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CNN Crossfire

Should the President Grant Amnesty to Mexicans Working Illegally in the U.S.?

Aired September 07, 2001 - 19:30   ET


TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Tonight, seeing red over green cards. Why are some so angry at efforts by President Bush and President Fox to change immigration laws? Should millions of undocumented Mexicans become U.S. citizens?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington: CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press; on the right, Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE, former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, and Raul Yzaguirre, president of the National Council of La Raza.

CARLSON: Good evening and welcome to "CROSSFIRE. President Fox has returned to Mexico, but millions of his countrymen remain in America, many of them illegally. Should they be granted amnesty and allowed to become citizens? That's the position of the Mexican president. A surprisingly broad spectrum of Americans agree, for different reasons.

Big business sees cheap labor. Unions see new members. And both parties see potential voters. Just yesterday, the Senate extended by a year the deadline for illegal immigrants to apply for visas. Liberalized immigration laws may be on the way. But in the background there are rumblings, and questions. How would millions of new citizens affect the economy, government social services and schools? And will the tide stop here? If Mexico, why not the rest of the world? Bill?

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Pat Buchanan, welcome back to "CROSSFIRE".


PRESS:: We have seen the dos amigos tour, Jorge and Vicente traveling around the country. What they are saying is there are 3.5 to four million Mexican immigrants here. These are people who own the homes, a lot of them own businesses, their kids are in schools, they're paying taxes, they've got -- they're doing good jobs. They are model citizens, in fact, in every way but one, Pat. So why not recognize reality and give these people an opportunity to be here legally?

BUCHANAN: First of all, there are 21 million Mexican Americans who are here legally and are contributing to this country. You are talking about three to six million illegal aliens. Bill, Mr. Bush -- the White House was rolled. For last 10 years there has been invasion of this country, conducted, aided and abetted by the government of Mexico, wherein 15 million individuals have been apprehended on our border. Six million have gotten through.

The president of the United States should have called the president of Mexico and told him this is going to stop. The invasion of our country going to stop, and you are going to help us or you're going to pay a price. Bill, we cannot have an illegal invasion of this country overrunning your borders and basically taking jobs that belong to Americans, 500,000 which of jobs were lost last month.

PRESS:: But Pat, whatever fence is there is obviously not working. Whatever border guards are there are not working. There are four million here. So what are you proposing as an alternative? Rounding them up, turning this into a police state -- rounding these people up sending them back in cattle cars?

BUCHANAN: Bill, when I ran in '92 I recommended a Buchanan Fence at San Diego, remember?

PRESS: I do.

BUCHANAN: I was called a nativist xenophobe.

PRESS: It's not working.

BUCHANAN: The "New York Times" says that the fence is working. Imperial Beach -- they say property values are up. Illegal aliens are not coming across in thousands anymore. They are not coming across at all. They have been moved into the desert. Move the security fence, the border Patrol, to the seven major crossing points. All we are asking, Bill, is -- we've got the most generous legal immigration policy in the world -- defend the borders of the United States. And the chief law enforcement officer, the president, is obligated to do that. And instead of playing footsie with someone who is violating those borders, and that's the president of Mexico and his foreign minister Mr. Castellaneda.

CARLSON: Amen. Hello, Mr. Yzaguirre. Thank you for joining us.


CARLSON: Now, picture this. You are waiting in line in the rain for a play. You have a ticket. As you are standing there, the ticket agent comes out and says, "I'm sorry, you can't come in." Because, it turns out, dozens of other people have snuck in the fire door and to award them we have given them the best seats in the house. So though you have a ticket, go home. That is essentially the position that millions of people in other third world countries who want to come to United States find themselves. They have waited, trying to get here legally. And all of a sudden the president of Mexico trying to convince our president, "end run around them."

YZAGUIRRE: I think the analogy is wrong. What we are talking about are people who not getting in the front of line, we are talking about people -- not in illegal invasion as Pat has consistently said, in trying to awaken fears in the American public -- what we are talking about are hardworking people who are paying taxes, who are helping this economy. They are benefiting you and I. They're making it possible for you to send your grandmother to a nursing home get taken care of.

These are people who are -- and everybody agrees. Alan Greenspan agrees, "The Economist" agrees that we have an economy that grew precisely because we had these folks coming into work. I testified this morning before the Senate of the United States with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They indicated that we will have a shortfall of five million workers in near the future. And if you stretch it out, 35 million workers, new -- more workers, including the ones we already have here.

CARLSON: Then wait a second. Why not fill those jobs with people who deserve them? Say -- let's say people in Sierra Leone, who are waiting outside the American embassy, who have taken lotteries trying to get here legally. How insulting -- how outrageously insulting is to it them to say that people who snuck over the border illegally get your spaces and you don't. You still have to wait in line.

YZAGUIRRE: Well, what we are talking about people who are attracted to this country because there are willing employers willing to give them jobs. As long as there is a demand in this country, whether they come from Mexico, Algeria -- Canada, which is also a contributor to the flow of workers into this country -- as long as there is a demand here, as long as there is willing employers, there will be willing workers.

PRESS:: Pat. Go ahead. Did you want to...

BUCHANAN: Let me respond to that. Look, they are attracted to here, but also they are driven here. The Mexican society and the Mexican government is an absolute failure. You know as well I do three times they devalued their savings. Those people minimum wage is 33 to 50 cents an shower. Mexico is failed, its government is failed, and it is solving its problem by using my country as a spillway...

YZAGUIRRE: It is my country also.

BUCHANAN: All right, our country -- as a spillway and a flophouse, pushing its unemployed and pushing its jobless and pushing its poor into our country as a safety valve because they can't deal with their own problem. My friend, they can't use our country that way. We've got the most generous immigration policy in the world. 250,000 Mexicans come in legally every year. Now we've got 21 million of them. Good citizens. All we are saying is, if we got immigration laws, for Heaven's sakes enforce them.

YZAGUIRRE: You know what's happened? We've supported the continual increase of the border patrol. It hasn't stopped the flow immigration. You supported employer sanctions. We were opposed to it. It created massive levels of discrimination against Hispanics. You said that that would stop the flow of immigration into this country. It didn't do so. BUCHANAN: Look, Raul, you know as well as I do they are not enforced. I went out there to IBP, the beef packers. Wages have fallen 40 percent, Iowans won't take the jobs because these guys, Bill -- and you're a liberal, you ought to be here in on this. These guys have cut the wages 40 percent. So Iowans say, "We don't want them." So these poor fellows come from Mexico work and they work on them and they can't do anything because they are illegal. Let wages go up.

PRESS: Let me come back to this. You know, as a "CROSSFIRE" guest you have just done one of the things -- just a couple minutes ago -- that most "CROSSFIRE" guests do. They don't answer the question. As a "CROSSFIRE" co-host, Pat, I recognize it not and I'm not going to let you get away with it. My question to you was, what all this talk about borders beyond the point. There are 3 1/2 to 4 million here, now. Illegally. What are you going to do about them, Pat? Are you going to turn this into a police state, round them up send them home in cattle cars? I ask you again.

BUCHANAN: First, you have understated the number. There are nine to eleven million illegal aliens in this country. Probably six million of them are Mexicans. What do we do here? Here is what do you. First thing you impose employer sanctions. Take one of these big businesses and put the blocks to them that have hired illegals. Fine them big money.

Secondly, anyone who is arrested, put them in prison, send them back immediately. Third, anyone arrested -- I don't care if they're spitting on sidewalk -- illegal -- send them back. We don't need to do anything right now but pursue the present policy and gradually move them out. Bill, you've got -- you cannot let these people who are here illegally compete with five, six million unemployed Americans for jobs.

PRESS: Here is -- that is the fallacy, Pat, to your argument. That you know, most of these people are in low wage and they're in low-skilled jobs that Americans don't want. They're washing cars, they are working in restaurants, they're cutting lawns, they are making beds in houses, those are the jobs...

BUCHANAN: Who did those jobs when you and I grew up.

PRESS: I want you to listen to -- I don't know who did it when we grew up. I know who's doing it now.

BUCHANAN: They were young, weren't they? We did them.

PRESS:: I want you to listen to what President Bush said. Your buddy George Bush said today as President Fox was leaving the White House. He said, "the truth of the matter is that if somebody is willing to do jobs other others in America are not willing to do, we ought to welcome that person to the country, and we ought to make that a legal part of our economy.

BUCHANAN: That is insane. What he is saying is we got open borders. Let me tell you something. Every poor -- there are 20 million Mexicans who live on less than $2 a day. He is talking open borders. You bet he can be hired in the United States for three bucks an hour. That is end of your country, Bill. Your country is more than an economy. It is our family, it is our national home. In this country -- your home too -- is being overrun by illegals.

YZAGUIRRE: Why are we calling them illegals?

BUCHANAN: Because they broke -- they broke in line, they broke the law, they broke into the country, they are freeloading on a lot of social welfare benefits. That is why I call them illegals.

YZAGUIRRE: If you calling them illegals you've got to call every employer an illegal, every consumer an illegal, everybody who hires them an illegal. Let's -- if you are going to paint somebody with that brush, let's paint it across the -- let's be equal about it. You are talking about a police state.

BUCHANAN: I'm not talking about a police state.

YZAGUIRRE: Of course you're talking about a police state. Draconian steps that would create a police state based on fear- mongering, based on...

BUCHANAN: Cut it out, Raul. What I'm talking about is either enforce the laws that are on the books against employers who hire illegals and against law breakers. If you don't enforce, them repeal them. What we cannot do is have the president of the United States, who claims to be the chief law enforcement officer of America say, I'm going to get blanket amnesty to three million people who happen to evade the border patrol.

YZAGUIRRE: You are missing the issue. The issue is what's in the American interest. If AFL-CIO, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the "Wall Street Journal," the religious community, civil rights organizations, are all united on a comprehensive immigration plan, doesn't that say something about...

CARLSON: If that were true, it might. Let me ask you a question quickly about President Fox, here. President Fox clearly wants United States immigration policy to change, become more liberal. He said the other day he wants this change to take place immediately. Of course, it will help him domestically. What would happen if say three million Salvadorans and Guatemalans and Nicaraguans massed at southern border of Mexico.

YZAGUIRRE: Why are creating these situations, hypothetical?

CARLSON: Because it is an intensely revealing question. I would really like your answer. Because you know as well he would send the army out, wouldn't he? Of course he would. Wouldn't he?

BUCHANAN: If the army was there.

YZAGUIRRE: Why, you know, if -- if three million Americans...

CARLSON: Open borders with the United States but not with Guatemala. Why? CARLSON: I will -- I'll tell you exactly why.

YZAGUIRRE: Ridiculous, an incredibly ridiculous situation. It has no fact in reality. It has no basis in reality. This is -- this is part of the scare tactics that have contaminated...

CARLSON: It's a valid question and you are not answering it. The question really is -- let me boil it down real quick. The question is, why doesn't Mexico pursue the same immigration policies that it is asking the United States to pursue? Virtually open borders with its neighbors. It is not. Why not?


YZAGUIRRE: No, the president is very clever. He wants regulated immigration into this country, he wants it a comprehensive program that includes a guest worker program that includes legalizing and regularizing folks who are already here, it is...

CARLSON: Who are here illegally.

YZAGUIRRE: You -- you know what?

CARLSON: Why do you have to regularize them if they're not here illegally?

YZAGUIRRE: You defined them as illegally. They did same thing that your ancestors did.

BUCHANAN: My ancestors came here legally.

YZAGUIRRE: What's the difference? You can change the laws?

BUCHANAN: We've already changed the laws. But enforce the laws on the books. Don't you agree with that?

PRESS:: All right, gentlemen. Hold your breath just a second here because we are going to have to take a break. When we come back: as always, there is a political dimension to this issue. Someone asked the George Bush is successful in obtaining amnesty for all these people, will that be a huge political windfall for the Republican party?


PRESS: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. President Fox may have gone back to Mexico but while he was here, he sure has stirred up a cloud of dust over illegal immigration, challenging us to fix the problem by the end of the year by making legal all those now here illegal. His amigo Jorge Bush seems to like the idea. But will Congress go along? And is it best for the United States? Former presidential candidate and CROSSFIRE co-host Pat Buchanan says, "No way, Jose." National Council of La Raza President Raul Yzaguirre says, "Bienvenidos." Welcome, Tucker.

CARLSON: Welcome, Bill. Raul Yzaguirre, you pointed out earlier that there is something of a consensus forming on immigration reform and that labor is behind it, obviously. Pathetic and marginalized, looking for members. That both parties looking for votes are for it. Big business, which is always looking for cheaper labor, is for it. But it turns out the average person isn't for it. There is new Harris Poll, fascinating results. Let me just read two of them to you. 65 percent of people asked believe that immigration was a net drain on the country and its social services. Only 30 percent of Americans-- ordinary Americans asked -- were for a kind of amnesty for Mexican immigrants. What do ordinary people know that union bosses don't?

YZAGUIRRE: Well, ordinary people know what's right. And we do you a different kind of a poll when you explain to them the facts as Celinda Lake and others have done, where they said, "this is what immigrants contributed to this country." They are creating a -- contrary to what Pat Buchanan says -- they are creating jobs, not taking away jobs. They do so because, they save a common industry that allows it to be stay -- to stay in this country and occupy accountants and managers and so forth, so they do create jobs.

But contrary to that poll, we find that when you explain to the American people what a limited legalization program is about, what immigrants do and that when the facts -- what the facts are surrounding this issue, over two thirds support immigration and support a legalization.

CARLSON: But wait a second. Look, people sense that a recession is coming. A downturn is already here. Why is it unreasonable for them to think, gee, the jobs of immigrants take could be my job. This year over 195,000 high-tech H1V visas issued, as you know. In the same year, the tech sector goes poof. Is this a good thing for American citizens? Of course not.

YZAGUIRRE: Tucker, the research, shows very, very clear that we are talking about poultry jobs, labor jobs, field jobs that Americans do not want and will not take. So there are helping our economy. And by the way, the 4.9 unemployment rate used to be considered full employment.

So even in bad times, even in high-unemployment times, there is going to be a great deal of need for these workers to continue to sustain our economy. And we also need to look at the long run. We are going to have a worker shortage. And Mexico, contrary to what Pat is saying, in fact is going to be approaching a time when its birthrate is decreasing and its job creation rate is increasing, so they will be having some significant shortage of labor themselves.

BUCHANAN: Let me say here that the population of the world is going to increase by three to four billion in the next 50 years. That is 30 to 40 Mexicos in the next 50 years. If we don't get control of our borders, Raul, we are going to lose our country.

PRESS: I want to ask you about the politics of this a second. I remember in California, in particular, when I got started in politics the Latino vote was a Republican vote. They're small businessmen, they're homeowners, they're conservative, they're Catholic. And then Pete Wilson came along and declared war on them with Proposition 197. And now, for Democrats, the Latino vote is the gift that keeps giving.

If the Republicans in Congress and conservatives in Congress wage war on the Mexican community again and refuse to grant amnesty, aren't they just saying, "Here Democrats, you can have you can have this gift for the rest of your political life."

BUCHANAN: I hope Republicans will put their country ahead of their party. However, Pete Wilson was the last Republican to win statewide -- if I recall correctly -- in California. He came back -- what we he, down to 20 percent when you guys had him? And he came back and won that race big time.

PRESS: And a Republican hasn't won since. That's the point.

BUCHANAN: Here's the reason. Dole and Kemp, running against Mr. Clinton. First time Hispanic voters, those who were poor and just came into the country recently -- Clinton won them 91 to six, first- time Hispanics because they are very, very poor and they worry about social services.

Six of the seven largest states in the country are the most immigrants: Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, California Texas, Florida. Clinton won six out of seven. Out of 15 states with the smallest immigrants, Bush won 14 out of 15. losing only Maine. The Hispanic vote -- if they keep this up -- is going to kill the Republican party.

PRESS: You said something that I want to come back to, which is what's good for this country. I think it took President Fox today maybe to remind us what's at very heart of this issue, and that is who we are as Americans. I would like you to listen to what President Fox told a joint session today -- or yesterday. Here it is.


VICENTE FOX, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO: Many among you have a parent or a grandparent who came into this country as an immigrant from another land. Therefore, allow me to take this opportunity to pay homage to those brave men and women who in the past took on the challenge of building a new life for themselves and for their families in this country.


PRESS: Isn't that the point, that we are all immigrants? Why don't we recognize that and welcome these people?

BUCHANAN: We're not all. We're the children of immigrants. We have the most generous immigration policy in the world, we take in more legal immigrants than all other countries in the world combined. Mr. Fox -- I'll tell you what he ought to do. He ought to put his army on that border stop those poor Mexican folks who are dying in the desert of Mexico and the United States trying to evade our laws and our border patrol. They are dying!

What has he and Castaneda done for them? Nothing. You know what they're doing? They are giving them survival kits with condoms and meat and water so they can sneak into the United States. They are dying. If he cares about them, why doesn't he take care of them?

PRESS: Raul?

YZAGUIRRE: He is taking care of them. He has identified 250 areas that send immigrants into the United States. He has an economic development plan, he talked it over with President Bush about that. He is using remittances back to the country to do development, he is on the path of job creation. And he's making a very fundamental point. We need to control these borders jointly, as a partnership. We need to have a policy that is a united policy.

BUCHANAN: Tell him to give us a hand.

CARLSON: OK. We are going to have to leave it there. Raul Yzaguirre, Pat Buchanan, thank you both very much. Bill Press and I already safely in this country. We'll debate -- we'll be back in a moment with closing comments.


CARLSON: You know who I feel sorry for, Bill? I feel sorry for the millions of people in Africa and Asia, clustered outside American immigration centers, believing that if they play by rules and do everything right, they can come to this land of promise -- who are about to find out no dice. You don't have a political lobby powerful as Mexico does. You are just going to be bumped out of line by better lobbyists.

PRESS: There's a little problem you're overlooking, which is an ocean they can't walk across. I have one thing to say, Tucker. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free. That is what this country is all about.

CARLSON: That's right. And don't give me your lawbreakers. Send them back! Give me those people who want to be here, who want to go by the rules, who want to obey the law. Those are the immigrants I want.

PRESS: Isn't it obvious to you the fact that four million people are here illegally means the law ain't working. Law enforcement is not the answer. You cannot solve it by "I am sending them all back."

CARLSON: So people who shoplift, so they ought to be able to keep the goods because shoplifting has always been very effective.


PRESS: Here we go, no? Welcome. From the left, I'm Bill Press. Have a good weekend. Good night from CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: From the right I'm Tucker Carlson. See you next week on "CROSSFIRE."