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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Dems Demand Iraq Pullout; Bush's Latin America Tour

Aired March 08, 2007 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, House Democrats set a date for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, but will the Democratic Party remain united on that issue? We'll have complete coverage here tonight.
Also, corporate CEO pay skyrocketing. Corporate elites escalating the war on the middle class. Leading members of Congress now say CEOs are just plain greedy and they're going to do something about it, they say.

We'll have the story.

And the Bush administration ignoring the plight of states overwhelmed by criminal illegal aliens. The federal government has failed to secure our borders and is now refusing to reimburse states that jail illegal aliens.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This program is a prime example that the resources are not there.


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Thursday, March 8th.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

Democrats today launched their most direct challenge so far to the president's conduct of the war in Iraq. House Democrats announced a plan to withdraw all American combat troops from Iraq by August of 2008.

Meanwhile, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, today declared military force alone will not win this war. General Petraeus said there is no military solution to the insurgency.

Andrea Koppel tonight reports on the Democrat's new plan to challenge the president on Iraq.

Ed Henry, traveling with the president in Brazil, reports on White House reaction to the Democratic initiative.

And Michael Ware reports tonight from Baghdad on the General Petraeus strategy for Iraq.

We turn now to Andrea Koppel -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, setting up a possible showdown with President Bush and almost daring Republicans to vote against emergency funding for the war, House Democratic leaders today laid out their plan to withdraw all U.S. combat troops by the end of the summer 2008.


REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: This is all about readiness, all about protecting the troops and the families, a small percentage of people in this country who are bearing this sacrifice and going back to war over and over again.

KOPPEL (voice over): Under the Democrat's timetable, Mr. Bush would be required to certify by mid-summer and then again by mid-fall this year the Iraqi government was making progress towards meeting key political and military benchmarks. If the president could not show progress, then U.S. troops would begin withdrawing immediately. But if Mr. Bush said Iraqis were achieving these goals, that would buy the White House a few more months, but only until March 2008, when Democrats say U.S. combat troops must begin leaving Iraq and be out six months later.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she expected a majority of Democrats, including staunch anti-war members who want to get out now, will support this plan which would be added to a request for about $100 billion in emergency war funding.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: I believe in the end we will be unified on it. Many members of the "Out of Iraq" caucus have committed to this. They understand the wisdom of it. They see that there are dates certain here for the first time in the Congress.

KOPPEL: Before Pelosi unveiled her plan, leaders in the anti-war movement in the House unveiled one of their own, a proposal to withdraw U.S. troops by the end of this year, not next.

REP. JANICE SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: No more chances. No more waivers. No phony certifications. No more spending billions of dollars to send our children into the meat grinder that is Iraq.

KOPPEL: Republican leaders dismiss the plan outright, saying General Petraeus, not Nancy Pelosi, should be the one calling the shots.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: Unfortunately, our Democrat colleagues have put forth a plan that's going to micromanage the war on terror, put strings on the ability of our generals to get the job done, and slowly withdraw resources from our troops.


KOPPEL: But General Petraeus today, as Democrats like to point out, said that military force alone won't be enough to resolve the situation in Iraq.

Meanwhile, over in the Senate, Democratic leaders there also unveiled a binding resolution, Lou, that they would like to introduce as soon as next week. In this resolution, much more modest goals than they had previously had. And that would be to withdraw U.S. troops by early next year -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much.

Andrea Koppel from Capitol Hill.

The White House today immediately blasted the Democrats for setting a withdrawal date for our troops. The White House saying President Bush would veto any plan to withdraw our troops, as they put it, precipitously.

President Bush tonight begins a weeklong tour of five Latin American countries, beginning in Brazil.

Ed Henry reports from Sao Paulo -- Ed.


The president arrives here later this hour. Protesters already building in advance of that visit. Critics charging the Bush administration has not done enough to help in terms of economic development here all through Latin America.

But meanwhile, the White House was so eager to jump into that Iraq story that you started off with that officials did not even wait for the president to arrive here, before he even landed in Brazil to issue that veto threat. It was delivered, in fact, by White House counselor Dan Bartlett traveling aboard Air Force One.

He told reporters, "Obviously the administration would vehemently oppose and ultimately veto any legislation that looked like what was described today by House Democrats."

Now, the White House's primary beef with this obviously is the idea of pulling troops from Iraq by August of 2008 or even sooner if Iraqi officials do not meet certain benchmarks. The White House charging that's an arbitrary timetable for withdrawing troops, that it would put military strategy in the hands of Speaker Pelosi instead of General Petraeus on the ground.

Now, the White House felt from a substantive standpoint that they had to jump in and push back against the Democrats, even as the president was traveling here. They wanted to criticize it. But also, clearly, they saw a political opportunity here. The Democrats have been divided over how to move forward on Iraq strategy, and the White House saw a chance to pounce, Lou.

As you can see, in fact, Air Force One has just landed here in Brazil, so the president will now try to shift the focus back to his very hefty Latin America agenda. But clearly, Iraq today dominating and overshadowing that -- Lou. DOBBS: All right. Ed Henry from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Thank you, Ed.

In Iraq today, the new U.S. commander, General David Petraeus, said military force alone will not defeat the insurgency. General Petraeus made those remarks as thousands more of our troops arrive in Iraq to fight insurgents and terrorists.

Michael Ware has the report from Baghdad -- Michael.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, America's new commander of the war in Iraq, General David Petraeus, says the war shall not be won on the battlefield alone, repeating what many American commanders before him have observed. General Petraeus says that this is a lesson that has been long learned.

PETRAEUS: We are, in any event, still in the early days of this endeavor. An endeavor that will take months, not days or weeks, to fully implement, and one that will have to be sustained to achieve its desired effect.

WARE: Any hints at increased outreach to Sunni insurgent groups and Shia militias is set to fuel speculation that a political deal is already on the table for powerful Shia militia leader and anti- American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who, American intelligence says, is in Iran, while thousands of U.S. troops move into his Sadr City stronghold unopposed.

Additional American forces coming into the capital will move into surrounding rural areas, said General Petraeus, to attack insurgents' logistic and support bases, areas long overlooked by past American missions -- Lou.


DOBBS: Michael Ware reporting from Baghdad.

Now with more on General Petraeus's remarks and strategy, General David Grange. General Grange one of the country's most decorated military leaders who served all over the word, including the Middle East.

General, let's start with Petraeus saying that military might will not win this war against the insurgency by itself. But like so many before him, not saying clearly what will win.

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think what he's trying to say, Lou, is that it's the combination of the political process, the economic process, the social process between different groups. But nothing takes away from the fact that a safe and secure environment is a precondition for a political process to even work. DOBBS: The idea that there will be a resolution here in months, as General Petraeus said it, rather than days or weeks, is there also the prospect that he's talking about years rather than months?

GRANGE: Well, I think at least he's laying it out up front now that this is going to take some more time instead of being wishy washy about it. Get it on the table now.

Brief it and tell everybody why it's the way it is. And I think there's some stuff going on the collaborations to at least get some kind of buy-in from these groups instead of having to kill everybody.

DOBBS: And additionally, 5,000 more troops, 2,200 more for security, 2,400 for support being added to the 21,500 that General Petraeus has asked for. We're also, then, told -- our Jamie McIntyre reporting from the Pentagon -- that those 5,000 troop also cost $1 billion.

That adds up to $200,000 per soldier. That is, is it not, General, absolutely an unsustainable economic ratio to put our fighting men in the field?

GRANGE: Well, it probably is. War is expensive. There's no doubt about it.

And not only that. If you add on the moneys that it takes for the second, third order effects with V.A., with wounded soldiers and the other things that happen from the outcome of war, it's quite an expensive undertaking. But if we're going to do it, pay for it, get it over with, do it right.

This is probably the last chance to go at this one.

DOBBS: OK. General David Grange, thank you.

GRANGE: My pleasure.

DOBBS: Still ahead here, corporate elites receiving exorbitant pay packages. Corporate America escalating its war on the middle class.

We'll have that special report as Congress says it's going to be do something about it.

Also, a new giveaway to Mexico by the Bush administration. Imagine that. It's a giveaway that could open this nation's trucking industry to Mexican drug cartels.

We'll have that story.

And the ACLU rushing to defend illegal aliens, ignoring the fact those very same illegal aliens have broken our laws. The ACLU's executive director, Anthony Romero, he's among our guests here tonight.

Stay with us. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: New details today of the Bush administration's plan to give Mexican trucks unrestricted access to American highways. That plan, according to critics, a threat to national security and opening another front on the war against our middle class.

In Congress, new steps tonight to stop exorbitant pay as well.

Lisa Sylvester reports on the battle between Congress and the administration over that plan to open our highways to Mexican trucks.

Bill Tucker reports on a congressional plan to give shareholders more control over what is now exorbitant CEO pay.

We begin with Lisa Sylvester in Washington -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the Department of Transportation will begin a yearlong pilot program. Hundreds of Mexican truck drivers will be permitted to travel anywhere in the United States to deliver goods. Right now they're limited to within 25 miles of the border. But some congressional lawmakers say it will lead to a gaping hole in the nation's safety and security system.


SYLVESTER (voice over): Transportation Secretary Mary Peters tried to downplay the program. Mexican companies would be limited to making only international deliveries. Fewer than a thousand Mexican trucks involved. Safety provisions in place.

MARY PETERS, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: This demonstration program, by exercising it at this time, will eliminate the very costly, very cumbersome, very outdated system of moving freight across the border with Mexico and replace it with a safe and efficient process.

SYLVESTER: The Transportation Department says the Mexican drivers will meet U.S. safety requirements and on-site audits will be performed. Despite reassurances, critics say the U.S. government is opening the country to increased drug traffic.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: In our new post- 9/11 world, we have learned a lot more about terrorist threats and how to prevent them. We've also learned a lot more about illegal immigration and the methods used to smuggle citizens into the United States.

SYLVESTER: There are also safety concerns.

SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (R), NEW JERSEY: We don't know how many hours these truck drivers have been behind the wheel before they cross the border. We don't know whether truck driver drug and alcohol testing in Mexico is adequate.

SYLVESTER: Mexican truck drivers are supposed to undergo drug and alcohol testing, but there is not a single certified drug testing laboratory in Mexico.

JAMES HOFFA, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS: Basically, it's we're going to sacrifice the safety of our highways for some efficiency of an unsafe Mexican truck, you know, leaving the heart of Mexico and coming across with very little protection for American drivers.

SYLVESTER: U.S. drivers have to pass rigorous testing to be licensed in the United States. The bar is much lower for Mexican drivers.


SYLVESTER: And there are many unresolved issues, including will U.S. law enforcement have access to Mexican truck drivers' driving records? How will the U.S. government check every truck in the pilot program before it's enters the United States as promised? And if the pilot program were extended, they would have to check 4.6 million trucks entering the United States from Mexico.

These questions have not been fully answered, yet somehow the Department of Transportation expects to begin this program, Lou, within 60 days.

DOBBS: Well, it follows absolutely, constantly with the basic direction and imperative of this administration. There should be no surprise about that.

Perhaps some surprise that Congress is acquiescing to this so- called program, pilot program on the part of the Transportation Department. Congress is simply just going to roll over?

SYLVESTER: They are at this point asking the questions. They haven't received all of the answers. And as of now, though, Lou, that program is set to begin within 60 days.

DOBBS: Well, I guess we'll find out what direction this Democratic Congress wants to go.

Thank you very much. Appreciate it very much, Lisa Sylvester.

That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight.

Do you believe Mexican trucks should be allowed to transport freight in the United States? Straightforwardly, yes or no? Cast your ballot at We'll have the results here later in the broadcast.

Congress today did go after outrageous CEO compensation packages. CEO pay has risen to just about 500 times that that of the average worker in the corporation.

And as Bill Tucker now tells us, Congress says shareholders should have more power to control CEO pay. How about that?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Corporate pay now consumes 10 percent of the profits of American companies. CEO pay continues to expand by double digits on an annual basis.

REP. DAVID SCOTT (D), GEORGIA: The status quo is lavish compensation for executives that is totally unrelated to their performance.

REP. AL GREEN (D), TEXAS: According to the AFL-CIO, the average CEO in the United States makes more than 260 times the pay of an average worker. And other studies in 2003 indicate that the average large company CEO made 500 times the amount of the average worker.

TUCKER: Enter the House Committee on Financial Services, which is considering House Resolution 1257.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), FINANCIAL SERVICES CHAIRMAN: What it says is that the shareholders of a company should be allowed to vote on an advisory basis to the board of directors on the compensation of the CEO.

TUCKER: The bill does not set CEO wages or limit pay. Something committee Chairman Frank pointedly underlined in the face of criticism from the business community, who complained Congress has no business getting involved in pay issues at all. Shareholders already have a say, they noted, and boards are supposed to have independent directors. A point that one shareholder activist was happy to counter.

NELL MINOW, EDITOR, "THE CORPORATE LIBRARY": If Warren Buffett is too chicken to stand up in the boardroom and say we're paying this guy too much, then we have got to give him some backbone. And the only way to do that is to give shareholders a chance to speak back.

TUCKER: Buffett, of Berkshire Hathaway fame, has called CEO pay the acid test in whether corporate America is serious about reforming itself, while noting that he serves on many boards and often collegiality trumps independence.

And while executive pay skyrockets, the number of employees receiving healthcare coverage is falling.


TUCKER: In 1980, 70 percent of the employees entering the work force received healthcare coverage from their employer. In 2004, less than 56 percent of those employees entering the job market received healthcare. The executive gains, Lou, are coming on the backs of their workers.

DOBBS: It's -- you know, it's fascinating to me to see the business roundtable which represents about 140, 150 of the very largest companies in this country taking on Barney Frank and his committee, saying that, you know, the shareholders have no role. That could be very chilling to a board. The business roundtable needs to be reminded -- I hope that that occurred during the hearing today -- that that board is there to represent the interest of the shareholder. And a great business has grown up, by the way, just for everyone's amusement, on Wall Street, and that is firms, Wall Street firms working vigorously to shut down shareholder activism or shareholder involvement. They can be so cumbersome when you're trying to run a business.

Thanks very much, Bill Tucker.

Coming up next, an increasing number of America's veterans returning from the stress of war may be turning to substance abuse. Are they receiving the help they need? Our special report, "The War Within," continues tonight.

States spending billions of dollars on criminal illegal aliens. The federal government, which refuses to enforce security at our borders and our ports, well, they're doing nothing to help at either the port, the border, or the states who have to pick up the financial burden.

And Cuban aliens successfully sneaking ashore during a government security drill in south Florida. I have to tell you, I'd give every one of these people citizenship. I love to see initiative and enterprise and surprise.

We'll have the latest for you. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Tonight, "The War Within," our special report on the war against drugs and alcohol abuse and addiction in this country. Some of our troops returning from the war in Iraq find themselves fighting their own private battles. The statistics are now scarce, but as Kitty Pilgrim discovered, some experts are seeing an increase in substance abuse among our troops.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): How many soldiers will turn to drug or alcohol abuse once their tour of duty is over? There are no hard statistics, but the DOD estimates that one in six soldiers will return with some kind of psychological or substance abuse problem.

General Barry McCaffrey, former White House drug czar, says there are very low rates of drug abuse during active duty in the military, but some returning veterans develop problems.

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, FMR. DIR., WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL: I just talked to the National Guard Association yesterday. The Air Guard has gone up 4 percent in the last year, the Army Guard up 12 percent. We're seeing that across the board.

PILGRIM: He blames multiple tours of duty and high-stress patrols and says some National Guard units are ill prepared for long combat tours and are susceptible.

Steve Robinson, director of Veterans for America, says the medication soldiers are given in combat become habitual.

STEPHEN ROBINSON, VETERANS FOR AMERICA: Soldiers on the battlefield get sleep meds to go to sleep, they get go pills to go, they get Percocet, Ambien, Seroquil (ph), come home and then are cut off from that free bag of meds that they got in Iraq. And then what's the follow-up for them?

PILGRIM: Nora Volkow, director of National Institute on Drug Abuse, says combat conditions can create extreme stress.

NORA VOLKOW, NATIONAL INST. ON DRUG ABUSE: What determines who will become addicted or not, genetics, but also stressful environments.

PILGRIM: Colleen Matter, staff psychologist at Rochester, New York, V.A. Outpatient Clinic, says she finds another motivation for veterans to take stimulants after being released from duty.

COLLEEN MATTER, ROCHESTER V.A. OUTPATIENT CLINIC: That kind of physiological high rush that you have to have in order to function in combat, you can't recreate that now that you're home. Nothing compares.

PILGRIM: She says some soldiers replace that combat rush with methamphetamines.


PILGRIM: Now, participants at the conference say gaps in medical coverage became apparent with the Walter Reed scandal, and they say there's a lack of coherent studies on veterans problems with substance abuse. They hope that the new commissions studying veterans affairs will also deal more aggressively with the need for substance abuse programs in the veterans hospitals -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, as General McCaffrey put it, there may be a scarcity of statistics, but the ones that he used are certainly alarming. And the Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse at Columbia laying it out pretty clearly.

Thank you very much, Kitty Pilgrim.

Coming up here next, rising anger over the ACLU's opposition to efforts at local communities to enforce immigration laws. And the ACLU's executive director, Anthony Romero, he's leading the charge. And he and I will be discussing that.

Also, states furious at the federal government's refusal to take responsibility for the national crisis in illegal immigration and our failed border security.

We'll have that special report. And new demands to stop banks from offering illegal aliens credit cards and other financial services. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn doing something about it, introducing legislation to block credit cards for illegal aliens in this country. She's among our guests.

And are teachers unions destroying public education? Former education secretary Rod Paige says they are. He will also be joining us.

Stay with us for all of that and a lot more.

We'll be right back.


DOBBS: The Democratic-led Senate moving closer to introducing comprehensive immigration reform legislation or amnesty. But what's being lost in the debate is the reality that America is already the most diverse and welcoming society on the face of the planet. And we are absolutely the most energetic of nations in permitting new immigrants.

Last year -- and these are facts that people do not focus on. Certainly those people who are on the open borders and illegal alien advocacy lobby.

Last year, are you ready? More than 700,000 people from countries all over the world became citizens of the United States.

But not only that. Another one million people were allowed to settle here legally and to attain status of permanent residence. One point seven million people. But another reality is that there are an estimated 12 to 20 million illegal aliens in this country and more than half of them from Mexico.

As Casey Wian now reports, the federal government's failure to secure our borders mean states are now forced to deal with the cost and consequences of illegal immigration.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to spend nearly $11 billion to build new prisons and jails in his state. Many are horribly overcrowded with rows of bunk beds in gymnasiums and office cubicles instead of cells.

The result, rising prison violence, high recidivism rates and criminals being released early.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R) CA: This is a crisis that has been existing for many, many years. And now it's reaching a boiling point.

WIAN: One reason some California prisons house nearly twice as many inmates they were designed to hold, they're overloaded with illegal aliens. In 1998 the state's prison system held 5,500. Now there are more than 18,000. Plus at least 7,000 in local jails. All together California spends more than a billion dollars a year incarcerating illegal aliens that the federal government has failed to deport or stop from crossing the border.

Yet the Bush administration refuses to accept financial responsibility. For the fifth straight year White House has eliminated funding from its budget to reimburse states for the cost of jailing illegal aliens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's an example of talking tough to the public, but when you have to put the resources where the talk is, this program is a prime example that the resources are not there.

WIAN: In his 2008 budget request, President Bush says he wants to "redirect the dollars to other higher priority programs" because the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program "lacked goals and performance measures."

National Council of State legislatures says that argument is nonsense because SCAAP has never been fully funded. States spend almost $2.5 billion a year incarcerating criminal illegal aliens.


WIAN (on camera): Each year the White House has cancelled SCAAP and Congress has stepped in and restored a fraction of the funds. That scenario is expected to play out again this year, Lou.

DOBBS: It's a beautiful thing, this administration. Thank you very much, Casey Wian.

Federal and local law enforcement agencies are taking part in a drill off the coast of Florida today, preparing for what they anticipate could be a mass immigration that might arise when Cuban leader Fidel Castro dies. But the practice became a little confused today with reality when 40 real Cuban illegal aliens landed on South Florida beaches in the midst of the exercise.

Susan Candiotti joins us now live from Miami with more on the story. Susan, this is pretty good.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the key thing to remember in any of these exercises is to expect the unexpected, right?

DOBBS: Absolutely.

CANDIOTTI: Sure enough, in the second day of a two-day drill here, a drill that included more than 50 separate agencies and involved at least, oh, many, many Coast Guard volunteers playing the role of both Cuban Americans trying to make to it Cuba after Fidel Castro dies and Cubans leaving Cuba trying to make it to the United States. In the thick of all this authorities get two separate phone calls at about 4:30 in the morning and about 7:30 in the morning. Two landings in the Miami area. Authorities admit there was confusion. Was this part of the drill? No. Eventually after a few hours things were straightened out. Turns out 40 Cubans in all had made it to shore without detection. The Border Patrol says they will be allowed to stay as part of the wet foot/dry foot policy. And last year for real, 2,000 people from Cuba, from Haiti, from the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries were intercepted at sea.


REAR ADM. DAVID KUNKEL, HOMELAND SECURITY TASK FORCE: We intercept people every day. OK. It was coincidental. Those 40 that landed there, we are investigating it. No landing goes uninvestigated. We'll find out how this happened.


CANDIOTTI: Now, Admiral Kunkel says that if there is indeed an exodus from Cuba to the United States after Fidel Castro dies, he says he intends to intercept at least 95 percent of all people who might try to make it here. Now, there are a large number of people, Lou, as you are well aware, who do not think that will happen. Naturally better to be prepared for any eventuality.

DOBBS: What will not happen, Susan, that there won't be a mass exodus or that the admiral won't succeed in capturing 95 percent of them who attempt it?

CANDIOTTI: Good point of course, yes. That there won't be a mass exodus, of course.

DOBBS: The idea is -- I keep thinking back to those -- that group of Cubans who with that Chevrolet truck they rigged off the drive shaft a propeller. They were actually sent back because they did not make it successfully to land. I always thought that was a great injustice. That kind of innovation and boldness is the kind of thing that should be rewarded, I think, with everything else being equal with citizenship. That's the kind of spirit we want in this country. These 40 folks who made it get to stay.

CANDIOTTI: Oh sure. As you know because of the policy that currently is in place if you make it to shore, you do get to stay and are granted temporary parole status.

DOBBS: All right. Susan Candiotti, thank you very much. As there is a little embarrassment down in Miami on the part of the Department of Homeland Security. But I'm sure they'll get over it. All right. Thanks, Susan Candiotti.

The Bush administration says it's ended its policy of catch and release for illegal aliens but that policy apparently doesn't apply except on the border.

Local police, in fact, in Burke County, North Carolina, pulled over a vehicle yesterday. They found 11 illegal aliens. The passengers admitted they are in the country illegally but when the sheriff's office called the immigration officials, the immigration officials told those officers to release the suspects, they didn't have any agents in the area to check the suspect status which had already been confirmed.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman said they try to respond to local law enforcement whenever possible but they have to prioritize their responses based on the seriousness of the offense, whatever that means.

Assaults on federal agents, by the way, are rising and rising dramatically along the border with Mexico. U.S. Border Patrol officials say there were 600 - rather, 843 attacks on agents last year. An increase of 10 percent. But the increase in attacks on some border areas far higher. Attacks on agents in southwestern Arizona, for example, up an astonishing 60 percent.

Agents say illegal aliens and drug traffickers are shooting at them from Mexico. The agents also being attacked with rocks and Molotov cocktails.

Earlier this week Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn introduced legislation aimed at preventing U.S. financial institutions from handing out credit cards to illegal aliens. The Photo I.D. Act comes after Bank of America announced it would issue credit cards to all customers, even those without Social Security numbers.

The congresswoman says the legislation tells banks and illegal aliens alike you can't get a Visa without a visa. Congresswoman Blackburn joins us tonight from Washington, DC. Congresswoman, good to have you here

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN, (R) TN: It is good to be with you. Thank you.

DOBBS: This a direct response, I take it, to Bank of America, the idea that banks in this country don't care whether a person is here with valid I.D. and legitimately in this country, lawfully in this country. Does that astonish you?

BLACKBURN: Well, you know, I think that I should do everything I can possibly do to be certain that good American companies have a clear understanding of the law, that there is no ambiguity in that law and that they abide by that law. If they say they're exploiting a loophole and going after those that have illegal entered the country then I think we find a way to close that loophole.

DOBBS: I love your line. No Visa without a visa.


DOBBS: In effect, I think many people are astonished that anyone can walk into a bank and get ...


DOBBS: Based on a matricula consular or any other insecure I.D., get a credit card.

BLACKBURN: You're exactly right, Lou. We heard from people all over the country that were absolutely flabbergasted. We have heard from community bankers in small communities. We have heard from main street merchants who have just been absolutely appalled with this and they know they're the ones that are going to end up with the American taxpayer paying the bill on this. So we identified what the problem was. We researched it. We worked with leg counsel. We have a bill, HR-1314, which sets about closing this loophole and says you can only use secure I.D.

DOBBS: And the other thing I noticed Ken Lois (ph) talking about they were trying to follow the spirit of the law as well as the letter of the law.


DOBBS: I didn't see much spirit there personally, but if Ken Lois says so, fine. You going to take away that burden for spirit and give them some very specific direction with this.

BLACKBURN: That's right.

DOBBS: What kind of support are you getting in Congress?

BLACKBURN: I'm getting great support. Right now we're looking for our Senate sponsor. We're wanting to make this bipartisan. We are ready today. The bill has been introduced one full day and we are about 25 cosponsors already. So we're looking for that magic number of 218. We know we've got a long way to go but we know that Americans want to see this loophole closed.

DOBBS: Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, we thank you for being here. Good luck.

BLACKBURN: Thank you so much. Thank you.

DOBBS: One of the strongest advocates for securing this nation's borders and fighting for the middle class is congressman and presidential candidate Duncan Hunter. In a South Carolina straw poll the Republican congressman came within just six votes of beating Senator John McCain, within four votes of beating out Rudy Giuliani. The Hunter campaign spent almost nothing. The campaign's main message was against so-called free trade.

Congressman Hunter's critics said he finished strongly because his son, a serving U.S. Marine, campaigned with him.

Congressman Hunter responded, quote, "That's a good match-up. One marine versus 550 consultants. We did have the advantage."

Still ahead here, the country's public school system is in crisis. Former education secretary says teachers unions are mostly to blame. We'll be talking with former Secretary Rod Paige about his new book "The War Against Hope." And the ACLU accusing the federal government of inhumane treatment at a detention center for illegal aliens in Texas. But what's the ACLU doing to help other people being adversely affected by illegal immigration? You know the people I'm talking about, American citizens.

The director of ACLU, Anthony Romero, joins us next. Stay with us. We're coming right back.


DOBBS: Tonight a look at the state of public education in this country. Clearly a flawed education system that is failing a generation of Americans. My next guest says teachers unions are largely to blame. Rod Paige, former secretary of education under the Bush administration, good to have you here.


DOBBS: The book is "The War Against Hope."


DOBBS: The idea that teachers unions are principally responsible, a lot of people are going to say no, way. How so?

PAIGE: Well, it is one of the biggest problems and we've been hesitant to face teachers unions and sitting on both sides of the negotiating table on school boards.

DOBBS: What do you mean when you say both sides?

PAIGE: Well, teachers unions are very active in school board races. And usually very successful, too, in having candidates there. So when issues come up that affect them, they are sitting on both sides of their negotiating table.

DOBBS: One of the things we've talked about on this broadcast extensively and reported on extensively and as you write in your book, the graduation rates in this country are abysmal by any standard. The idea that just about half of the black students in this country are dropping out of high school. Just about half of the Hispanic students dropping out of high school. How in the world can a government at the federal level, government at the state level, the local, tolerate this?

PAIGE: Well, this is a big problem. Got to say despite the big effort from a lot of well-meaning people, teachers, principals and people like that who are embedded in a system that's antiquated. It's a system that we need to change. It's a monopoly.

DOBBS: What part of the system? You want to get rid of the teachers unions, I understand that.

PAIGE: Actually I think as sad as it is to say, there is a need for teachers to be represented. I think what happens now is we have over-unionization of our schools.

DOBBS: How about this, we have under-involvement of parents and citizens in their local communities working in the interest of those students.

PAIGE: Absolutely. Parents are -- schools now are shouldering a lot of responsibility that parents should actually be shouldering. And burdening teachers who have to pay a lot of attention to these kinds of things when they prefer to be dealing with the academic subjects they're teaching. So we've dropped an awful burden on teachers because of the neglect of many parents occasionally.

DOBBS: It's as if this country is out of control in so many ways. That institutions are failing us in so many, many parts of the country and in parts of our lives. But schools, the great equalizer in this society for the middle class, the entree to the middle class, the entree to better things in your life, how can Republicans and Democrats, irrespective of their ideology, how can they sit there and gum this thing to death instead of do something? What happened to the spirit that one thing you take care of in this country, by God, is our children?

PAIGE: Absolutely. In fact, I was fascinated by a term that I think is attributed to the governor of California. He used the term post partisanship. And I think education is something we should now try that. Both sides of the aisle need to really focus on this because I believe that our ability to educate students is one of our strongest assets.

And if we miss that are we really going to be in a very serious disadvantage. As a matter of fact, I want to say, a great author said, United States is no longer the most educated country in the world. It's not even close. You've got one guest -- who that was?

DOBBS: I do remember vividly.

PAIGE: Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: That great author, as you put it.

We appreciate you being here, Rod Paige.

PAIGE: Thank you so much. Thank you for your focus (ph) on education.

DOBBS: The book is "The War Against Hope," Rod Paige, former secretary of education. Good to have you with us.

PAIGE: Thank you.

DOBBS: Reminder to vote in our poll tonight. Do you believe Mexican trucks should be allowed to transport freight in the United States? Yes or no? Please cast your vote at We'll have the results for you in just a few minutes.

Next, the ACLU fighting for the rights of hundreds of illegal aliens held in a federal detention center in Texas. Wow, it must be bad. Is the ACLU putting the interest of illegal aliens ahead of the interests of American citizens? What's the deal here? The executive director of ACLU joins me to straighten it all out.

And rising outrage over Bill Gates' idea about allowing an endless supply of cheap foreign labor in this country. You know how fragile technology is and we'll have your thoughts as well when we come back. Stay with us.


DOBBS: We've been reporting extensively on this broadcast about the extraordinary position the American Civil Liberties Union takes against the federal government's crackdown on illegal immigration. This week the ACLU sued federal officials on behalf of the children of illegal aliens being held at the Hutto Detention Center in Texas.

The ACLU says the detention of illegal alien children is inhumane and un-American. Anthony Romero is executive director of ACLU and he joins us here now.

Anthony, good to have you here.


DOBBS: Now, you say it's inhumane.

ROMERO: It is.

DOBBS: Well ...

ROMERO: It's only way to describe it.

DOBBS: Well, I just said you said that. But what I don't quite understand is, who supports you in this?

ROMERO: First, the courts support us. I think the broad level of American public support. When they find out what's going on in Hutto, they'll be shocked.

DOBBS: Let's take a look at some of the video of the detention center and the people in it. If we could put it up here or up there, that's great. This facility is by no means, you know, upper middle class suburb. But as you look at that, Anthony, it doesn't look that bad to me. What do you think?

ROMERO: Well, I think the video is deceiving. Talk about the kids, three to 16 years old who are clients. Some of them locked up in jail cells for 11 to 12 hours a day with no toys in their cells, no writing utensils.

DOBBS: In the cells but we see all sorts of toy and facilities there.

ROMERO: I'm sure this piece of propaganda can be quite dealt with. DOBBS: This is not propaganda. This is taken by a photographer ...

ROMERO: And a court of law will adjudicate it.

DOBBS: I'm just trying to understand.

ROMERO: That's the beautiful part of our American system. We will be able to put forward the facts and the evidence of these students and these kids who have been denied educational services.

DOBBS: Educational services. They are typically in the facility for less than 30 days.

ROMERO: No, absolutely not. Some of our clients are there for almost half a year.

DOBBS: You said some. I said most are there for less than 30 days.

ROMERO: But I think what's important to say even if they're there for a short period of time they're entitled to those educational services. Food, we have complaints that the kids are being inadequately fed. They're running around in prison uniforms.

DOBBS: Those little kids, they have prison uniforms?

ROMERO: They have prison uniforms, you bet.

DOBBS: Really?

ROMERO: Since 1997, there's been an order under an agreement signed with the Justice Department of Flores v. Meese that they're supposed to provide good facilities, adequate food, adequate shelter, adequate education and they have violated every step of the way that very same contempt decree.

DOBBS: How did they get there?

ROMERO: The U.S. government has arrested them.

DOBBS: For what?

ROMERO: The kids or who, the parents?

DOBBS: Well, yeah, the parents.

ROMERO: I think it's important, what's important, Lou ...

DOBBS: We'll find out what you think is important but how about answering my question. How did they get there?

ROMERO: Their parents are refugees. One of our clients from Guyana, one of our clients from Somalia.

DOBBS: And illegal aliens. ROMERO: People who are here, they are here illegally but they have a right to assert a legal proceeding to assert themselves as political- as refugees. That's the American way, Lou.

DOBBS: Fine. But the reality is, Congressman John Carter from Texas concerned about what he was hearing about Hutto says, I was concerned about news reports and treatment at the facility. We were among those who reported on it. He went there. He said he believes that the dedicated employees of the facility were providing a humane and safe alternative to catch and release and he thought the facility was just fine.

ROMERO: Well, he's wrong. And a judge ...

DOBBS: As you say, a court will adjudicate.

ROMERO: A court will adjudicate. You present evidence, they get to rebut it and a judge will adjudicate it.

DOBBS: That is the American way.

ROMERO: That is the American way. That's why we're in court, fighting for those issues.

DOBBS: It's one of the reasons that I think we're going to talk about some of the other reasons. For example, taking on Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

ROMERO: That's right. Monday, we'll be in court. You should join me in court in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

DOBBS: I won't be joining you but I assure you your correspondents will.

ROMERO: We welcome you.

DOBBS: As a matter of fact, they were there today for the pretrial stuff.

ROMERO: We had a briefing this morning with some of your folks.

DOBBS: Yeah.

You filed lawsuits against communities such as Hazleton, the Hazleton case going to court, as you said.

All those lawsuits with communities that are trying to deal with illegal immigration. What I don't understand is why, if you're going to sue the federal government over the facilities say at Hutto, why aren't you suing the federal government over failure to enforce U.S. immigration law? Why aren't you suing the government for its failure to take responsibility for maintaining, for states, maintaining social and medical and incarceration.

ROMERO: The detention centers, you'll see. San Diego, we'll be suing that detention center. DOBBS: So you're suing the federal government for failing to secure the borders and for not reimbursing states.

ROMERO: The poor conditions in the detention centers that we're going to take on. Let's go back to Hazleton.

DOBBS: Let's go back to this. When are you going to take on the American issue which is -- it says American on your ...

ROMERO: Right, absolutely. Americans who defend your rights and everyone rights.

DOBBS: So why don't you defend the rights of Americans, very specifically, and say enforce our immigration laws, force the federal government to pay for the state and local expenditures to incarcerate illegal aliens, to provide medical services and social services. Can I entice you to do that?

ROMERO: I can do what I can. What I can tell you is sometimes you need clients. It's much harder than just to bring a lawsuit.

DOBBS: If you want a client, represent me.

ROMERO: You want to be my client?

DOBBS: You got it.

ROMERO: You bet. I did Rush Limbaugh, I can do you.

DOBBS: I don't know what that means when you say do ...

ROMERO: I represented Rush Limbaugh in his medical privacy case when we -- Let's go back to Hazleton.

DOBBS: We have to go off the air because we're out of time.

ROMERO: We will have to come back to Hazleton next week and talk to Hazleton. It's much too important.

DOBBS: Are you going to book the show, too? The ACLU has a lot of power.

ROMERO: I have a lot of time.

DOBBS: OK. Good. We're going to prevail on some of that time, maybe next week. But I want you suing the federal government and I'll be your client. Go get them. Thank you. Anthony Romero, ACLU executive director.

ROMERO: My pleasure.

DOBBS: Still ahead. More of your thoughts. Results of the poll. It's worth waiting for. Stay with us. We'll be right back

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Now, results of tonight's poll. We're going to send this along to the good transportation secretary. Ninety-seven percent of you say you don't believe Mexican trucks should be allowed to transport freight in the United States.

And time now for your thoughts.

Many of you outraged about Bill Gates' comments yesterday, suggesting there should be no limit on the use of foreign labor in this country.

Dan in Toronto said, "Perhaps the reason Mr. Gates can't find skilled engineering talent is the fact that he himself is responsible for sending tons of jobs to India."

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow. For all of us, thanks for watching.

Good night from New York. THE SITUATION ROOM begins right now with Suzanne Malveaux sitting in for Wolf Blitzer. Suzanne?