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Hot Story: Border Brawl

Beltway Boys


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe it is important to bring people out of the shadows of American society, so they don't have to fear the life they live. I believe it's important for our nation to uphold human rights and human dignity, and the plan I've just proposed is one that'll do all that and achieve important objectives. And I'm looking forward to working with the Congress. We're making the (INAUDIBLE) president, we're making progress.


MORT KONDRACKE, HOST: I'm Mort Kondracke.

FRED BARNES, HOST: I'm Fred Barnes, and we're "The Beltway Boys."

And the hot story is, border brawl. Of course, I'm referring to the congressional battle that's going on as we speak over immigration reform, actually, illegal immigration reform and what to do about it.

Now, President Bush, by the way, in that bite was referring to his, in, in his plan, the part that would allow illegal immigrants in the United States right now, 12 million of them, to earn their way to citizenship, and also part of his plan is a guest worker thing where foreign workers could be imported for a time into the U.S. I think the Senate bill sets it at 400,000. And they can work here and then would have to return.

Now, the problem is enacting both of those things. Everybody agrees, Mort, that we need to beef up the security along our border. They disagree on the degree of it. But everybody agrees that border security has to be enhanced. But they certainly do not agree about Bush's plan on earned citizenship and a guest worker plan.

And but I think the Senate this next week will probably enact a bill with all three of them, security, earned citizenship, and a guest worker plan. The Senate Judiciary Committee, of course, has already done that, by a 12 to six vote, did just this week.

The question is whether the House will go along with this and compromise, and, and do more than just border enforcement. You know, this week there were the demonstrations around the country, particularly large ones in Phoenix and Los Angeles, about trying to push really the House to do this. And the demonstrations were marked by, I think, a lot of Mexican flags flying, and there were reports that illegal immigrants themselves were heavily involved in these demonstrations.

Tom Tancredo of Colorado, the House member who we know is probably the sharpest and most persistent critic of illegal immigration in the United States and favors only enforcement, stepped-up enforcement, had this to say.


U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TOM TANCREDO (R), COLORADO: They want us to begin to control this problem. And if anything, when they looked out, I think, when John Q. Citizen looked out on the streets and saw hundreds of thousands of people waving Mexican flags and demanding amnesty, I don't think that played well in Peoria.


BARNES: I don't think it played well in Peoria either. I think it was a, a big mistake. Now, I disagree with Tom Tancredo. I think we need to do a lot more than just enforce our border. But he made a good point.

KONDRACKE: Well, look, hundreds of thousands of people waving, waving a Mexican flags, that's a wild exaggeration. There were hundreds of...

BARNES: There were a lot of them.

KONDRACKE: There were a hundreds, there were hundreds of thousands of people in the street, and some of, and many of them were illegal immigrants (INAUDIBLE) demonstrating a, against the, the House bill. But another exaggeration is the notion that this Senate bill is amnesty. It's not amnesty, but which we'll get that to in a second. But here's John McCain's comment on that, on that subject.


U.S. SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I've yet to hear a single proponent of this point of view to offer one realistic proposal for locating, apprehending, and returning to their countries of origin over 11 million people. How do we do that?


KONDRACKE: I mean, look, amnesty is what we did in 1986. We said, If you're here, you're legal, period. I mean, this, this bill, the Senate bill, does a lot of things which you mentioned, seals the border as much as we possibly can, increases the penalties for hiring illegal workers, gives people the chance to get a, a legal work permit, and then does something realistic, as McCain was talking about, he's the chief sponsor of the bill, to, on what to do with these 11 to 12 million, and it's not just giving them amnesty. It is require, they, they, they'd have to be here for six years, they'd have to learn English, they'd have to pay a $2,000 fine, they get to the end of the line behind all the legal applicants for, for entry, and so on.

I mean, it, it's earned, it's earned citizenship. And we, we are not going to have the spectacle of kicking out 12 million people, rounding them up, or even starving them out. I mean, that's a pretty ugly (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE), spectacle to anticipate having it. I think the, it would, it would, it would shame the United States of America to be doing that.

One more point, John, John Boehner and Denny Hastert in the House, the House Republican leaders, have said that they're, that they'll consider a work permit.

BARNES: Mort, I agree with you, I agree with John McCain, I agree with President Bush, I agreed with Denny Hastert, and I agree with John Boehner.

But the truth is, you haven't won the argument with the American people. There are really large majorities opposed to either a guest worker plan or earned citizenship. And I think there's only one thing that has to be done, or can be done, to change the minds of people, or at least ease their worries about these programs, and it can only be done by President Bush, who has the biggest megaphone in the world, to really stand forward in big speeches and go on television and, and explain this thing.

I, look, Mort, I give you credit. You urged this about three months ago that the president do this, and you were right then, and you're even more right now. It's time, it, it's just time for that to, to happen. You can't just ram this (INAUDIBLE) program of guest workers and earned citizenship down the throats of Americans when their overwhelmingly against it. So that needs to happen.

And then, for Bush, it would be a profile in courage. It would be going against a majority of Republicans. He's, he's been courageous before, and I think he needs to do it again.

KONDRACKE: Yes, well, I've seen actual polls that indicate that the public (INAUDIBLE) is at least open to the idea of, of earned legalization. But anyway, but, but, but you're right, I mean, Bush has got to sell it, he's especially got to sell it to the Republican Party. But this is a moment of truth for (INAUDIBLE) Republican Party. Does it want to be the progressive, optimistic party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, or does it want to be, you know, the crumped, crumped-up (INAUDIBLE) isolationist narrow party, Pat Buchanan, Tom Tancredo, the Minutemen, you know, Pete Wilson? I mean, that, that, that's the choice.

And Bush, to his credit, has been generous, he's doubled the support that the Republicans have, have garnered from Hispanic Americans, and, you know, the, the (INAUDIBLE) he's got to keep doing it. Here's Mel Martinez, senator from Florida, talking about the stakes involved. Watch.


U.S. SENATOR MEL MARTINEZ (R), FLORIDA: We as Republicans need to be careful about how we address this issue. I mean, I am not unmindful of the fact that this is emotional on all sides of the spectrum. However, I do believe that it is an issue that has galvanized the Hispanic Latino community in America like no other issue ever has.


BARNES: Yes, of course, he's right about that. There's a problem for Republicans. Hispanics in America are, are in favor of stepped-up border security. But it's these other things, the opposition to guest workers and the, and the, that sending the signal the, that we don't, sending a signal by denying the guest worker and earned citizenship to Hispanics here, the largest growing, fastest-growing voting bloc in the country, sending (INAUDIBLE) the signal that we don't want any more of your kind coming into the U.S.

And I'm afraid that's what the House bill and some of the language that's been used is sending to them, to Hispanics. You know, Democrats are also split over the guest worker program. Organized labor doesn't like it, because they say, and there's a, an, an argument for this, that it will lower wages for unskilled workers and take jobs away from Americans who are obviously already here.

Now, the press, so eager to trash Republicans and talk of splits among Republicans, you know, barely mentions this, although The Washington Post had a good story.

And House Democrats were unbelievably cynical, Mort, in voting to keep in the House bill this provision that makes being an illegal immigrant a felony, rather than reduce it to a (INAUDIBLE) a misdemeanor. They voted to keep it a felony, and now go around like Hillary Clinton, you know, going around outraged by this. It's ridiculous.

KONDRACKE: Yes, well, the Democrats are a lot less (INAUDIBLE) than the Republicans. And some unions are in (INAUDIBLE), are in favor of the bill, and in, in general, if you, if you give legal status to, to these workers with a work permit, you will raise the wages and, and the working conditions of, of those people, instead of lowering them.

But anyway, this, in, amidst the Republican Party, you've got, you've got a 2008 presidential test. You've got John McCain, who is on the Bush side, leading the Bush side, in fact. You've got Tancredo, who's a presidential candidate. The big question is, who is Bill Frist? Is Bill Frist a Tancredo guy or not? I mean, he certainly sounds like it. I, I can't believe it, but it could be true.

BARNES: It's not true.

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