senate floor.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I) VERMONT: If Americans won't take low- skilled jobs that pay poverty level wages, and presumably if they are not smart enough to do high-skilled jobs, I think the question we have to ask is, what kind of jobs are going to be available for the American people?

TUCKER: There's more that business wants. The proposed fines for hiring illegal aliens are too high; $75,000 per illegal alien. Employers should not be made responsible for making sure subcontractor employees are legal. And business groups argue, the legislation would turn human resources' personnel into immigration agents.

SUSAN MEISINGER, SOCIETY FOR HUMAN RESOURCES: What they will have to do under this amended legislation, well, it is not just get the I-9, they're going to have to make copies of all of the documents that they look at before they fill out the I-9 plus they are going to have to do this new electronic verification.

TUCKER: That verification program is the basic pilot program, which all employers would be required to use to verify employees. And it's being painted as big brother.

RANDEL JOHNSON, CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: It's important to understand this is not a bill just about immigrants. The employer verification system will apply to everyone in this country who applies for a job. And, of course, that includes you and me, U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents.

TUCKER: True. But all the basic pilot program does is verify a worker's legal status.

STEVE CAMAROTA, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: Make no mistake. Before this bill passes, many of the enforcement provisions will be gutted. But if they do pass with the enforcement provisions, the business community on one side and the ethnic advocacy groups on the other, we work to makes sure they are never implemented.

TUCKER: It's not as if that hasn't happened before.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: Congress passed what was considered to be tough immigration law in 1986. It toughened that law in 1996, Lou, as we have spoken about many, many times. But those laws have yet to be fully enforced.

DOBBS: You know, to sit there and listen to that prattle, talking about the terrible burden of the employers, employees having to verify that they are actually American citizens and -- I mean, it's ridiculous. And yet they do it, they are putting a lot of money behind the program.

TUCKER: They are indeed. It's funny now they are painting it as a big brother program. Making everybody be afraid of having their legal status checked when they apply for a job.

DOBBS: I love big brother concept. The basic position, I believe it's fair to say here, they want our borders wide open, commerce and labor forces unimpeded at the border, but they don't want to have to verify that anyone is in the country legally, which, I mean -- if the American people permit the passage of this absurd legislation, that is being produced by one of the most absurd and tawdry processes, even by Washington standards, we are going to deserve exactly what we get.

Bill Tucker, thank you very much.

Now, tonight's poll question -- do you believe that the nation will be better served with immigration reform and border security? As the two principal issues to be debated in the presidential primary, and general election campaigns, rather than in the process we are witnessing now in the Senate. Cast your vote at do Loudobbs.com. We will have the results here later.

It is make or break time for the so-called grand bargain on illegal immigration amnesty over the next few hours. Senators are expected to vote on the legislation. Senator Jim Webb offering an amendment to the bill limiting amnesty to illegal aliens and joins us tonight from Capitol Hill.

Senator Webb, good to have you with us.

SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: How are you?

DOBBS: I'm great.

WEBB: Other than upset.

(LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: I watched you introduce your amendment today. It made perfect orderly, rational sense to me. Any chance it would even get near the light of day in passage?

WEBB: I'm really hoping we will get a vote on it. If you look at all of the votes they have taken, the only vote we have been really been able to get on the Z visa program for these 12 million to 20 million people was a vote either to kill the program outright, or to let it go.

What I'm trying to do is bring reason into the process. I have been saying ever since I decided to run for the Senate last year, we have to gain control of the boarders. We have to get cooperate accountability, which is very much along the lines of what you just ran in your segment there. And I believe we need to minimize these guest worker programs.

And at the same time, I believe, that there are a certain number of people here in this country, who have put down roots because of the lax immigration laws over the past 20 years and deserve a path. But this idea of saying every single person who was here as of the end of last year should be accorded -- you know, this legalization, is not in the concept of American sense of fairness.

DOBBS: You talked about the fairness of this to American workers. The 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens, I couldn't agree with you more. There is a certain percentage, one can take the number four years, five years, as was the definition in last year's grand compromise, comprehensive immigration reform.

I just have a problem, Senator. I don't understand something. Senator Sessions addressed this issue today, the Republican senator from Alabama, saying the country doesn't trust the Senate. It doesn't trust this House and it certainly doesn't trust this president. There have been no public hearings on this bill, which has, according to the Heritage Foundation, a retirement cost for illegal aliens of $2.6 trillion, estimated.

We have not seen a fiscal, economic, societal impact statement of any kind, no public hearings. I just, frankly, don't get it. This is the end and all of the rest of it is political theater.

WEBB: There's a great deal of concern about the way the bill ended up on the floor, because it did not go through the normal committee process, which is one of the reasons we have been trying to amend it, in a way that's much more extensive than other pieces of legislation up here.

I want to reinforce something that you just said, to clarify my own views on this. Senator Dorgan and I both have said many, many times the number one concern that has not been on the floor during these debates is the condition of the American worker.

DOBBS: Right.

WEBB: And it's the number one reason I decided to run for the Senate, these issues of economic fairness, and what happen happened to the wage earners. They need to be a part of formula. We need to look after our workforce. We need to look after the concept of fairness in our laws, and we have to deal with people who are here in a way that I think is fair.

DOBBS: And you have made that clear. As has Senator Sanders, who I gave what I thought was an eloquent speech today on the floor.

WEBB: I was on the floor when he gave it, I thought it was quite a good speech.

DOBBS: It is jarring, I think, to many people to watch this proceed when -- it seems like the most rational and straightforward, commonsensical condition precedent to any attempt to really reform, with honesty, immigration law is to establish border security, to establish internal enforcement as Senator McCaskill said today. There's no doubt what the magnet here is, it's illegal employers.

WEBB: Absolutely.

DOBBS: And there's no capacity written into this legislation or contemplated that would bolster those agencies, CIS, to achieve what you're talking about, a rational, effective, humane immigration reform, and real borders and port security. This looks like a bad joke being played on the American people by both parties.

WEBB: We have to do enforcement at the workplace. There is no question about it. One of our colleagues on the floor today said that you're more likely to be eaten by an alligator than by to be prosecuted for hiring an illegal over the last year or two. That's on this administration because there are laws on the books that has to be done.

And also there's technology available, other than the wall concept we are talking about. For instance, we had a vote last night on technology that is like smart cards and this sort of stuff that were authorized more than 10 years ago that could be used if we want to really get control over the borders. And then we can deal humanely with the rest of this.

DOBBS: We are just about out of time, Senator. Do you think the cloture vote that Senator Reid has made clear he's determined to bring, will indeed pass? Debate be limited, and this legislation be passed?

WEBB: Personally, I believe that as long as this bill gives legalization to everyone who was here, as of the end of last year, it will be in real trouble. I am being criticized in my proposal because they are saying what are doing? You're cutting the baby in half. What are you going to do with the rest of the people who came in the last four years? What about the people who came here after January 1? There going to be here. What about the people who come after next January 1? We have to have a proper dividing line.

And I don't think this, personally, there will be big pressure from corporate America, as you mentioned. And also from the other extreme in the Democratic Party. But I don't see how this bill will pass if it has that in it.

DOBBS: Senator, your amendment I think, if I may say this, and express an opinion here straightforwardly, I think your amendment makes too much sense to receive a warm reception, but I wish you all the best. I think it would be an important -- an important reform of the reformed legislation, if you will.

WEBB: Good to be with you.

DOBBS: Senator Jim Webb. As always, thank you, sir.

Up next -- a journalist who has been covering the political fight over this legislation from the very beginning. He'll be joining us next, Mickey Kaus, Slate.com. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Throughout the Senate debate on amnesty legislation we have heard that any bill is better than no bill at all. My next guest tonight says this bill is in point of fact worse than no bill at all. Mickey Kaus of Slate.com, he's covering the debate from the very beginning, joining us tonight from Los Angeles, and the outstanding Slate.com columnist.

Mickey, good to have you with us.

MICKEY KAUS, SLATE.COM: Glad to be here, Lou.

DOBBS: Senator Webb, just offered his view that he doesn't -- he thinks that if they leave the same cut off date, that is December 31, 2006 for entry into this country by an illegal alien, he doesn't think that's going to happen. That the cloture vote tonight will fail. And that as Senator Reid has said, that he will just simply shelf the bill. What do you think?

KAUS: That's very good news, if it's true. Because I think Senator Webb's amendment, sensible as it might seem, would be considered a deal breaker by the so-called grand bargainers. Because they want to sort of let in everybody before December 31, 2006. So, if that's true, then the bill is going to die. I hope it's true.

DOBBS: Mickey, I just have to ask you, have you ever heard of a situation, because I tried to think of other examples in the Senate, even last year's passage of the grand compromised bill, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation. Basically what this group of 12, and the president, have said, if you try to improve this bill, too much we'll kill it. You have ever seen anything like this?

KAUS: No. But they are worried because the bill is wildly unpopular. The Rasmussen poll showed there was about 2-1 against, in terms of popular opinion. Gallup poll shows 3-1 against but fewer people paying attention.

So, they think the more they expose this bill, the less popular it will be, so they tried to rush it through. In fact I think they are right, the more they have exposed this bill, the less popular it's become.

DOBBS: And on what grounds do you think this bill primarily, there are a number of issues. But the primary issues in which this built fails in your judgment?

KAUS: The big problem is they try to do it all in one. It says, we wanted to, as you say, establish a border before we send the signal to all of Latin America, hey, if you come here and establish roots, eventually we will not be able to kick you out. That is a magnet. It has always been a magnet. In Europe it's functioned as a magnet. Every amnesty is followed by a wave of illegals.

We will not be ready for them if we try to do it all in one bill. That would be my objection to even what Senator Webb proposes. He is trying to do it all in one bill, instead of doing enforcement and then waiting and when the enforcement works, then we can deal with the people who are here.

DOBBS: Isn't it a point -- I'm asking your opinion -- but it seems to me, it is a true test of both intelligence, rationality and sincerity, and good faith for anyone talking about reforming immigration law to establish that the United States first has control of its borders and, therefore, control of immigration. Anything other than that seems to me to smack of something that is not a favorable description.

KAUS: But it's a characteristic George Bush mistake to try to do every -- he's against small ball. He doesn't want to do anything small. He wants to do a big thing all at once. And he doesn't understand, as in Iraq, that you need to establish order first, before you could do the difficult things.

DOBBS: Right. That's an interesting point.

KAUS: So, it is very parallel to Iraq where we had chaos, we're going to have chaos if this bill passes.

DOBBS: As you bring up the issue of George Bush, I mean, this is a president who I am really frankly surprised given his track record. And I -- first of all, Mickey, as an independent, I get flak from all sides, from the right, from the left, the Republicans and the conservatives, Democrats and the liberals, the left wing radicals on this issue. Why isn't anyone looking for the center here in terms of leadership?

KAUS: The weird thing is that Bush has sort of conned everybody -- or a lot of the mainstream press into thinking that his position is the center, because it sort of combines the worst ideas of the left and the right.

(LAUGHTER)

KAUS: And he calls it the center. What I try to get across is not all ideas that seem to be in the center are good ideas. You can have a seemingly centrist idea that is a terrible idea.

DOBBS: Right. And your point also that compromise is not always the stuff of which great gifts for history are made. The other issue is how in the world are you, with me in the middle, and you're on the left -- if I may -- how in the world is it, you and I both talk about border security as a condition precedent to rational and effective and humane reform of immigration laws. Why aren't you called a xenophobe, a racist, a whatever?

KAUS: Oh, I think I'm probably included in the group that is called nativist and xenophobe. If I were more prominent, maybe they would call it louder and meaner. But, you know, the left is the great unheard voice here.

DOBBS: Right.

KAUS: People on the left are supposed to care about the wages of unskilled workers, and income inequality. But if we open our borders, those wages are going to go down and the income inequality is going to increase. It's sort of hard to call people on the left xenophobes and racists, at least it's harder than --

DOBBS: Harder than in the middle, for example. And may I say I envy your immunity, you're insulation. And I admire greatly your work.

KAUS: Thank you.

DOBBS: Mickey Kaus, thank you very much for being with us. I hope you will come back soon.

KAUS: Thanks, Lou. When you're a blogger, you get a thick skin.

DOBBS: All right, partner. Thank you very much.

A reminder now to vote in tonight's poll. I should point out, Mickey, I have a pretty thick skin, too. My hide has developed that way here lately. Do you believe the nation will be better served with immigration reform and border security as the two principle issues to be debated in the presidential primary and general election campaigns, rather than have it sort of shot through the Senate and into the House and rushed into law by an eager Democratic congressional leadership and very eager Republican president?

Please cast your vote at Loudobbs.com. We will have the results in a few moments. Still ahead, the results of our poll and more of your thoughts. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight -- 87 percent of you say this nation would be better served with immigration reform and border security as the two principal issues to be debated in the presidential primary and general election campaigns.

Let's take a look at some of your thoughts. Tony in Costa Rica said, "Paris Hilton out of jail, Ramos and Compean, in jail. I think I'm going to be sick."

You have every reason to be, I think a lot of us do.

And Cleo in Texas, "I hear that Paris Hilton is already out of jail. Who does she think she is, an illegal alien gang member or something?"

And Joe in Pennsylvania: "I guess it pays to be rich like Paris Hilton, or to be an illegal alien, so you don't go to jail for breaking the laws of this country."

Ken in Montana said, "Regarding the comprehensive illegal immigration debate on S1348, Senator Trent Lott, Republican, of Mississippi, was quoted as saying, quote, 'If we can't do this then we ought to vote to dissolve the Congress and go home.' Hey, I'll vote for that. Finally some common sense from this Congress."

And Karen in Florida said, "Mr. Dobbs, Senator Arlen Spector's remarks about anarchy. Anarchy is defined as absence and inefficiency of government, someone needs to explain to him that it already exists."

We thank you for sending us your thoughts. LouDobbs.com, if you want to pass some along. We thank you for being with us tonight, please join us here tomorrow. For all of us, we thank you for watching. Good night from New York. "The Situation Room" begins right now, with Wolf Blitzer.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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