|PART V: IMMIGRATION|
September 4, 2003
In the final part of the debate, the candidates outlined their policies towards immigration and discussed the idea for amnesty for illegal workers in the U.S.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: We're nearing the end of the debate so let's try
to be brief with our answers. We're going on to the next subject.
Senator Kerry, would you support legalizing undocumented immigrants in this country?
JOHN KERRY: Absolutely. I supported--let me say I'm not afraid to say it, I supported and was prepared to vote for amnesty from 1986. And unfortunately, the events of 9/11 obviously changed the capacity to do that.
I believe we have to change it. It's a matter of human rights, a matter of civil rights, a matter of fairness to Americans. And it is essential to have immigration reform.
I want to say immediately that anyone who has been in this country
for five or six years, who's paid their taxes, who has stayed out of
trouble ought to be able to translate into an American citizen immediately,
not waiting. In addition to that, we have about 37,000 people served
in the armed forces of the United States who are legal residents. They
should automatically become American citizens for having served their
country in that way.
We have to recognize that there are enormous challenges to fairness in this country. It still costs Latinos too much just to cash a check, to buy a home. There is rank discrimination and we need to apply the laws. And I am going to do that from everything including remittances so people aren't charged exorbitantly when they send money to their families abroad.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you. We need to go on. Congressman Gephardt, we know you introduced legislation in Congress for legalizing undocumented workers. Now, there are many voters in the U.S. who feel that legalizing undocumented workers would be giving them some type of an award for having broken the law. Do you fear that your proposal would alienate those voters? And if so, are you willing to take that risk?
RICHARD GEPHARDT: I put the bill in. I wrote the bill with my friends in the Hispanic Caucus in the House. I am proud of that bill. I stand behind it fully. It's the right thing to do for this country.
We're all immigrants unless we're Native Americans, and we need to
recognize the hard work...
But let me go back to health care for a minute, I didn't get a chance on it. Let me just say this...
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: A few seconds.
RICHARD GEPHARDT: Two seconds. This issue is a moral issue. There are over 400,000 New Mexicans who do not have health insurance. Thousands of others have anxiety every day they're going to lose their health insurance. I think the right thing to do is to get rid of the Bush tax cuts because my plan will put more money in the pockets of the average family than the Bush tax cuts.
Finally, why would we not want to go back to the Clinton tax plan?
Why would we want to keep anything of the Bush tax plan? It's a miserable
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you. Let's go on to Senator Graham. Senator Graham, in your state, there are many, many immigrants. Of course, we have the Cuban-American immigrants who have a completely different situation. But for those that come from other countries, would you support legalizing them?
BOB GRAHAM: This has to be put in the larger context of our relations with Latin America. This president came to office claiming that he would build a new era of relationships within the hemisphere. He has. Unfortunately, he didn't tell us that they would all be policies of benign neglect and indifference.
In Mexico, President Fox has been rendered a political lame duck halfway through his terms, largely because George W. Bush did not fulfill the commitments that he made.
In a country, in a commonwealth in which we have had a long historic relationship, Puerto Rico, they have 50 percent higher unemployment, 50 percent higher children without health coverage. And we have not yet solved what kind of relationship that country wishes to have with the United States.
I believe that we should have a policy of earned amnesty for those people who came into the United States undocumented. And that would provide that if they, after receiving a work permit, then met the standards of that permit, after a period of time they would be eligible to get a permanent residence status in the United States.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you. Congressman Kucinich, is it realistic to think that, in the environment after 9/11, that we could have a legalization program to legalize undocumented immigrants in this country? Is it realistic? Could it possibly happen in Congress?
DENNIS KUCINICH: One of the tragedies of 9/11 is that we've forgotten who we are as a nation. In the fear that's covered this country, we've forgotten about the optimism and hope that led so many people to sail under that light of Lady Liberty. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. America must remember where we came from as a nation. And in doing that, we need to extend our arms once again to the world community and bring those, the tempest-tossed, to the United States.
Yes, I'm for amnesty. Yes, I'm for legalization of status. Yes, I'm for broadening citizenship possibilities. Yes, I'm for enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act and making sure that those workers who come from Mexico have all of the protections of federal law and including universal health care.
Yes, I'm for repealing NAFTA, because there are so many reasons why people left Mexico because of NAFTA. Yes, I am for lifting up the cause of human rights.
(Speaking in Spanish)
RAY SUAREZ: Governor Dean, many of the functions of the old Immigration and Naturalization Service are now included under the new Department of Homeland Security. How do you balance the needs of the United States to both protect itself, during a time of high overseas threat, and process people who want to be immigrants to this country during an era of very high immigration?
HOWARD DEAN: Let me make two observations. First of all, I think it's
important not to use profiling. Profiling doesn't work. There's been
a lot of studies about it. It doesn't work in Hispanic communities.
It doesn't work in African-American communities. And it doesn't work
against the Arab-Americans either.
So the problem here is that immigration is a hot topic because people,
like the president, use code words like "quotas" to try to
frighten people into thinking they're going to lose their jobs to somebody
who is a member of the minority community. And for that reason alone,
the president ought to go back to Crawford, Texas, with a one-way bus
RAY SUAREZ: Senator Edwards, there are communities in North Carolina that probably never imagined in 100 years that they'd have to hire an English-as-a-second-language teacher or have bilingual classes. So your state is being marked by this new immigration too. How do we both protect the country and make it possible for people who want to come here to come?
JOHN EDWARDS: Well, let me say a word about my personal experience with this issue. I grew up in a family where my father worked in a mill all of his life. And when I was young, we moved to a small town in rural North Carolina, which is where I grew up. That town is now half Hispanic.
My family moved to that town because my father, who has a high school
education and is still living, believed that by working hard and doing
the right thing that his kids would have the opportunity for a better
life. These Hispanic families? They came to Robbins, North Carolina,
for exactly the same reason.
RAY SUAREZ: Maria Elena?
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: (Speaking in Spanish) About 39 states have already discussed or debated giving undocumented immigrants access to driver's licenses. The California legislature just approved it and Governor Davis is about to sign it. How do you stand on that?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: Let me say, the amnesty--I would agree with legalization. But the real issue is our relations with the rest of this hemisphere. And this administration has missed the boat altogether. They have turned their backs. We should be reaching out to the rest of this hemisphere. We should be welcoming people to this country. And instead of pandering to fear, as the Ashcroft and--the Bush-Ashcroft administration has done, they have pandered to fear since 9/11 and they use that as an excuse really to shut down opportunities for people to share in the American dream who want to, hardworking people who are willing to contribute--who are contributing to this country.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Well, what about for those who live here now?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: That's correct. Well, those who live ought to have their status--ought to be able to get driver's license, ought to be able to participate as citizens participate. We need to be normalize our relations with documented, as well as undocumented people who are here in the United States. And I think that really moving away from the kind of--again, the fear that has characterized this administration's approach to these issues is the first step that we have to take.
Instead of doing that, can't we begin to reconcile our relations with
others, to work well with others at the international community to begin
to restore the kind of hope and optimism that has always characterized
this country? Because I believe--if I can finish this--I believe the
real issue here is our generation's responsibility to make sure that
we leave no less for the next generation than we inherited from the
last one. And working together is the only way we're going to be able
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you. Let's go to Senator Lieberman. And I want to ask you, Senator Lieberman, how do you separate the good guys from the bad guys? How do you separate the immigrants that come to this country with a legitimate interest in working and contributing and those potential terrorists that are here?
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Let me begin by saying this. Immigration for me is
not just another issue. It's me, it's my family, it's my familia. My
grandparents came here as immigrants seeking opportunity.
It pains me, it outrages me that every year hundreds of Mexicans coming
to America for exactly the same reason that my grandparents did die
in the desert because of our current immigration policy. That is no
This can't go on any longer. I've lived the American dream. I know
what new Americans contribute to this country. I know the commitment
to faith, familia i patria, faith, family and country, that new Americans
have. George Bush has been terrible on this. He has used 9/11 as an
excuse for not doing what he promised to do in reforming immigration
laws. He has let down our neighbors to the south in Mexico and so much
of the rest of the world. I have offered the most comprehensive, aggressive
immigration reform plan. Yes, earned legalization. Yes, temporary worker
visas for workers from other countries. Yes, let's lift the cap on people
coming here for family reunification or to seek refuge. And let's put
some due process in our immigration laws, so the Justice Department
under John Ashcroft can't again do what they did after 9/11, which is
to arrest almost 800 undocumented immigrants, put them in jail without
charges, without counsel, with notice to their families. That's not
America at its best. And as president, I'll stop it.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: I think we have just 30 seconds, if you can please answer, what do you say to Americans about the contributions of Hispanics to this country?
RICHARD GEPHARDT: This country is a melting pot. It's a fabric. I often quote Martin Luther King, and I say that we're all tied together. I say we are one people. Hispanic population in this country has defended us. Many, many Hispanic citizens have died in our military without even being citizens of the United States. They've won the Congressional Medal of Honor. They work hard. Their families make an enormous contribution to this country. And as I said a moment ago, we're all immigrants unless we're Native Americans. And I'll say it again: We're all tied together. That's my philosophy that I'll bring to the presidency.
Martin Luther King said, "I can't be what I ought to be until you can be what you ought to be." That's what I really believe. And when I'm president, we'll have policies that'll make that come true.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you, Congressman. Ray?
RAY SUAREZ: Thanks to our candidates tonight.