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Special Report Roundtable - May 22

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

HUME: Some further thoughts on the issue of immigration reform now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio; and Juan Williams senior correspondent of National Public Radio. All are FOX NEWS contributors and one of them into in particular, Mr. Barnes, but considerable comment from our viewers with his remarks last night. Here's a few samples.

Carter and Bonnie Swart from Crescent City, California write: "Today we witnessed Fred Barnes's outright capitulation of the Democrats and the Mexican lobby."

Terri of Los Angeles writes: "We are not anti-immigrant, but anti- illegal immigrant."

And as for the whole panel, Rich Geiger of Pittsford, NY says, "According to tonight's panel, the only people against this bill are folks that want a mass deportation. That is bogus."

All right. All right, so...

BARNES: That charge is bogus. I don't think that's what we said. Look Brit, I love the attention. On the other hand, there is the -- look, I like the feedback and it shows this is a very serious and emotional issue, as it was for the opponents who opposed the Irish, the Italians, the eastern Europeans, the Asians, and now the Mexican immigrants. We've always has this, the large group of Americans who thought that we would come, they'd change American and the truth is, they don't. America is the greatest assimilation machine in the history of the world.

Immigrants come here, we change them, they become Americans, it continues. We should be flattered they're coming...

HUME: Well, what about this...

BARNES: And all we need is legislation to secure the border so they come legally rather than illegally.

HUME: Well, what some people resented was the implication of that they picked up from you that the people who are opposed to this measure are opposed to even legal immigration.

BARNES: I think a lot of them are. There's that huge strain in the - - in the movement that's opposed to immigration reform, people who want to shut off all legal immigration...

HUME: You conclude that there are people who favor legal immigration who do not think that there's sufficient border enforcement and that these provisions are too easy for people who've already come here illegally.

BARNES: I do, but I think -- I think the strand through most of the feeling is opposition to immigrants.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: And they're left-wing critics, too, who think this is too onerous, I mean who oppose the bill for reasons that it's too stiff.

But look, I do think that in terms of the question of deportation, I think the question is still legitimate -- if you do not like this solution for the 12 million people who are here illegally now, what would you prefer?

HUME: Well, one argument that you hear is if you have serious sanctions on employers for hiring illegals, that the jobs that draw them here will dry up and you won't have to deport them, they either won't come in the first place or if they're already here and can't find work, they'll go away -- Juan.

JUAN WILLIAMS, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think it's laughable. I mean, the American economy would suffer tremendously. I don't know who's going to cut all those lawns, I don't know who's going to do all this laundry, I don't know who's going to dig all those wells, and pick all that fruit, but if the American economy -- you know, one of the arguments coming from the left is this is going to depress wages.

There's a strong union front, you know, SCIU and others, saying no to this bill because of the guest worker program. And then you have employers who say the guest worker program it doesn't work either because the people have to go home after two years and that's not workable, it that going to invite more people to become illegal because they don't go home and they need to have some training.

So, to my mind, it would just -- it would hurt the American economy. And I think people aren't being a realistic in their assessment of that.

BARNES: I don't think they are, but Brit, look at it this way, we had a labor shortage in America, so what happens is, so many of these businessmen have to, if they're going to continue their businesses, have to hire illegal immigrants. So, is the solution to that, let's throw all these businessmen in jail? I don't think that's the right solution to it. And as Juan said, it would hurt the American economy. Let's secure the border, let's let plenty of immigrants in...

HUME: Look, it may not be a good idea, I'm not arguing that, I'm just saying that it is an alternative to deportation.

Yeah, well it is and it's -- but it's not a viable alternative. It's not a realistic alternative.

LIASSON: And it's a very, very long term...

HUME: And this thing is in the presidential campaign on the Republican side for sure now. you had -- Mitt Romney has taken a strong position, he's against the bill. John McCain, of course, is one of its ardent advocates. Where does that issue stand, your judgment?

LIASSON: Well, there was wonderful dust up...

HUME: You saw this zinger that went back and forth.

LIASSON: Zinger about he should maybe...

HUME: I think we may have that.

LIASSON: Do you have it? It's a wonderful...

HUME: Well, we should, we showed it earlier. Well, we'll show it later when we get into the politics of all this.

LIASSON: But look, this is an issue in the Republican campaign particularly.

HUME: Will it emerge as an issue in your view, in one of the Democrats?

LIASSON: No.

HUME: Why not?

LIASSON: I think there will be Democrats who want to improve it, and this way and that way,

HUME: Are any of the...

LIASSON: ...but no, I think the consensus on the democratic side...

HUME: Among the presidential candidates.

LIASSON: Among the presidential candidates is this is a good first step and it might need to be improved. But no one is out there saying this is amnesty.

HUME: Now, the first measure to -- that would have taken a big piece out of the bill was an effort today to remover the guest worker provision. That failed, but there's now going to be an effort to cut it in half. What about that? Cut the size of it from 4000,000 workers a year to 200,000. What about that? That pass?

WILLIAMS: Well, as a matter of compromise, I'm not sure because it doesn't make sense. I mean, they need the 400,000. They have reduced it in the negotiation from what they initially thought was closer to a million to this 400, so I don't know.

LIASSON: But, I think what's important here is business is a missing component of this coalition, right now. They want a bigger guest worker program and then maybe a different kind and you're not getting the support business community that you did last year.

BARNES: Look, what you need to do is have 400,000 workers, but if it's only 200,000, they'll have to settle for that, but not two years here and then go back. Look have it three years and then renew for three years, but sending these people back is not something that makes sense, business- wise.

HUME: Next up with the panel, the latest views on the '08 presidential races. We got a lot on that. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SEN JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the case of governor Romney, you know, maybe I should wait a couple of weeks and see if it changes because it's changed in less than a year from his position before, and maybe his solution will be to get out his small varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I have respect for Senator McCain and I guess that just shows that even when he's wrong, he's amusing. And I think I'm best of to describe my own positions. And my positions, I think I've just described for you, secure the border, employment verification, and no special pathway to citizenship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: Well, OK, Governor Romney we agree you responded in good humor to McCain's amusing zinger, but the question is what about those positions and are they the positions you've always had on immigration? What about it -- Mara.

LIASSON: Well, first of all, it's not the position he's always had, he's definitely changed. But also, there's an important word in that paragraph you just played, "special" pathway because he goes on to say there should be a pathway. He just doesn't like this particular one.

Rudy Giuliani also, who is against this bill now has found some reason to be against it, which it doesn't do enough for security, but he's also for a pathway to citizenship. So, I think both these candidates, Romney and Giuliani, who have an essentially liberal position on immigration, are now seeing what's happening in the Republican primary. John McCain is hopelessly out on a limb on this, politically at least. I think he certainly has been the only consistent one of the bunch -- and they're going to go in the opposite direction.

WILLIAMS: And Fred Thompson sitting on the outside has already said he is opposed to the bill, scrap it. Says that border security is paramount and until you can prove that the borders are secure, you shouldn't be talking about...

LIASSON: Well, that's what this bill does.

WILLIAMS: But of course that's exactly what the bill does. It says you can't do it until you put these protections, build fences, additional security, and additional border security agents in place. It's curious but obviously then it comes down to what you said, it's all about politics.

HUME: Well Fred?

BARNES: Well, they're running for president and political primaries and caucuses, so it is, and they want to let it -- the voters know, particularly when they think these -- all these conservative Republicans are opposed to immigration reform that they are sympathetic to them.

HUME: Well, it's worth noting probably, and we talked about this briefly last night, that in the latest poll from Iowa, this from the Des Moines Register, a very reputable paper out there, Governor Romney has pulled ahead, and I don't mean a little bit ahead, he's pulled pretty well ahead out in the state of Iowa. And he now assistants at what -- 30 in the polling out there, to McCain's 18 percent, Giuliani 17 percent and he's also doing well in New Hampshire, which of course, is a neighbor to his home state of Massachusetts. So...

BARNES: Brit, can I tell you why we should take that Iowa poll with a grain of salt? I did a minimal amount of research today. And I went back and looked at the Iowa poll and among the Democratic candidates in November of 2003, before the 2004 caucuses in January, John Kerry was at 15 percent where he'd been much of the year. Now, a month later -- rather, two months later, he wound up at 38 percent winning easily there.

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: Go ahead.

LIASSON: You know, we talked about this yesterday whether it was a blip or not. I think the notion that anyone is at 30 in Iowa right now is probably wrong. However, when you look at the Real Clear Politics average, which we have also...

HUME: Which is an average of what?

LIASSON: Oh, of everything, but not the Des Moines Register poll, it's not in there in this case, but it's an average of all the recent Iowa polls.

HUME: OK, we've got that somewhere.

LIASSON: Yeah, you've got them all that bunched together. Now, I would say, what is fair to say is Romney has probably climbed out of the single digits and they're all bunched together, Giuliani at 17...

HUME: There it is. Yeah, there it is.

LIASSON: McCain at 20 and Romney at 19.

HUME: Romney is now up to 20, that's way better than he's doing...

LIASSON: Yeah way better. I think it's clear that he's done better, but to say that he's way ahead of the pack is probably not true.

HUME: OK. OK. Let's take a very brief look at how the Democrats stack up in Iowa and a man who's undergone some considerable recent embarrassments, John Edwards about his hair and hedge fund money and speaking -- collecting $55,000 for talking about poverty and so on. He's ahead now in Iowa, which is, you know, the first place. That's no small matter, it's a narrow margin, but nonetheless, he's ahead. What do we make of that?

WILLIAMS: It's the unions. That's the key to his support nationally. It's the key to his fortune and what he's done there, I think it's like more than a third of voters in Iowa will be coming from union families and he has made a tremendous amount of inroads in the union vote out there and spent a lot of time out there.

HUME: Well, there is much more to be said about that and we will have other programs and we will take up this whole question of where the Democratic field stands in one of the shows coming up.

For more visit the FOX News Special Report web page.

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