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One Dead and Four Hurt in Ohio Shooting; Primary Evening In Michigan And Arizona; Gas Prices Rise For 20th Day; Military Attacks Kill 33 Syrians; Nine Killed In Afghanistan Suicide Attack; Obama's Apology Controversy; Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum Vying for Big Win on Super Tuesday; Georgia Bill Would Ban Illegal Immigrants from Colleges
Aired February 27, 2012 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It's 1:00 on the east coast, 10:00 on the west, let's get straight to the news.
Within the past hour, we learned that one of the five students shot this morning in a high school just east of Cleveland, Ohio, have died. The other four are being treated in hospitals and one alleged shooter is in custody. He's believed to be a student as well and may have posted threatening messages online. Police say a teacher chased him out of Chardon High School and he turned himself into bystanders. Before that, pandemonium.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once I got into the hallway, I went into the (INAUDIBLE) and I heard someone yell, time to get down and I heard a bunch of shots fired behind me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Describe the scene. Was it total chaos?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were students -- tell me about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was -- there was a lot of running, a lot of screaming, I heard a bunch of shots fired.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you happen to see the guy with the gun, the shooter?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I never looked behind me, I just ran. I booked it down the hallway.
SAMBOLIN: In a few moments, I'll speak with a senior at Chardon High, a witness to the chaos and all of the panic that broke out just as the school day was starting. And of course, we'll bring you all of the latest details as soon as we get them.
So tomorrow, two more states hold Republican presidential primaries and for once, it's not about the delegates. Not in Michigan, any way, where Mitt Romney grew up and where his father served as governor, and where a loss would be embarrassment verging on disaster. Polls show a neck-and-neck race between Romney and Rick Santorum, who's now won four states, three in a single day earlier this month. Right now, Romney is holding his second grassroots rally of the day with one more scheduled on the agenda.
And Santorum had a Chamber of Commerce breakfast with two rallies on tap for later today. The others state to vote tomorrow is Arizona and that one is about the delegates. It's win or take all, unlike Michigan, and Romney leads in the polls.
And this is no surprise if you drive. Gas prices continue to soar. Prices have gone up for the 20th straight day. And AAA says the national average rose today to $3.70 a gallon, that is up one cent from yesterday. Democrat senator of Illinois, Dick Durbin, was asked on CNN this morning if freeing up the strategic petroleum reserves would bring the prices down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: It's a temporary fix. It might show some modest impact on gasoline prices for a short period of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: Most analysts agree that the rising gas prices is due to soaring oil prices and fears that tensions with Iran could trigger a disruption in oil supplies.
Turning to Syria now, more deadly shelling of opposition strongholds today. Activists say at least 33 people have been killed so far today, all but 11 of them in Homs. And across the country yesterday, activists say 55 people died in military attacks. And as the slaughter continued today, the government of president Bashar al Assad announced that a draft constitution was approved by nearly 90 percent of those who voted yesterday. The opposition and the west have denounced the vote as a sham.
Meantime, in Afghanistan, no let up in the deadly outrage in the burning of Qurans by U.S. troops. At least nine Afghans were killed today in a suicide bombing outside a military air field in the Eastern part of the country. The Taliban say they carried out the attack in revenge for the burning of Islam's holiest book.
Nick Paton Walsh joins us live now from Kabul. And Nick, the Taliban also say that they are behind the possible poisoning of NATO food. What do you have on that?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there appears to have been a strange incident at a (INAUDIBLE) facility, border post American based near the Pakistani border, in which a worker found evidence to make him suspicious, maybe somebody had been tampering with the food. They had a look to check. They found a high level of chlorine bleach in the coffee and the fruit. They don't know how it got in there now, but as a precaution they have closed that (INAUDIBLE) facility.
Now, this all comes more suspicious because before NATO even started talking about this, the Taliban released a statement, an e- mail saying that they poisoned five Americans to death at this same base. That's not true. Nobody was hurt by this contamination but many are asking questions, how did the Taliban know about this bleach found in the canteen if they weren't somehow involved in it -- Zoraida.
SAMBOLIN: And Nick, what has the spike in violence done between the United States and Afghan forces?
WALSH: Well, we're in our seventh straight day of Quran-based violence. It's taken four American lives all shot by men who were supposed to -- who were in Afghan army or police uniform at the time. And the concerns really are if this endures, it's going to chip away at this vital relationship of trust between the Americans, the Afghans. They're training to take over security here.
U.S. officials expressing concern that maybe Karzai and his entire government aren't really doing enough to quell the violence to perhaps protect their own people, advise them in various ministries. And if this continues in the months ahead, (INAUDIBLE) to withdrawal, it really could endanger one of the major planks of America's exit strategy here -- Zoraida.
SAMBOLIN: All right, thank you very much. Nick Paton Walsh live for us. And we'll have more on this and reaction to President Obama's apology over the U.S. troops burning Qurans in Afghanistan. That's coming up for you in 10 minutes.
We'll return to the developing story in Ohio where a gunman opened fire on a high school cafeteria. We'll talk with one of the students who knows the alleged shooter and was inside the school when all of the chaos unfolded. We're also getting new information on the school shooting suspect. All of that coming up next.
SAMBOLIN: Back now to our lead story. One student killed, four others wounded by gun fire at a high school just east of Cleveland. A lone gunman appears to have targeted a busy cafeteria where students were having breakfast and study hall. Police say when the shooting stopped, a teacher chased the gunman out of the building where he later turned himself into bystanders.
Police have not released the suspect's name, but witnesses and one of the victims tell the "Cleveland Plain Dealer" the alleged shooters name is T.J. Lane. We also have this brand new video of the suspect taken into custody, you're taking a look at that there. A sixth student apparently was grazed in the ear today but not hospitalized. Like many, if not most American schools, Chardon High holds drills for just such emergencies. Even so, one girl describes a stampede when all of the shots rang out. CNN's Deborah Feyerick has more.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 7:18 a.m., teenagers at Chardon High School just starting their day when chaos erupted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard shots fired in the cafeteria. I thought it was a cafeteria at first, but I wasn't sure. But then, I saw a bunch of people running out, so I started running and then I heard someone yell, time to get down and I heard a bunch of shots fired behind me.
FEYERICK: The school went into immediate lockdown. Teachers slamming doors, children cowering in corners, hiding in closets, running away, and desperately trying to reach parents on the outside.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She texted me and said, there's been a shooting and I'm in a closet but don't worry. And I just said, well, just keep texting me. So that's what we're doing. I just keep texting her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): She knew it was a student that brought a gun to school and five shots.
FEYERICK: As many as five students were shot. It appears the gunman, also a student, acted alone, escaping on foot. Authorities describe what happened next.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The student ran from the building chased by a teacher. Knowing that, we got officers in that area (INAUDIBLE) took care of the victims and we got them off to the hospitals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the perimeter was set up to ensure that the suspect did not come back into the school, our canine unit was brought in, tracking was commenced, and the individual was apprehended some distance from the school but had fled on foot.
FEYERICK: Frantic parents raced to the school to find their children. Deputies recovered a hand gun, federal agents now tracing that gun to determine who owns it and where it was bought. Deborah Feyerick, CNN Atlanta.
SAMBOLIN: Evan Erasmus says the Chardon High senior who had just sat down in English class when his ordinary school became national news. He joins me on the phone now from his home in Cleveland. Evan, thank you for joining us. Could you please set the scene for us? We know that you were in your classroom. What happened and what did you see?
EVAN ERASMUS: I just signed up to go on the sectional bus to our basketball game that was supposed to happen tonight, and I got to English, and all of a sudden, and one of the administrators got on the announcements and yelled lockdown and all of a sudden, all the doors started slamming you could hear them slam, and we all turned the lights were turned off and we all headed towards the corner. SAMBOLIN: And did you see a lot of people running? What was the scene like?
ERASMUS: I saw a couple people running from where I was at in the hallway. They were in panics and they were screaming but we didn't really think of anything of it right then. We thought they were just like being immature running down the hallway and then we found out that it was actually a real lockdown.
SAMBOLIN: We know now that one of the victims has died. Did you know that victim?
ERASMUS: Yes, I did. He lived right across the street from one of my best friends.
SAMBOLIN: And what can you tell us about him?
ERASMUS: He was a very nice kid. All of the victims were. They were all -- they were all really nice. They all -- they all hung out together and other than that, that's really it.
SAMBOLIN: Now, we just mentioned the name of a gunman, that it's T.J. Lane. And we're receiving some reports here that he had been bullied. Do you know anything about that?
ERASMUS: No, not really. He was more of a quiet type of kid. He was really nice, though, if you did talk to him. He came from a broken home. My family knew his a little bit from high school. And he just came from a really broken down home, and he was living with his grandparents. But other than that, that's all I really know.
SAMBOLIN: You know, we're taking a look at some video right now of him being arrested, just moments ago we were looking at that. Can you tell us anything else about him from a broken home, what grade he was in? Were there any problems that you knew that he had in the school with any of his victims?
ERASMUS: No, I'm not sure. He used to be friends with all of them back in middle school and in the early high school days. I was really shocked when I found out that it was him, because he was -- I mean, he was quiet but he was one of the nicest kids there. I mean, you could talk to him really easily. I mean, he was funny. It was just -- it was really shocking that it was him.
SAMBOLIN: Now, there are some reports that perhaps he sent a tweet out or maybe posted something on Facebook. Did you know anything about that?
ERASMUS: Yes, I heard that he sent a tweet out the night before about possibly bringing a gun to school. I'm not sure if that's 100 percent positive and the tweet has been removed, if it was sent out.
SAMBOLIN: So, you knowing him, do you find that an unusual tweet that he would have sent out?
ERASMUS: Somewhat. I mean he was a quiet kid. But it wasn't like him to say something like that. And I think people kind of took it as a joke type of thing that he was just kidding around about and no one took action the way that they probably should have.
SAMBOLIN: Was he enrolled in the school?
ERASMUS: Yes, he was. He was a Chardon High School student.
SAMBOLIN: Do you know what year he was in -- or he is in?
ERASMUS: I believe he was a junior or sophomore.
SAMBOLIN: And we understand that some of the victims actually attended a nearby school. They're not actually enrolled there. Do you know anything about that?
ERASMUS: No, they are all enrolled at Chardon High School. They all went to a place called Auburn Career Center and it's where they worked on like vocational training, like with plumbing or electrician or shop classes. Those type of things. And they were sitting in the cafeteria waiting for the morning bus to get there.
SAMBOLIN: And do you know how it all happened? Did he just go into the cafeteria and start unloading his gun?
ERASMUS: Yes, that's pretty much how it -- I guess he was a table away from them and they were all sitting there and all of a sudden he just stood up and then that's when it started.
SAMBOLIN: And I'm sorry if I'm repeating myself here, Evan, but of the victims, do you know if there had been an altercation between him and any one of those victims?
ERASMUS: Not that I know of personally at least. I mean there may have been some kind of incident, but not that I'm aware of.
SAMBOLIN: OK. And we know that your school and school across the nation now practice for these types of disasters. That training, do you think it came in handy?
ERASMUS: I think that's what really helped kept it at a minimum of what it was. As bad as it was already, I think it could have been a lot worse if it -- we didn't do the drills that we -- that they had us do.
SAMBOLIN: Are there any metal detectors at your school?
ERASMUS: There are no metal detectors, but there are tons of cameras around the school. I mean there are countless number of cameras there.
SAMBOLIN: And do you know how the parents were notified?
ERASMUS: I think it was all through mostly us. I know as soon as we found out that it was real, a lot -- almost all of us took our phones out and tried calling our parents or texting them and trying to just tell them what was going on so they knew as soon as possible.
SAMBOLIN: And, Evan, did you contact your parents right away?
ERASMUS: Yes, I did. I called and my brother was -- he's a freshman at the school, so I immediately tried to get a hold of him. And then I started trying to get a hold of the people in the cafeteria to make sure they were OK.
SAMBOLIN: And we're taking a look at a lot of the parents that seemed to have been lined up outside of the school. Was there a process to take you home that they had to go through?
ERASMUS: Yes. They had us -- where I was, was at Maple Elementary, the school right across the street, and the parents would line up and they would come to the office and they would sign their kids out so that they knew that they were being taken home the way they should be.
SAMBOLIN: And how quickly -- we were taking a look at the police presence and we were listening to them talk about the process. How quickly did the police show up?
ERASMUS: They were -- I was impressed in how fast that they got there. I mean the way that they got there, the way that they did was very impressive.
SAMBOLIN: Evan, I know that this has been an incredibly difficult day for you and I really appreciate that you took the time to talk to us today and thank your parents as well.
ERASMUS: Yes. I'd just like to say thanks to everyone out there. I know the Browns and the Cavs have really -- they've reached out to us. And people all across the country. I've been getting texts and e-mails and tweets and FaceBook posts. And I'd just like to say, everybody, thanks, across all of America.
SAMBOLIN: Well, you certainly are able to hear and our condolences to you and to the entire school and your community. We appreciate your time. Thank you.
ERASMUS: Yes. Thank you so much.
SAMBOLIN: All right. Presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum criticize President Obama for apologizing to Afghanistan after U.S. troops burned Korans. Now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton comes to the president's defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: It was the right thing to do, to have our president, on record, as saying, you know, this was not intentional. We deeply regret it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: Why our next guest says the administration was right to apologize, but thinks it was a military misstep.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SAMBOLIN: As we mentioned, deadly protests continue in Afghanistan over the burning of the Koran by U.S. troops. Some analysts think the spike in violence could possibly derail President Obama's strategy for ending the longest war in U.S. history. One issue of heated contention, President Obama's apology to the Afghan government over the Koran burning. Three Republicans seeking President Obama's job have sharply criticized the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think the president should apologize for something that was clearly inadvertent.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president of the United States' commander in chief apologizes to the Afghan government.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For us to be apologizing at a time like this is something which is very difficult for the American people to countenance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: In an interview with CNN, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended President Obama's apology, pointing out that former President George W. Bush issued apologies under similar circumstances.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: It was the right thing to do, to have our president on record as saying, you know, this was not intentional. We deeply regret it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: And joining us now, former assistant secretary of state for public affairs and professor at George Washington University, P.J. Crowley.
Thanks for being with us.
P.J. CROWLEY, FMR. ASST. SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: My pleasure.
SAMBOLIN: Was the president correct in making an apology? And what were the alternatives, if any?
CROWLEY: I think he was absolutely correct because Afghanistan is important to the United States and right now the Afghan U.S. relationship is at risk. If we want to maintain a presence for our own interests in Afghanistan, we've got to mind public opinion in Afghanistan and that country. And obviously it's been, you know, significantly inflamed by the Koran burning incident.
But also, this is fundamentally what the -- you know, call it what you will, the war on terror, the war of ideas, the competition for hearts and minds within the Islamic world. This is what the -- this is all about. And, you know, the Koran burning cut to the heart of the problem the United States has had. You know, al Qaeda has propagated this idea that we're at war with Islam and it was very important for the president and other figures to make it clear that we are not.
SAMBOLIN: So, let's go back to the beginning. And it is the Koran burning. It seems remarkable that after 10 years or plus of fighting that soldiers would burn the Koran and not be able to tell the distinction that that is a holy book. How is it possible that something like that could happen?
CROWLEY: Well, we made a mistake. And you are right that we've had plenty of examples recently. A few years ago reported abuse of the Koran, which turned out not to be true. But nonetheless, you know, made its way across the world. Within the past year, we had the celebrated case of Pastor Terry Jones in Florida which did, in fact, enflame public opinion in Afghanistan, a year ago when he put the Koran on trial and then burned it.
You know, so the fact that we somehow had not reminded all soldiers coming into Afghanistan about careful treatment of the Koran and other, you know, important symbols of Islam is absolutely a military mistake.
SAMBOLIN: And does the burning and the violence derail Obama's current Afghan strategy?
CROWLEY: Not necessarily, but it clearly puts the relationship at risk. You know, obviously you've had the unfortunate incident and then you've had this retribution. What's most concerning is that Afghan security forces are the ones who have turned their weapons on their American allies. Four American soldiers dead, others wounded. And it just chips away at the fundamental trust and adds to the tension that has already existed in our relations with Afghanistan and it calls into question whether the two countries can maintain a long-term partnership.
SAMBOLIN: And what do you make of President Karzai's reaction to all of this?
CROWLEY: The -- obviously the, you know, the Afghan government, just like the American government, are struggling to figure that out. You know, the Afghan government has been put in a very difficult position because if they, you know, they have to be themselves, aware of their own public opinion in their own country, I think the government is struggling but doing what it can to try to put a lid on the unrest that's there.
SAMBOLIN: All right, thank you very much, P.J. Crowley, for joining us.
CROWLEY: A pleasure.
SAMBOLIN: And we are just one day away from the Arizona and Michigan primaries. And presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are in a dead heat in both states. There are a lot of delegates up for grabs in Arizona. So why are they spending most of their time in Michigan? Is it a good idea to put all their eggs in one basket. That's "Fair Game" next.
SAMBOLIN: This is the part of the show where we go to the heart of the political debate where all sides are "Fair Game."
We're a day away from the Michigan and Arizona primaries. It looks like a two-man race in both. Winning these two contests could set the table for a big Super Tuesday for either Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum.
So joining me now is Republican analyst, Lenny McAllister; and Democratic political consultant, Ed Espinoza.
Guys, both of these states look like dead heats.
So why does it seem like Santorum and Romney are only focusing on Michigan, Ed?
ED ESPINOZA, DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Well, Michigan is a proportional delegate -- sorry. I've got a little echo here so I'm going to turn down the volume. Michigan is a state that allocates its delegates on a proportional basis. Arizona is winner-take-all. Romney is going to win Arizona. The polls might be tightening up a little bit now in a couple of surveys, but these candidates have internal polling. They see the writing on the wall. They know it's going to happen. Santorum is going to lose Arizona. It's not a good use of the campaign funds. So for them to have a real competition and to have come out of this race with delegates, they are going to take it to Michigan.
SAMBOLIN: Do you agree, Lenny?
LENNY MCALLISTER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Somewhat. But some of the points Ed is missing is that Michigan is part of the Midwest sweep that Santorum would love to have. You listen to what Rick Santorum says an awful lot, he talks about the Reagan Democrats. He's trying to be that person that gets the Reagan Democrats in the fall so he gets the nomination. What does he need? He needs Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, where he is up. He needs those types of states. He already has Missouri. He would likely get Indiana. If he can get the Midwest, couple that with a Christian conservative in the south, he can see how he would win in November. Well, Arizona plays into that but nowhere near that Midwestern belt that he needs. That's why it's more important for Rick Santorum to win in Michigan tomorrow.
SAMBOLIN: Over the weekend, Rick Santorum said a couple things I want to talk about. Let's listen first and then we'll talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM, (R), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.
(APPLAUSE) SANTORUM: There are good decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to test that are not taught by some liberal college professor that try and indoctrinate them.
SANTORUM: Oh, I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: Remake you in his image.
Lenny, what do you make of that?
MCALLISTER: It goes back to what I've been saying previously, great social commentary, horrible, horrible political messaging. Remember, Rick Santorum has been talking to the manufacturer that is going to go vote. In that regard, it's a great move. However, I can't help but think about, in the month of February, Black History Month, the United Negro College Fund, you have Rick Santorum telling people that it's snobbery to want people to aspire to go to college. Again, I understand what he's trying to go after. You can be a blue collar worker and still accomplish the American dream. But the way he's messaging it is bad. And once again, this is going to be a long line of messaging issues that Rick Santorum is lining up throughout this campaign season.
SAMBOLIN: Ed, do you agree?
ESPINOZA: Yes, I totally agree. When they say --
When people say, I don't understand why politicians say half the things they say, this is what they are talking about.
SAMBOLIN: This is a tough one. I've got another one. This is a speech in Troy, Michigan. Listen and we'll talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTORUM: To go across this country and talk to minority communities, not about giving them more food stamps and government dependency, but creating jobs that they can participate and rise in society.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: I kind of remember hearing this from Mr. Newt Gingrich, Lenny.
MCALLISTER: Yes, we have. And, again, I understand where they are trying to go with this. But part of the problem is this, Zoraida. If you don't have -black-
SAMBOLIN: Wait a minute. Wait, wait, wait. Lenny, how do you understand where they are trying to go with this? Explain that to me.
MCALLISTER: Because what they are trying to say is, you look at African-Americans, you look at how the African-American subculture in America -- we're getting more dropouts, we're getting more black men incarcerated, we're becoming more dependent on the system, and we're not reflecting the pride that African-Americans have had for years in this country. You have to get back to prosperity, back to work, back to fulfilling a dream and a legacy. I understand that. But if you're messaging all wrong, if you're making it seem as though all black people are on welfare or you have to save them from one thing to another, and pointing blame rather than talking about something that is liberating or prosperous or something empowering, you miss the point. You stay stuck on the language and you don't get to the message, which gets to the vision of what the candidate is trying to articulate.
SAMBOLIN: Ed, are you going to agree with Lenny on this one as well?
ESPINOZA: I couldn't follow everything that he was saying but I know this. That if you say that it's snobbery to think that somebody needs to go to college but you say that they don't need to be on food stamps, there's a disconnect there.
There's also a disconnect between understanding minority communities, building any relationship there, whether it's Santorum saying comments like this or even Romney making off-the-cuff comments about his wife having a couple of Cadillacs, these are the things that show a real disconnect with voters out there. And I think that there are not only will there be problems on Tuesday but problems over the long haul.
SAMBOLIN: All right, gentlemen, we will leave it --
SAMBOLIN: Oh, oh, oh, yes?
MCALLISTER: It's the same problem that the Republican parties have had. It will be interesting to see what the convention looks like in 2012. If you don't have black consultants and black strategists in the room with these candidates, you hear these types of comments, you see the delegation go like we did in 2008, and you see the voting results in November. This is just --
MCALLISTER: -- what they have been doing previously.
SAMBOLIN: Perhaps vying for a consultant's job.
Lenny McAllister, Ed Espinoza, thank you for joining us.
That is "Fair Game."
And a new bill in Georgia would ban illegal immigrants from attending public college. My next guest supports the bill saying universities violate the federal law by admitting illegal immigrants. Senator Barry Loudermilk joins me next.
SAMBOLIN: Illegal immigrants could be banned from attending all public colleges in Georgia. That's what essentially is being proposed in this bill. The bill will be considered by the Georgia Senate. But it's not just the Senate. The House is expected to consider a similar bill as well. If those measures pass, all 36 colleges and 25 technical colleges within the state's university and college systems would be off limits to undocumented students. It's an issue we feel is under covered.
And State Senator Barry Loudermilk is a sponsor of the Senate bill. He joins us from Atlanta.
Senator Loudermilk, what was your reasoning behind this bill?
STATE SEN. BARRY LOUDERMILK, (R), GEORGIA: The bill primarily clarifies what the legislature did in 2006, which was to put Georgia in line with federal law. You know, it's a difficult situation because my heart goes out to the illegal aliens who brought their children here and they just want to provide themselves a better future. But the rule of law is a rule of law. And we need to clarify that post-secondary education in Georgia is a public benefit.
SAMBOLIN: If I could just ask you a couple of questions about this bill. Are the students who attend these universities and colleges, are they charged out-of-state tuition?
LOUDERMILK: Currently, they charge you out-of-state tuition and that's one of the reasons we need to pass the legislation. The board of regents took it upon themselves to redefine the state law we passed in 2006 that stated that post-secondary education is a benefit. Taxpayer money goes into our university systems. It pays for the buildings, for the computers, for all of the infrastructure there, as well as subsidizing tuition. Prior to the bill a few years ago, the board of regents allowed illegal immigrants to attend our public colleges and universities using in-state tuition. As we passed this bill in 2006 that defined post-secondary education as a public benefit, they just redefined the term "public benefit" and said it only applied if you were getting in-state tuition. Currently, they use the federal data base to determine the immigration status of a foreign student. And basically, they allow the illegal aliens to attend college but they charge them out-of-state tuition.
SAMBOLIN: OK. You say the university system is violating federal law. How is that?
LOUDERMILK: Well, federal law states that states cannot provide any undocumented student or illegal alien any public benefit. And federal law states post-secondary education is a public benefit. It further states that the only way a state can provide any type of public benefit to an illegal alien is if they pass a state law that provides that that alien would receive that benefit. The state of Georgia, by far, has not passed such a law. In fact, we have passed laws that further restrict those who are illegally in this county, who are in violation of federal law from receiving any type of benefit.
SAMBOLIN: I know there was concern you had that if you allowed illegal immigrants, illegal students into the school, they would take up the space of students that could go to the schools. Do you stand by that?
LOUDERMILK: We do. And not only American citizens or children of American citizens, but foreign students who come to our great university system. We want to make sure that those who are here legally, that those seats are available for them.
And another issue often ignored is, even if the undocumented student or the illegal alien attends our colleges and graduate with a four or five-year degree or a doctorate degree, they cannot legally obtain employment in this country. Even if they go to college, it's not offered to them to be employed in the United States.
SAMBOLIN: All right. The chancellor of your university system, Hank Huckaby, he disagrees with you. And he's adamant that the university system follows state and federal law. He pointed, to us, the testimony to the Senate committee which passed this bill last week.
In it, Huckaby emphasized a number of points about the university's system. If applicants can't verify that they're in the U.S. legal, the University of Georgia charges them out-of-state tuition. Also, undocumented students are not allowed admissions into a public college if academically qualified students are turned away.
So it seems confusing here, sir. Because, at the end of the day -- I'm sure you're aware of the Dream Act, which is sitting before Congress right now, and a lot of these students did not come to this country legally. They came here -- or came here illegally. They came here because their parents chose to bring them here. This is a way for them to continue their education and hopefully become contributing members of the society. So why is this a problem?
LOUDERMILK: It's a problem because, first of all, there are instances where we've received testimony from students, even returning veterans, active-duty military who have not been able to receive seats. Our technical colleges are being overwhelmed. They are attracting a lot of people looking for a new career path. We want to make sure that those contributing to our society, the American citizens and Georgia citizens and students come here legally have a seat at the table. And the issue is, again, I repeat, how is it that the illegal alien student -- and, again, my heart goes out to them. But how is it that they are going to be able to contribute to society, as when they graduate, they cannot legally obtain employment in this country.
SAMBOLIN: They are certainly hoping that our laws will change in this country to allow them to do that.
Thank you for your time, State Senator Barry Loudermilk.
LOUDERMILK: Thank you.
SAMBOLIN: Gas prices keep going up and the sky-high prices don't just hurt commuters. High gas prices also make it tough for small businesses to stay afloat. We'll explain -- (LAUGHTER) -- right after the break.
SAMBOLIN: Have you topped off your gas tank lately? I know, I can already hear your groans. Gas prices went up again overnight, one cent, to an average of $3.70 for a gallon of regular gas. The spike, as you know, is a concern. Economists say it could hurt the already shaky economic recovery, which is why we are taking an in-depth look all week at gas prices.
You bet it is a big campaign topic and on the minds of a lot of voters with the Arizona primary less than 24 hours away.
Suzanne Malveaux spoke with some voters about how rising gas prices are hitting their bottom line.
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KEVIN FLANAGAN, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: All right, away we go.
Welcome to my office.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Beautiful.
FLANAGAN: That's the best view in town.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): The view, Phoenix, Arizona. Small business owner, Kevin Flanagan.
(on camera): How long have you been doing this now?
FLANAGAN: I've been flying hot air balloons for 28 years now. So I'm one of the luckiest guys around.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): But Kevin's luck is running out. FLANAGAN: There's 105,000 cubic feet of just space above us. The propane heats the air inside and that make it is fly. And it seems like whenever the gas prices go up, the propane prices shoot up as well.
Just a few years ago, we were less than -- we were about $1.85 a gallon and now it's 2.99 a gallon. Just like overnight.
SAMBOLIN: (on camera): So the bottom line, how does that affect your profits?
FLANAGAN: It kind of takes any profit away. So right now I would say most companies are operating at break even.
SAMBOLIN: Suzanne Malveaux joins us live from Phoenix.
Boy, woman, you go to great heights in order to tell this story.
MALVEAUX: A thousand-foot view, I guess.
SAMBOLIN: Yes, it's fantastic.
Do Arizonans think the GOP presidential candidates can solve the problem of sky-high gas prices?
MALVEAUX: Kevin Flanagan, he's pretty representative of a lot of the people I spoke with. And he really doesn't see any of these Republican candidates coming up with a solution that's going to solve this problem. They're looking at everybody. They're looking at Romney. They're looking at Santorum, as well as Newt Gingrich. But they called them out on it and said, we don't think you guys can actually do anything to lower the gas prices. So there is a lot of, I would say, apathy, a lot of frustration, a lot of confusion.
But, Zoraida, make no mistake about it, this is one of the biggest talked-about issues here in Arizona. And there's still a lot of people that say they're undecided. They don't know who they're going to vote for tomorrow in the Republican primary. And there are some Republicans who also told me they thought, well, maybe there's really not a better alternative to President Obama. Perhaps we're going to vote for Obama this next go-around.
SAMBOLIN: We can't wait to see the results of that.
Thanks, Suzanne Malveaux.
Before Lady Gaga wore meat, she actually served it. The revealing images of the funny Stephanie Germanata before she became known as Gaga. That's next.
SAMBOLIN: You know Lady Gaga is one of the biggest stars on the planet. But now we're getting an intimate portrait of Gaga before all the fame. Let's take a look at these pictures you'll only see on CNN.com. They were taken back in 2005 when 19 year-old Stephanie Germanata was a waitress. The photographer was a bartender at the same restaurant.
They went to Gaga's parent's house on the Upper Eastside to capture these images in what would be the budding star's first photo shoot. Now the paparazzi chases here everywhere. But back then, it was just two women, a camera, and Gaga's first piano. Maggie Sanyuska (ph) took around 200 pictures that day. But it wasn't until five years later, after an encounter with Gaga on the street that Sanyuska (ph) said she felt comfortable sharing her pictures with the public. Lucky you. Now they're there for you to see on CNN.com.
It was an evening of firsts last night at the 84th Annual Academy Awards.
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SAMBOLIN: Jean DuJardin, who starred in the silent movie, "The Artist," won best actor and became the first French actor to win an Oscar. Christopher Plummer, who most of us remember from "The Sound of Music," broke the mold at age 82 for his role in "The Winners." He is the oldest actor to win his first Academy Award. He joked about the win last night.
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CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, ACTOR: You're only 82 years old, my darling. Where you been all my life?
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SAMBOLIN: More history was made when African-American director, T.J. Smart, the one in the middle there, won an Oscar for his documentary "Undefeated." He is the first-ever black film director to win an Academy Award for a full-length film.
SAMBOLIN: We wanted to get back to the outskirts of Cleveland, Ohio, where a high school student is accused of opening fire in his high school cafeteria. Five students were shot at Chardin High. One has died. While police have not identified the suspect, the "Plain Dealer" newspaper reports his name is T.J. Lang. Earlier this hour, I spoke with Chardin High School senior, Evan Erasmus, who knows the alleged gunman and the victims. Here's what he said about Lane.
ERASMUS: He's a very nice kid. All the victims were. They're all really nice. They all hung out together. And other than that, that's really it.
SAMBOLIN: Now, we just mentioned the name of the gunman. It's T.J. Lane. And we're receiving some reports here that he had been bullied.
Do you know anything about that?
ERASMUS: No, not really. He was more of a quiet type of kid. He was really nice, though, if you did talk to him. He came from a broken home. My family knew his a little bit from high school. And he just came from a really broken down home and he was living with his grandparents. Other than that, that's all I really know.
I was really shocked to find out it was him because he was quiet. But I mean, he was one of the nicest kids there. You could talk to him really easily. He was funny. It was -- it was really shocking that it was him.
SAMBOLIN: And just a moment ago, the dead student was identified as Daniel Parmenter. The CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Brooke Baldwin. Hi, Brooke.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Zoraida, thank you so much.