KWAME HOLMAN: Fueled by fears of criminals, even terrorists, slipping across U.S. borders, many Americans have become increasingly uneasy about the influx of illegal immigrants into this country.
MAN: I'm quite disappointed in our government's ability to secure this nation.
KWAME HOLMAN: According to a recent CBS News poll more than three-quarters of the public believe the government is not doing enough to secure the 2000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border. It's estimated that one million undocumented people enter the U.S. from Mexico each year, and they make up the bulk of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.
In response, frustrated residents in Arizona and New Mexico have formed armed teams called "Minutemen," to patrol the border. The governors of both states declared emergencies last summer, freeing up millions of federal dollars to enhance security along the border.
Improved border enforcement was a central theme of President Bush's speech in Tucson, Ariz. today.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We want to make it clear that when people violate immigration laws, they're going to be sent home, and they need to stay at home.
KWAME HOLMAN: The president also discussed his guest worker plan, which would provide undocumented immigrants with three-year work visas; they could extend that for an additional three years, but then would have to return to their home countries for a year to apply for a new work permit.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: People in this debate must recognize that we will not be able to effectively enforce our immigration laws until we create a temporary worker program.
KWAME HOLMAN: That plan met resistance in Congress, where several competing bills have been introduced. In the Senate, Republicans Jon Kyl of Arizona and John Cornyn of Texas would require illegal immigrants first to return to their home countries before applying for a temporary worker program.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN: We don't foreclose or restrict their path to permanent citizenship or residency. All we ask is that they achieve those rights in the same way as all other immigrants.
KWAME HOLMAN: An alternative proposal from Arizona Republican John McCain and Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy would provide illegal immigrants with visas for up to six years, then they would be required either to apply for residency status or leave the country.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY: Our plan offers a realistic alternative, not an amnesty. There's no free pass, no automatic pardon, no trip to the front of the line. But we do provide a sensible plan that will persuade people to come forward, to receive work permits and earn legal status.
KWAME HOLMAN: Today, the president stressed the importance of finding agreement.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We have a chance to move beyond the old and tired choices of the immigration debate and come together on a strategy to enforce our laws, secure our country, and uphold our deepest values.
KWAME HOLMAN: The president will continue his focus on immigration with another speech tomorrow in El Paso, Texas.
GWEN IFILL: Margaret Warner takes it from there.
MARGARET WARNER: And for more on this debate, we turn to Mark Kirkorian, executive director at the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates tighter controls against illegal immigration. Mark Reed, a former regional director at the Immigration and Naturalization Service, running border enforcement in the southwest. He's now president of Border Management Strategies in Tucson. Randy Johnson, vice president for labor and immigration issues at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, an advocacy group for Hispanics in the United States. Welcome to you all.
The president's major focus today was really the banner said it all: Protecting America's borders. Mark Reed, let me start with you. Based on your on-the-ground experience there, how porous is this 2,000-mile long border with Mexico and why?
MARK REED: Well, you hit it right on the starting point. The borders are absolutely porous. The number of people that can cross that border every day is astronomical. The numbers are overwhelming. And in that clutter and in that cover, you can smuggle anything into the United States. Besides workers, you've got criminals; you've got weapons; you've got anything in the world to possibly include epidemics. It cannot be stopped until people get some sort of basic ability to see that border and then start developing some strategies around knowing what's crossing.
MARGARET WARNER: But the president said today, you know, he's been adding tougher measures. They've been building fences. They've been adding border patrol guards. He touted the numbers that have been arrested crossing illegally since he took office. Has none of that made a dent?
MARK REED: Well, the numbers are what are so difficult. They're so far behind in terms of the numbers that even when he comes up with large numbers, those numbers don't match up. Now part of that, though, he does have right. It's not just a matter of getting more border patrol agents down there. It's a matter of getting that infrastructure in place and it's a matter of getting technology in place.
I believe that the border patrol could be much, much more effective if they could see what's crossing the border, evaluate that threat and respond to it. This is not all -- it's not all numbers of personnel. And this is just one piece of it though. There's got to be parallel planning, which the president addressed, working behind the scenes to support what goes on down at that border.
If you cannot reduce the number of workers that cross between the ports of entry, they cannot win this battle.
MARGARET WARNER: So Mark Kirkorian, what did you think of some of the measures he outlined today? And we didn't have them in the setup, but I mean, as I said, more fences, more agents, high-tech surveillance, overhead surveillance -- are these the kinds of measures that at least if we're talking about the border would make it more difficult for illegals to enter?
MARK KIRKORIAN: The specific measures weren't really the problem. Excuse me. They were probably useful. They are useful steps but they are baby steps. I mean, the analogy -- to sort of put it simplistically -- is if you want to lose weight and you say I'm not going to eat any more Twinkies, that's a good thing and that's an important thing, and you have to eat fewer Twinkies, but there's a whole lot more to it.
And the president is focusing on the easier issues rather than really tackling the broader problem, which is enforcement of the immigration laws inside the country, which he paid lip service to but really didn't back up in any substantive way.
MARGARET WARNER: And you're talking about with employers.
MARK KIRKORIAN: Right. In other words, making sure that employers only hire legal immigrants, as well as American citizens. And he did in fact talk about the basic pilot program. It's an on-line program that helps employers do that.
And my own center is enrolled in it. But it's voluntary. And the president made no indication that they were going to roll that out to employers around the country.
And until everybody participates as part of the normal hiring process, those employers that are participating are at a disadvantage because the crooked employers aren't part of the program.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Randy Johnson you represent a lot of these employers.
RANDY JOHNSON: Not those employers.
MARGARET WARNER: Not the ones that don't participate. But what did you think of the president's overall approach here at least on the security side?
RANDY JOHNSON: Well, let me just add. I spent two years on a border task force and spent time with the border patrols at night and in the daytime. And it's no question these guys needed more resources, and the president is trying to step up to the plate and give them that.
I think the administration has been doing that over the last two years and hasn't talked about it much. So the president wanted to talk about it, tell the American public what he's doing and then add to that. He went through that. And part of that is additional interior enforcement, which we recognize.
So I think it was a good speech and a good -- more than a good first step.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think though that the kind of measures he announced -- and then there were others, for instance, instead of what he called catch-and-release when non-Mexicans come across the border that instead they'd put in more beds so you could really detain them and then deport them.
From your experience, or those of your members, do you think that will deter the flow of would-be illegal immigrants?
RANDY JOHNSON: I think to some degree it will. On the other hand, let's face it: As long as there are jobs in America that aren't being filled by domestic American workers, that is kind of a magnet.
But what the president is trying to do is create legal channels for increased immigration so those immigrants, to fill these jobs when Americans aren't available can be channeled through legal processes through the ports of entry, screened, fingerprinted, find out who they are and then we know who they are and then they can return at the end of their period of time. So it's channeling some of that demand into a legalized screening process.
MARGARET WARNER: And, therefore, be able to isolate the people who aren't here legitimately to work.
RANDY JOHNSON: We call it shrinking the haystack to actually focus on the bad guys.
MARGARET WARNER: Janet Margia, what's your view on whether all these measures announced today would deter would-be illegal immigrants? Another one, for instance, the president announced and he said they started it on a pilot basis is instead of just the Mexicans who come across illegally just taking them to the other side of the border they bust them all the way back down to maybe deep in the interior of the country where they come from, and he asserted that in the pilot program they had that it worked. Do you think this will deter the number who want to come here?
JANET MURGUIA: It's not clear and certainly it's not enough. What we have seen is that it's obvious that we have to have enforcement as part of the solution when it comes to overhauling our immigration system. That's critical.
And we have been great proponents of making sure, for instance, something he mentioned today was cracking down on smugglers and human traffickers. That's very important. And we want to see stricter and stronger enforcement mechanisms across the board and recognize that's part of the answer.
The problem is that it's not the only part of the answer. There needs to be a broader part of the solution for us to have comprehensive immigration reform that will be effective. I think it's just all too politically expedient to talk about enforcement and enforcement alone when the reality is that we've seen that in the past ten to fifteen years we've invested in enforcement.
Ever since the last immigration reform passed in Congress in '86 we've invested consistently millions and millions of dollars in enforcement. The problem is that when enforcement alone is attempted to be portrayed as the answer that's the problem. We need to have more comprehensive efforts that would open that pathway for comprehensive reform.
MARGARET WARNER: I want to move around maybe a little more quickly this time. I'll start with you, Mark Reed. What about the guest worker, temporary worker idea. The president said essentially we cannot enforce-- I'm looking for the direct quote-- but "we cannot enforce against illegal immigration if we don't have a channel for legal immigration." That is a guest worker program. Is he right about that?
MARK REED: He's absolutely right about it. One thing that happens in these dialogues and one of the reasons why this may never happen is that we tend to start focusing on employers as being the problem and on Mexico as being the problem and on these workers as being the problem.
The problem is we have not invested in enforcement -- we have invested in enforcement. We have not invested in results. We don't really expect anybody to behave any differently than they are right now.
If we don't move forward on this and if we don't get really serious about working actually implementing what the president talked about this afternoon, instead of the smugglers packing up and running, they're going to be raising their prices and be much more better off tomorrow than they are today, just like it was 20 years ago when we had this same dialogue except --which we would not talk about amnesty and we had to talk about strong enforcement and employers accepting their responsibilities and obligations. Then we only had three million people in the United States unlawfully.
Look at where we are today. We have got to start moving and backing up the talk with some actions. And this is something that people like to talk to death and sometimes I'm disappointed in myself for engaging in this because I become part of it.
MARGARET WARNER: We're glad you participated this evening. Let me ask Mark Kirkorian. One, your comment on what he just said -- I think what Mark Reed was saying is often this is kind of a failure of follow-through but secondly what's your view of the guest worker, temporary worker idea? Do you think that's a realistic and important element?
MARK KIRKORIAN: I'm probably going to be the lone dissenter here. The fact is no temporary worker program in human history has ever worked. There's nothing as permanent as a temporary worker.
And the reason we have the immigration -- illegal immigration problem we have today is precisely because of the last guest worker program, the Bracero Program from Mexico that ran for 20 years and set in motion the networks that to this day dominate illegal immigration into the United States.
The only way you can run a guest worker program that will actually assure that people return is to regiment them, have people live in barracks, march them to work. We're not going to do that in America. We shouldn't do that in America; that's not the way immigration works here.
MARGARET WARNER: What would you do with the 11 million illegals who are here now if you don't essentially regularize them in some way?
MARK KIRKORIAN: The way this is presented is either we deport them all tomorrow, or we legalize them, whether we call it amnesty or not that's what it amounts to.
In fact, there's a third way. We start enforcing the law across the board, which we've never done before and we bring about an annual decrease through attrition of the illegal population. And then we decide after a period of years what do we do with the remainder that are left.
MARGARET WARNER: Janet Murguia.
JANET MURGUIA: Attrition is not a practical solution to what we're talking about. I don't think we've had -- I mean we've had different approaches with guest worker programs but they've all been flawed.
I think we should try to go for a hybrid of immigration reform that talks about enforcement, that creates some sort of a guest worker program but ultimately I think we need to be practical about this and we need to create some pathway for citizenship for some of these workers who have been making important contributions and sustaining this economy.
I think it's consistent with this country's -- nation's values and principles and our heritage to recognize that we can acknowledge those contributions and allow for some opportunities for them to ultimately be part of this society.
MARGARET WARNER: How far do you and do employers think a guest worker program has to go? Does it have to offer a path all the way to citizenship?
RANDY JOHNSON: Well, there's two parts. One of course is the undocumented who are already here. We do believe, many in the employer community, believe that there should be a system by which these undocumented can come forward, be screened, fingerprinted, et cetera, find out if they have a criminal record and be put into say a six- or seven-year program to show their economic value to the work force.
MARGARET WARNER: And that's what the president is suggesting.
RANDY JOHNSON: Well, his is a little different. His says that after six years you would go back to your country of origin. And that's what the dilemma and the debate in Congress will be.
With regard to temporary worker programs we can learn from our mistakes in the past, which Mark's brought up, and we can make a tight temporary worker program but it has to have an appreciable amount of - appreciable ceiling and numbers to answer the demand in America.
MARGARET WARNER: And, very briefly, do you think that workers who are here already illegally would be willing to sign up for a program like the president's if they knew that it went in six years they'd have to go back to their home country?
JANET MURGUIA: No, that's why I think it's impractical. Many of these workers have been here for several years. They have family members who are here. And I think it's just impractical to suggest that.
And I'll get to a point that Randy just mentioned. What the president has proposed is really at odds with the House Republican leadership because he has put -- and I give the president a lot of credit-- a more comprehensive approach down.
But the House leadership, the Republican leadership has only put forward enforcement only approaches. They are not practical; they're not going to work. We want to put something out there that will work and be practical and effective.
MARGARET WARNER: Obviously a debate that as Mr. Reed pointed out is going to still be with us for quite a while. Thank you all four very much.