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Farm Worker Shortage Forcing U.S. Companies to Relocate?; Licenses For Illegal Immigrants

Aired November 5, 2007 - 20:00   ET


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: New York's driver's license issue, this is a controversial plan. Well, Utah has an established plan. In Utah, you can get a driver's license, but it doesn't mean that you're legal. All it means is that you can drive.
But here's the question. Does it work? It's actually one of two trends that we're going to be following tonight.

Here's the other ones. It's a backlash against illegal immigrants. We have been taking you to all these places.

In fact, let's go back here and we will talk about some of the areas where we have sent reporters or where I have gone myself, places like Hazleton, Pennsylvania, places like Prince William County, places like Tulsa, where they're saying if you give a ride to an illegal immigrant you could end up going to jail for a year, places like Irving, Texas, where they have been cracking down as well.

Here's the other potential trend that's going on in our country when it comes to immigration. There is a possibility that there are employers or farmers who say, if they can't get the workers here, then they're willing to go south of the border and restart their operations. There's one farmer in particular who's done just that. He's gone down there, south of the border.

And that's where we sent our correspondent Harris Whitbeck.


HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what can happen when not enough Mexicans or other migrants go to the United States. These Mexican farm workers are harvesting lettuce for a California vegetable producer. Every day, Valley Harvesting and Packing ships tons of lettuce to school lunchrooms and restaurants all across the United States.

But the lettuce isn't grown in California. And these workers are not in the United States. They're in Mexico.

Company owner Steve Scaroni moved his operation south of the border because he could not find enough workers back home.

STEVE SCARONI, OWNER, VALLEY HARVESTING AND PACKING: Every year, it just seems like we have less and less full crews every day. It seems like, for the last five years, in the United States, all or a majority of our crews are short every day. WHITBECK: Immigration crackdowns and limits on the number of guest workers made labor scarce. Scaroni says he tried for years to get Congress to pass a bill that would allow for a bigger pool of legal guest farm workers. He even made six lobbying trips to Washington, six. But, he says, his pleas fell on deaf ears.

SCARONI: We have people who are making laws and running the United States who are very disconnected from reality. And that's a very frustrating thing. I spent two years and six trips to Washington trying to be a solution to the problem. I finally gave up.

WHITBECK: Scaroni now employs close to 500 workers on his lands and packing plant in central Mexico.

SCARONI: People aren't raising their kids to be farm workers.

WHITBECK: While he allows that labor in Mexico is cheaper than back in California, his costs now are actually higher.

(on camera): Scaroni says he spends about $10 million a year to run this farm here in Mexico. That means $10 million a year are not being spent back in California. And that's not all. According to statistics, for every dollar spent on a farm, an additional $4 to $6 are spent in the general economy.

(voice-over): That money gets multiplied when local businesses benefit from the farm spending. In other words, farm suppliers are losing money back home. This grandson of a Swiss-Italian immigrant has had to emigrate, in a sense, as well.

SCARONI: The sad thing is, I have to complete my American dream of building a company from nothing, I have to complete it in Mexico, because our government, our Congress, doesn't have the will or the fortitude to take a known problem, which is immigration, and take a dysfunctional problem and fix it.

WHITBECK: Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Celaya, Mexico.


SANCHEZ: We were so intrigued by this story that we wanted to talk to this farmer, Steve Scaroni.

Hey, listen, I guess I'm going to tell you something now that's probably not going to even surprise you a little bit, but there was a farm bill that Congress looked at today. They're already running away from it. It doesn't look like they're going to even consider this thing. You wouldn't be surprised by that, now, would you?

Oh, looks like we just lost him just as we were going ready to bring in him. We will probably be able to fix that.

Let's do this, if we can. We have also got another guest that we were going to put up to challenge some of the assertions that were going to be made by Mr. Scaroni. So, let's bring him in now. Steve Camarota, he says there's no evidence of a farm worker shortage. He's also, by the way, the director of research Center of Immigration Studies.

Now, you just, I heard -- I imagine you heard this story. Here's a farmer, $50 million farmer, and he says, you know what? I can't get enough workers in California. And he goes south of the border. This can't be good for us, right?

DR. STEVEN CAMAROTA, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: Well, it depends on how you look at it. But when we look at the actual data the government collects on farm wages for farmers, in the last seven years, wages for farm workers are up just 3 percent.

Now, if we really were just desperate for such workers, couldn't find any, wages should be rising very rapidly. The average farm worker in the United States still makes less than he did 20 years ago. That wage is nine bucks an hour.

SANCHEZ: So, what are you saying? First of all, is he lying when he says, I can't make it work in the United States, so I have to go south of the border?

CAMAROTA: Well, what a lot of farmers -- has happened is, they have just become accustomed to the idea of paying very low wages, having all the workers they want exactly when they want them, and transferring the costs of providing health care and education and social services to taxpayers. That's the status quo. And that's what they want to continue, instead of paying more, having a smaller work force, and mechanizing, which is what they need to do.

SANCHEZ: Well, he has 500 employees, by the way. I was checking that number a little while ago. Does it surprise you that he wouldn't be able to come up with 500 people in the state of California who could do that work?

CAMAROTA: Well, what's interesting is not only are wages nationally only up 3 percent; in California, the wage growth has actually been less, again, completely inconsistent with the idea that we're desperately short of workers.

Let's look at two of the most labor-intensive crops, cherries and strawberries. The amount of acres planted in California over the last six years is up quite a bit.


SANCHEZ: Let me just stop you for a minute, if I can.

CAMAROTA: Sure. Go ahead.

SANCHEZ: So, what you're saying is, this guy and others like him, what they need to do is just start giving people more money that work for them. In other words, they're trying to get by on the cheap by paying people very little money.

And obviously when we get him back, we will have him respond to that question as well.

But is that your assertion?

CAMAROTA: Well, I think part of it would be higher wages. The other part of it is increased capitalization. They're going to have to invest in labor-saving devices and techniques, something they're really reluctant to do because we have given them so much immigrant labor in the past.

And this, of course, creates very large fiscal costs for taxpayers in California. But those casts are defused. So, he doesn't really see them.

SANCHEZ: Steve, I understand that we have got the other Steve back now, Steve Scaroni, the farmer, with a $50 billion -- $50 million operation -- pardon me -- who's moved it south of the border.

You know, there's a suggestion on the table here that maybe what you should have done is, rather than gone to Mexico, is just start paying people a little bit more, and you would have been able to come up with 500 workers on this side, in the States. How do you respond to that?

SCARONI: Well, Rick, first of all, I want to thank you for taking on this subject. We hear too much of the other side.

And that's simply not a true statement. It's -- I'm amused by when academia and folks who maybe don't even know what a head of lettuce is make these assertions that are truly -- completely false. I'm 50 years old. I had five-way bypass surgery a year ago. Yet, I felt it was so important to diversify into Mexico, that, at 50 years old and after open-heart surgery, I have, in a sense, started over again down here in Mexico.


SANCHEZ: I know you have got a little noise in the background, so let me sneak in and ask this question again, because maybe you didn't hear it. Why didn't you stay here and just pay your workers more?

SCARONI: Rick, we have tried all those combinations, all those things that Steve mentioned. We have tried paying higher wages. And the numbers he's using in his study, I had a chance to skim that study before we came on air here. I pulled it up.

And it's simply not -- there's a lot of false statements in there. And I guess it goes back to like what you asked. Who are you going to believe? I'm a guy that was born and raised in a farm. I'm telling you, at 50 years old, I had to readjust my whole operation. It's been a great personal sacrifice. I have had to move from my home of 50 years. I have had to leave my wife behind most of the time. My kids don't see me as much.

And it's because of my fear that I'm going to lose my work force in the United States, because the reality is, these studies that these people cite, they don't strip away the legality of the work force that's out there.


SANCHEZ: Steve, let me ask you this, because I think this is important. And our viewers are watching right now, and they want to know, hey, is this going to become a trend?

You talk to other farmers, some of your colleagues. Do you see others who are planning to do the same thing or have done the same thing?

And we're down to about 30 seconds, by the way.

SCARONI: Rick, my phone is ringing off the hook with people wanting me to produce leafy green lettuce products for them down here in Mexico. All of the major chains and the retail brands you recognize are all concerned because they understand the reality of the labor threat.

SANCHEZ: That's an amazing development in this story.

We thank both of you, Steve Camarota, who's a friend of the show and has been here many times before, and obviously Steve Scaroni, the farmer in Mexico, a story that we're going to continue to keep tabs on for you.

My thanks to both of you gentlemen.

Also, now, should states give driving privilege cards -- now, you notice I didn't say driver's licenses -- to illegal immigrants -- driving privilege cards. It doesn't make them legal, by the way. But it does let them get insurance. And it also lets the feds know where they are.

Obviously, that's the argument on one side of the equation. We want to know what you think about this. And we want you to go to our dot-com page and let us know.

Meanwhile, we will have a special report on this from Utah, to look at the pros and the cons of this one. We're back in 60 exactly seconds. Count us down.


SANCHEZ: You heard when I was telling Lou a little while ago as we were beginning this show that we're stealing a page from some of his scripts.

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, he wants to give illegal immigrants permission to drive legally. And he says it's the best way of keeping tabs on a million people in his state. He also wants to make sure that those people are insured.

Well, you know, Lou is among those who thinks that is a horrible idea. So, we wanted to check out how this plan could possibly work. So, for comparative reasons, we decided to send one of our correspondents, Deborah Feyerick, one of our best, to Utah. And there they have already given out -- quote -- "driving privilege cards," as I a described them a little while ago.

How does it work? And does it work? Two very important questions for Deb. She's joining us from Park City, Utah, to be a little more specific.

All right. Take it away, Deb. Tell us, first of all, what this is, if not an actual driver's license like the rest of us have.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Rick, we can tell you that, in fact, this does work. And keep in mind that Utah is a conservative Republican state that is surprisingly progressive when it comes to immigration reform.

Now, Utah did have driver's licenses, but found that those were in fact flawed. So, what they did is, two years ago, they came up with a driving privilege card. This is not an I.D. card. Illegal immigrants cannot use this to board a plane. They cannot use it to buy a gun or, for that matter, to vote.

But what it does do is, it gives illegal immigrants the right to be able to drive on the road. And some 36,000 people have already applied for this particular card, people like Elizabeth, who we met today. She came to Park City, Utah, specifically to work in the restaurants and the ski resorts that make Park City popular, especially with the annual Sundance Film Festival.

She knows she's here illegally, but she feels that, by having this card, at least she is following the rules of the road.


ELIZABETH, UNDOCUMENTED WORKER: If you don't have it, you have to run away. I don't think anybody without license or permission will wait for the police. So, people leave. And you never will know who will pay your accident if you have any problems with your car.


SANCHEZ: Well, I would imagine -- and I was reading the briefs that Governor Spitzer's responded to, some of the assertions that Lou has made. And what he seems to be saying is, one of the reasons he has to do this is because if he didn't this, these people wouldn't be able to get insurance to drive. Is that an issue there? And how is it dealt with?

FEYERICK: Well, actually, that's really interesting, because in order to get this card, you have to take a driver's test. Once you get the card, then you have to have insurance.

And an audit last year found that 75 percent of all the people with this driving privilege card, and the majority of them are illegal immigrants, 75 percent actually have insurance. And so what lawmakers are saying is, this is a public safety issue. This is not about immigration. This is simply about trying to bring some sort of order to chaos.


CURT BRAMBLE (R), UTAH STATE SENATOR: Look at the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens that have crossed the border, come into the country, just in the last two years. The numbers are pegged at several hundred thousand a year. And the longer we go, the greater the problem becomes.

And the inaction of the federal government is on one hand unacceptable. It's inexcusable. On the other hand, states have an absolute obligation to deal with the challenges that we're faced with at the state level.


SANCHEZ: And that's interesting, because that goes back to the very thing the we have talked about on this show in the past. The government at the federal level isn't dealing with the problem. So, at the local and the state level, they have to come up with something. They're not saying they're embracing illegal immigration. But they have got a problem and they have got to deal with it.

Now, I don't imagine that everybody in the state of Utah is on board with this thing, right?


And, as a matter of fact, many critics say that in fact this amounts to amnesty, that all you're telling illegal immigrants is, it's OK for you to be here, when it's really not.

And, again, lawmakers saying, we have got to deal with this. If we don't, the problem simply gets better (sic). And, tomorrow, we're going to speak to a police chief and hear what he has to say and whether he feels this is a good idea -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: But, to be fair, there are people in the state who are saying, once you give them the license, you're legitimizing them, right? And they don't like that.

FEYERICK: They don't like that at all.

But, again, they're here. And, so, you need to deal with them. And the people here also have a sense that at least they're trying to do right by Utah.

SANCHEZ: Deborah Feyerick going on there on just a couple days' notice to put that story together for us. And we understand you're going to have a full report on this tomorrow.

And we want to know what you think about this, because we know it's a heated topic. Do you agree with Utah's plan that gives "driving privileges cards" -- quote, unquote -- to illegal immigrants? Cast your Quick Vote at, It's a crisis in Pakistan. It's the place where al Qaeda and nuclear bombs both reside. Now, think about that. There is fighting on the streets and we have a witness who's going to describe to us exactly what's going on right now. By the way, she's going to talk to us while she's hiding from the military, because she thinks they're trying to get her. This is an amazing story, folks.

Stay right there. We will be right back.


OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": This has been one of the most devastating, if not the most devastating experience of my life.


SANCHEZ: Oprah Winfrey suddenly involved in her own sex scandal. We will bring it to you.

Stay right there.


SANCHEZ: And that's exactly what it is, a state of emergency. The state is Pakistan, maybe the definition of a country spinning out of control.

We welcome you back.

The president is also a military man. He's now declared a state of emergency. He's imposed martial law. He's suspended the constitution of the country. He's indefinitely postponed elections for parliament in January. And when the Supreme Court says, you can't do that, sir, he fires them. And then he sends the police out to break up some of the demonstrations that have been going on. That's the situation in Pakistan.

Pakistan is a country with nukes. Pakistan is a country with al Qaeda. Oh, and there's one more thing. That military man we were just talking about, Pervez Musharraf, he's our guy. That's a problem.

All right, here's what we're going to do with this story. First of all, we have got a lawyer who was able to get away from the police at one of these fights on the street. She's in hiding. And she called us a little while ago on the phone. We recorded the conversation. Here's how it went.


SANCHEZ: Ayesha Tammy Haq, thanks so much for joining us.


SANCHEZ: I'm fine. But I understand you're not doing so well. You're in hiding right now, right? HAQ: I am in hiding, like all good lawyers in Pakistan.

SANCHEZ: So, what do you fear? Who are you hiding from?

HAQ: We're hiding from the military, obviously. There's been a huge crackdown. And anyone who's out, anyone who's protesting against General Musharraf is being arrested. So, I think a few of us need to stay out of jail, so I'm trying to stay out of jail.

SANCHEZ: Do they -- do you fear that they will find out where you are, come to your house, arrest you, and then what?

HAQ: Well, this -- I think they know where most people are. And they have tried to arrest me. But, it's sort of, "Then what?" because if you get arrested, you're in jail. You're out of commission for the next 30 days or whatever.

SANCHEZ: You're saying people in suits, people dressed up, I mean, lawyers -- they look like dignified human beings, and they're being roughed up, it seems, by these military officers. Why are these military officers doing this to their own citizens?


HAQ: Well, Rick, it's -- yes, well, it's really sad, because, if you look at the lawyers, the lawyers are educated. They're the middle class. They're the educated, professional middle class of this country.

And, if you want to look at a secular liberal organization, there you have it. There, you have these smart people. They're educated, and they're being beaten up and dragged off to jail.

SANCHEZ: These are the good...

HAQ: One just doesn't understand it.

SANCHEZ: The irony here that is you, as lawyers, as the professionals, as part of the intelligentsia, are the ones who are pro-United States, pro-West. And here we have the man that we put in power is going up against you.

HAQ: Well, that is reality. As I said, you know, we are the secular liberal middle class, educated force in Pakistan.

SANCHEZ: Are they being brutal in the way they're dealing with you?

HAQ: It's not just brutal. It's violently brutal. And they seem to enjoy themselves. They seem to actually take pleasure in what they're doing. It is really shocking.

SANCHEZ: We're going to be staying on top of it. Stay well, Ayesha Tammy Haq, following the situation there.

HAQ: Thank you. SANCHEZ: And she is in hiding right now in Pakistan. Thanks so much.


SANCHEZ: Joining us now is Vali Nasr. He is an expert on this. He's a professor of international relations at Tufts University.

Thanks so much, professor, for being with us.


SANCHEZ: Let's go through this. First of all, here's why I think, as Americans, we need to understand what's going on there. And this is why this is so important.

When you talk about Pakistan, you're talking about a country that's a nuclear power. You're talking about a country where Osama bin Laden most likely resides. And you're talking about a country that al Qaeda has turned into a home base, right?

NASR: Oh, absolutely. It's a country of 150 million people.

It's a country that we simply cannot afford if it were to collapse or if it would get into chaos. And that's why -- exactly what General Musharraf did, taking this country to the edge of instability.

SANCHEZ: We empowered this guy. We invited him to the White House. We took pictures with him and all our dignitaries. We gave him $10 billion. That's an awful lot of money to give one man.

NASR: Without a doubt.

I think, in the past decade, this administration has given President Musharraf a credit card, credit card to do whatever he wants to do. They haven't attached any conditionality to the aid money.

SANCHEZ: So, should we have? Like what? What should we -- instead of just giving him the $10 billion and said, look, we need your help to wipe out the Taliban -- which he was good for, right?

NASR: Well, not quite even there.

I mean, we still are not even happy with the job they're doing with al Qaeda. You read in newspapers every day, you read government reports in the United States. They are complaining that the Pakistanis are not stepping up to the plate in fighting against al Qaeda.

But we could have been more critical of Musharraf. We could have told him early on that he needs to respect democracy, that he cannot just abuse power just to stay in power. He cannot just overthrow the constitution in order to stay in power. We could have done these things. SANCHEZ: The irony of this is, we're trying to create democracies all over the world. And here you have the lawyers and the intelligentsia, and that type of crowd are the ones that are protesting him, and he's spending most of his time going up against them, when he should be taking on the guys in Waziristan, the insurgents, the bad guys, the guys who want to take on us, right?

NASR: Well, the reality is that we're worried about extremists. General Musharraf is not worried about extremists.

SANCHEZ: Really?

NASR: He's worried about democrats.

SANCHEZ: He's not worried about extremists?

NASR: No, because the extremists are not a threat to him. Democrats are. It's not people with long beards and machine guns that worry him. It's lawyers with ties and suits that worry him. It's a piece of paper called the constitution of Pakistani that stands in his way for staying there as king forever.

So, in other words, we're not on the same page. He does the minimum amount we need in this fight against al Qaeda to get our support and to get our money. But that's not what he...

SANCHEZ: So, he's playing games with us?

NASR: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: I mean, this is a song and dance. Yes, don't worry. I will take care of al Qaeda.

But he's really not that concerned about al Qaeda?

NASR: Absolutely.

But the problem now is that his attempt to stay in power is going to make the extremism issue even more complicated, because he has to withdraw troops from those tribal areas and put them in the streets of Karachi and Lahore to beat up on lawyers.


Can this thing spin out of control?

NASR: Oh, absolutely. Which dictator do we know that, end of the day, has been able to stand up to a determined population that wants freedom?

SANCHEZ: And both of them with different opinions, one a democratic side, the other one an insurgent, radical side, right?

NASR: And the worst scenario is if the two of them come together in a fight against Musharraf.


Professor, thanks so much for being with us. We certainly appreciate it.

NASR: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Vali Nasr.


SANCHEZ: All right, how about this, a sex scandal at Oprah Winfrey's school? She is apologizing for bad screening. That's next.

Also, don't forget our Quick Vote question. Do you agree with Utah's plan that gives driving privilege cards -- driving privilege cards -- to illegal immigrants? You can vote at

We will be right back.


SANCHEZ: Time for "Rick's Pics." Imagine you're in outer space and you've got to fix up but you don't have the right tools. Take a look at the video, Will. Space Shuttle Discovery, on dock for the International Space Station today.

After undocking today, these are the latest pictures, by the way, the shuttle astronauts took some pictures of this new solar array and module that they put together. That's what it looks like. Now, look to the right of the screen, and you'll see that's where the astronauts had to make a crucial and delicate repair.

Let's go to that picture now, Will. Astronauts' Scott Parazynski and Doug Wheelock did this repair. They needed to fix a solar wing that had torn in two places. So they went up there, and they used pliers and clippers to cut away some of the tangled wires. And then they had to have some improvised clips to hold the wing together.

Imagine this now, and you're up there in outer space trying to figure out how to fix this thing and you got to use some improvised clips.

Now, Parazynski made the repair at the end of the station's robot arm. Back on earth, and here's why he's got experience with this, he's an emergency room physician. And remember, you can see all of "Rick's Pics" on We'll have it for you.

And here's that sex scandal we've been talking about. This is at the sex abuse scandal at Oprah Winfrey's school for girls in South Africa. What is she saying about that? We're back in exactly 60 seconds, and we'll see you.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back to OUT IN THE OPEN. I'm Rick Sanchez. Two stories that we're following for you. Oprah Winfrey and sex allegations at her school.

Also, a teacher runs off with a 13-year-old. They find them in Mexico. And this one, too, is about sex charges.

She is a teacher. He is a 13-year-old student who is an illegal immigrant. This one ends up south of the border. And we'll tell you who is not coming back.

Almost all the patients in this hospital burn unit are illegal immigrants. There is no way they'll ever be able to pay their bills. So guess who is?

And a new face for an old king. How do they keep Tut from crumbling? We're on it. Breaking news and more when OUT IN THE OPEN continues.

Welcome back, everyone. Media icon Oprah Winfrey is embroiled in a controversy tonight. It's hitting uncomfortably close to home. Remember when she announced that she had been sexually abused within her own family when she was a little girl?

Well, there's word tonight that inside that $40 million compound that she built in South Africa for education, girls have been sexually abused, allegedly six of them. Here is Winfrey's reaction to that.


OPRAH WINFREY, FOUNDER, LEADERSHIP ACADEMY FOR GIRLS: I don't feel that it has harmed my personal reputation because I have done nothing wrong.


SANCHEZ: But did she do nothing wrong? What about the school's screening procedures?

Turning now to the "Newsweek," national correspondent Allison Samuels, who went to South Africa last year to report on the opening of Oprah's schools. Thank you so much for being with us, Alison.


SANCHEZ: Did Oprah do anything wrong from what you've seen from this so far?

SAMUELS: Oh, no, no. I don't think she did anything wrong. In fact, I think she went out of her way, particularly initially when I was there in August, to try to find the best people at the top of the level in terms of getting the schools together, who would then trickle down and find the better people like the dorm monitors, which is what this woman was who's now allegedly abused the children.


SAMUELS: I think Oprah went, you know...

SANCHEZ: Well, I was just going to say, exactly. She was a dorm monitor. I mean...


SANCHEZ: You know, when you think dorm, you think it's somebody who's going to be in there when the kids are sleeping and when the kids are going through their routines.


SANCHEZ: I mean, shouldn't she have screened these people better if it turns out that one of those dorm monitors wasn't exactly a stellar human being?

SAMUELS: Well, you can interview people and you can get as many references as you want with people. But, you know, inevitably, someone gets through who's not the best person. I mean, that is something that I think happens in all type of positions, in all type of places across the country, and, you know, all over the world.

But I think the point is, she tried to put the best people in place at the top, hoping that they would then find the best people to handle those jobs that were below theirs.

SANCHEZ: Yes, but I think -- but, you know, I'll tell you, I mean, it didn't work. I mean, you know, this is all about results, right?


SANCHEZ: Here's what Oprah says when she was asked that same question I just asked you about screening.


WINFREY: Knowing what I know now, the screening process was inadequate. Although I do know that for every person that is hired at the school, there is both a criminal and a civil background check. But I was not directly responsible or in charge, although the buck always stops with me, of hiring the dorm parents.

But we are going to redefine what that position should mean and what the qualifications for that position should be for the future.


SANCHEZ: This has got to be tough for her given her past. I mean, when she came out and told that story about what it was like for her when she was a little girl and she was abused, I mean, this must have been torturous when she got this information, right?

SAMUELS: Well, I think it was beyond torturous because she's put so much love, so much passion into getting the school together. And, you know, if you think about it, she took so much heat in the beginning for even opening the school. People were critical for her doing it in Africa, in South Africa.


SAMUELS: And then to have this happen, where children are being abused, I can't imagine how devastated she is. But I think the bottom line is, she tried her best to get the best people for this school. And someone, a bad apple came in and made things really bad for her. But at the end of the day, I don't think anybody can question her sincerity in trying to help those young girls in South Africa.


SAMUELS: And I don't think the people in South Africa at all feel let down by Oprah. I think they know that she had her heart in the right place and really tried to make this work.

SANCHEZ: I think you're right. I think most people would agree with that as well.

Allison Samuels, you make your case very well in Los Angeles. Thanks again for being with us.

SAMUELS: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Another story of a teacher sexually abusing a teenage student. This time the student is an illegal immigrant. Would you know, 13 years old. Should he be allowed to stay in the U.S. now, or should he have to stay in Mexico? Stay with us.

Also, today's question, do you agree with Utah's plan that gives "driving privilege cards" to illegal immigrants? "Driving privilege cards." Vote at


SANCHEZ: And welcome back to OUT IN THE OPEN. Another one of these wild pictures we like to pick out for you.

This one's in Pasadena, California. Pick particular attention to this. It's just known for the Rose Bowl, by the way. A propane explosion. It causes a huge fire at a golf course storage yard, and smoke pours into the sky. It was visible from nearby freeways.

And, of course, they're already spooked about fires there in that part of the country. It didn't faze the golfers, though, who were playing.

The video comes from CNN I-reporter, 17-year-old Christina La Barge (ph). We thank you for sending that to us.

Also, Hollywood writers went on strike today. So check out who's delivering food to the picketers outside NBC's studios in Burbank. See if you recognize the chin, for example.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: You will cross the picket line and do the show? JAY LENO, TV HOST: Well, I'll cross the picket line to give doughnuts, but I'm not crossing the picket line. No, no. See, look. See how they all gather around.



Now, this strike means "Late Night" is how Leno's going to be rerunning until this thing is settled. Not just "Late Night," by the way, but a lot of those shows like "SNL" are going to be in reruns for quite a while.

This is the first strike by the writers' guild in 20 years. The union wants a bigger share of the returns from DVD sales and some other new media. You can see all of "Rick's Pics" on, of course.

All right. Sixth grade teacher accused of sexually abusing a 13- year-old student. It turns out that he's an illegal immigrant. Well, how does that complicate this case? We're going to bring that to you. It's coming up in about 60 seconds or so. In fact, you could count that down for us. There it is.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back. Here we go again. Another female teacher accused of preying on a young boy in a classroom. Now, that's the claim in Nebraska, where a sixth grade teacher Kelsey Peterson is accused of having an intimate relationship with her 13-year-old student.

Today, she was in court facing a litany of serious charges, transporting a minor across state lines for sexual activity. That's apparently one of the strongest charges. But there's a new twist in this case that could put a bit of a monkey wrench in the prosecution. It turns out the boy that she was with is an illegal immigrant from Mexico.

Now, that surfaced after Peterson and the boy were found by police in Mexicali after they fled from Nebraska.

All right. Dan Lothian has been following this story for us. We sent him out there to find out what's going on, and he's checking out the details for us now.

What is the teacher basically charged with? I mean, what are the allegations against her?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, Rick, she's being charged in Nebraska with kidnapping, child abuse. And also, she faces that federal charge which you were talking about, which is taking a minor across state lines and into another country for sexual activity.

Now, let me give just a little bit of context here. The 25-year- old teacher Kelsey Peterson was in that federal courtroom, in California today, after she was picked up over the weekend with the 13-year-old boy in his native country, Mexico.

Authorities were tipped off after the boy called home looking for money. Peterson, a sixth grade math teacher and basketball coach at a Nebraska middle school, allegedly bolted with the 13-year-old student late last month after an investigation was launched into whether the pair was involved in an intimate relationship.

Now, I was able to obtain some of the court documents. And listen to some of the details from letters the two allegedly exchanged. The teacher, first of all, she states that she loves him and that she thought he also loved her. That he is the only person that she will ever love again and that she has been 100 percent faithful.

The student writes that he still loves his baby girl. That's "gurl." That he longs to have her hold him and that his relationship with her is just not about sex, but that was pretty good -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Yes, something is desperately just wrong about this from the get-go. I mean, this kid's 13 years old. What is this woman doing? And now we find out that he's an illegal immigrant as well. I imagine -- is that going to hamper the prosecution in this case, by the way?

LOTHIAN: Well, it certainly will complicate it. Prosecutors in Nebraska was talking to them this afternoon, and they said that they will be very aggressive in this case, but they do admit that it is complicated and that they may require the help of U.S. immigration officials and the Mexican government.


JOE W. STECHER, U.S. ATTORNEY: "I certainly have not seen a case like this where we have these type of circumstances. But I do want to emphasize that the status of this child, whether he is a Mexican National, whether he is born in this country, whether he's here legally or came in very, very young illegally, is really irrelevant. We have a child that's been victimized."


LOTHIAN: We did reach out to the mother of the young boy. She had a representative who was representing the family and talking quite a bit when they were looking for them. But they did not respond to any of our calls today.

SANCHEZ: It's amazing. We're going to stay with this and follow it up because now we understand that the boy's stuck in Mexico and they may not let them come back. After all, he is an illegal immigrant even if he is a minor.

It is a complicated story, but you still can't believe that the very genesis of this, that a woman would do something like this with a 13-year-old boy. Dan Lothian, my thanks to you for bringing us this story.


SANCHEZ: Illegal immigrants, you're paying the bill and it's going to be astronomical. Coming up, how far does compassion go?

And then, do you agree with Utah's plan that gives "driving privilege cards," that's what they're called to illegal immigrants? We want you to vote at We're going to be right back.


SANCHEZ: LARRY KING LIVE is coming up in just a little bit. So we join him now to ask, "What you got tonight, Larry?"

LARRY KING, HOST: An interesting show, my man. We're going to deal with the disappearance of Stacy Peterson, the young wife of that police officer in Chicago that's gone missing. A lot of interesting questions surrounding that. We'll deal with it with relatives, and we'll get analysis from both the lawyers' standpoint and the prosecutorial standpoint.

And then a major portion of the show with our friend Terri Irwin. She's written a book about her late husband, "Steve and Me."

What a guy he was. What an extraordinary personality, and what a terrific lady she is. And she'll be on with us. It's been a year since Steve Irwin passed away. That's all at the top of the hour.

SANCHEZ: Look forward to it, Larry. Appreciate it.

KING: Thanks, my man.

SANCHEZ: All right. Let's take a "BizBreak" now.

All around, losses on Wall Street today. The Dow down, now down 52 points. Nasdaq lost 15. S&P fell 7. Gas prices are over $3 again. The nation's average price for a gallon broke that barrier today after a 25 cent jump in three weeks.

Also, United auto workers local union leaders today unanimously voted to recommend approval of a contract with Ford. Next step, 54,000 union members start voting on it Wednesday.

And also, talk about your cell phone doing the work of your personal computer. Internet search leader Google says it's now developing software that's going to help you browse the Internet on your cell phone. There you go. I thought I could do that already.

Coming up, treating people who are here illegally. I mean, treating like in a hospital. They're suffering from terrible burns from those California fires. Well, you're going to be paying for their treatment, we learned. Is that right? We'll be right back. Stay with us.


SANCHEZ: Here's a follow up. We all watched the devastating property damage caused by wildfires in southern California last month, but the human toll is also heart-breaking. Seven people died, 108 firefighters hurt, 25 civilians injured, most of them from burns.

But you may not realize that some of those burn victims are illegal immigrants who have no health insurance to pay their sky-high hospital bills. So who's going to pay? You guessed it. You, the American taxpayer.

Medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now to break it down for tonight's "Vital Signs." I mean, it's heartbreaking to think that anybody would go through something like that, but it's also difficult for Americans to have to deal with this now, right? In fact, that they have to pick up the tab.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they don't have to probably pick up the entire tab, Rick. Let's be clear about that.

First, let's talk about how many burn victims there were who were illegal immigrants. The University of California, San Diego is the main burn center there. And they said they saw 11 patients who were illegal immigrants, 10 men and one woman, and they range in age from 20 to 56. Now, some of these people were burned more severely than others.

SANCHEZ: You know, I imagine treating a burn victim, regardless of their immigration status is very expensive. It's got to be big money, right?

COHEN: Oh, it is extremely expensive. The average hospital stay for a burn victim is 15 days. I mean, today that is long. Hardly anybody's in the hospital that long.

The average cost per day is $3,000 a day. And so you do the multiplication, and that is $45,000. And that's just an average. So there are plenty of people who are much more than that.

And what's important to remember is that burn victims, we're talking about some very intensive care. I mean, they're getting their bandages changed twice a day. It can take an hour or two to change bandages because the doctors and the nurses have to be so careful with what they do.

Some of these patients get really terrible infections. So this is, I mean, it's no day at the beach for anybody.

SANCHEZ: But it's a lot. I mean, look, $45,000 is I think which I heard you say, 11 illegal immigrants with severe burns. That's almost what? $500,000, right?

COHEN: Right.

SANCHEZ: Who's paying for that? COHEN: Well, as you said, taxpayers to some extent. But some of these folks do have Medi-Cal, which is the California version of Medicaid. And actually, some of these folks have insurance back in Mexico, and some of that insurance does sometimes kick in. And sometimes even Mexico, sometimes even the consulate will kick in.

So yes, do taxpayers end up absorbing a lot of it? Basically, the hospital ends up eating most of it to tell you the truth.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Yes. I was going to say, good luck trying to pick up some of that cash from south of the border.

Great stuff. We appreciate it. Elizabeth Cohen, good report.

You're about to go face to face with a 3,000-year-old king who's world famous. We'll tell you who it is when we come back.


SANCHEZ: This is no doubt the most amazing picture of the week. The mummified body of King Tut has gone on public display for the very first time. Archaeologists lifted the mummy lifted the body from its court sarcophagus - God, I love saying that - Sarcophagus, carried to it a glass display case that will be controlled for humidity and temperature or else it will just come apart.

Tut died at 19, 3,000 years ago. His tomb filled with gold and treasure was discovered 85 years ago. Remember, all of these "pics" on

Now, do you agree with Utah's plan that gives "driving privilege cards" to illegal immigrants? Important question and we have the results.

A lot of you called us on this one tonight. It's our "Quick Vote." We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: Do you agree, we ask, that "driving privilege cards" should be given to illegal immigrants?

Twenty-eight percent of you said yes, they should. Seventy-two percent of you said no, they shouldn't.

That's it for me. Thanks so much. I'm Rick Sanchez. Larry King coming up next. Hasta manana.