May 9, 2011

Reps. Bilbray and Gutierrez Debate Immigration Reform

By John King, USA

KING: In El Paso, Texas, along the border, the president of the United States will deliver a speech tomorrow, calling on Congress finally, in his view, pass comprehensive immigration reform. This is an issue George Bush has failed. President Obama has yet to submit a comprehensive proposal to the Congress.

Many are saying this is not a policy discussion. This is about 2012 and the president's hope of getting more Latino votes.

Let's look at some of this as you look this down. It is an explosion in terms of the population. In 1980, just shy of 15 million Latinos in the United States. You look at the growth up here. 2010, more than 50 million Latinos -- obviously, an important part of the population and part of the voting populous as well.

Now, where are they in America when it comes to voting? Watch this as we pull across. Darker the state, the higher the Latino population. Texas and Arizona, for example, more than 25 percent. The darker the state the higher the population. Your state might be there. You might know if it's a presidential battleground or not.

One more quick thing to look at. That is Latino turnout. The top and the bottom line, midterm elections -- 2006, about 77 million white Americans dropped to 74 million in 2010. The white population in midterm elections is declining. Latino, 5.6 million, increased by a million from 2006 to 2010.

The green is presidential politics. We expect the presidential number to cross more than 10 million Latinos in 2012.

Now, the president can't do anything policy-wise on comprehensive immigration reform without support in Congress, where the issue has been, well, a political quick sand.

Let's look for some solid and, if possible, common ground with California Republican Congressman Bryan Bilbray and Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez.

Congressman Gutierrez, let me start with you. As a Democrat who has criticized this president from your home state, saying, "Mr. President, do more" -- has he assured you what he will outline in El Paso tomorrow is what you want?

REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: It's my expectation that tomorrow, he will reiterate his policy of enforcement and border security. He will call again upon the Republican Party to come and make a serious effort to solve our broken immigration system. And at the same time, tell us how it is he's going to use the administrative powers that he has, the discretionary powers that he has, to help certain groups of immigrants, American citizen families that are integrated into immigrant community and how we can use those powers to alleviate our broken immigration system.

KING: Congressman Bilbray, and let's start in the last part there. If the president starts to use his executive authority to help people who are being sent home with family members here, do you have a problem with that?

REP. BRIAN BILBRAY (R), CALIFORNIA: No, we have a problem with anybody that wants to announce that we're going to reward people for being illegally in this country. And we want to get off of this amnesty kick and get over to where we really got common ground, and that's issues like the president has expanding E-verify. He should make it mandatory for businesses to E-verify if they want a business deduction. That's common ground we can all agree on, is that we should eliminate the tax deduction for employers who hire illegals.

That's the one place we can gain some credibility with the American people. I think that's a one place Washington misses the bet and the president is going to lose this opportunity if he doesn't understand that creating a feeling of credibility actually proven to the American people we can be trusted is the first step that we have to do before we start asking them to trust us to do a whole lot of other issues, especially when you are talking about creating special status and protection for those who are illegally in the country.

KING: Let me start -- let me stay with Congressman Bilbray for a minute, Congressman Gutierrez. Patience please.

In the sense that I understand your point, Congressman Bilbray, and you've been consistent on those points. There are some Republicans, Senator McCain, for example, who say I will talk to you about, you know, granting legal status for those who are here illegally, Mr. President, but only after you prove yourself on border security.

I want you to ask you, Congressman Bilbray, to grade the president -- because many in the administration ask what more do they have to do? They have -- the number of border patrol today has more than doubled the size it was in 2004. They've doubled the personnel assigned to Border Enforcement Security Task Forces, a quarter of ICE personnel are now in the region. That's the most ever. Congressman Gutierrez has been highly critical of this Democratic president for the rate of deportations and kicking people out of the United States.

Has the president improved border security since he took office?

BILBRAY: No, because the border -- look, I've grown up on the border. I rescued illegals when they were drowning, recovered their bodies. I've seen them slaughtered on our highways. The president has got to understand the border is a symptom of the problem. Not until he requires every employer to E-verify, to make sure no American is encouraging illegal immigration by hiring illegals. Not until the government --


KING: I get your point. I get your point there. But on the numbers, one the numbers -- on the numbers in the enforcement, the security, the police preference, the National Guard, is he doing a better job than George W. Bush?

BILBRAY: No. I think he is continuing the job that George Bush did, and that is let's play the game at the border, but let's not talk about the real source of the problem, and that's illegal employers. If we all, Democrats and Republicans, focused on the source, the illegal employers, that's the one place we should be able to all agree on that we shouldn't allow anybody to make a buck and be able to exploit the illegals by hiring them. And once we eliminate that, we won't have to be sending our resources to the border, because there won't be people wanting to come here illegally because there will be no jobs for 'em here when we get here.

So, let's focus on the employers. If Democrats and Republicans can't do that, we don't have the right to ask the American people to trust us with any other program.

KING: Congressman Gutierrez, I want to give you a chance to come in. And as you do, sir, when you listen to that, when you listen to that, do you see any possibility the Republicans will control the House at least through the 2012 presidential election -- is there any chance that a bill that meets the other things the president wants to do, the things you want to do, any chance of it coming to the floor of the House between now and that presidential election in 2012. And if the answer is no, why go through this at all?

GUTIERREZ: Well, sadly, I believe that there really isn't an opportunity legislatively to bring relief and to fix our broken immigration system. We just heard Mr. Bilbray who very eloquently and passionately says this is what we've got to work on and this and this alone. They never look at it from a comprehensive point of view where we can fix all the different elements that really impact our immigration system.

KING: Congressman Gutierrez, how about -- you say they won't take comprehensive. President Bush went through this when we had a Republican president, he couldn't get the Congress to take comprehensive. What's wrong with incremental immigration reform where -- let me play devil's advocate again. Let's say, you know, Congressman Gutierrez, the president said, here, here's your E-verify expansion. Now, you need to give me credit for what I've done at the border. Now I want you to support me on this deportation, I want you to support me at the DREAM Act.

Why not go one step at a time? GUTIERREZ: John, I'm going to tell you why. Because it doesn't work, because there's never balance. John, you know as well as I do, that just last September, we approved $600 million more for the border. We sent 1,200 additional National Guardsmen.

We do have E-verify. For every corporation that has a federal contract. And that's not an edict of the Congress, that was done because the president wished it so. We're sending no match letters to millions of employers saying the Social security doesn't match the name.

We are doing a lot. We have secure communities. I just want you to understand -- the fingerprints of everyone arrested was in 12 different municipalities when George Bush left. It's over 1,100.

This president has done a lot in terms of enforcement, enforcement, enforcement. And what do we get from the other side? Absolutely nothing, because they want to use the issue to exploit it politically.

KING: Congressman Bilbray, if the president were to say to you, OK, I don't want to do, this, but I'm going to give you an expanded E- verify, but you've got to give me something. To Congressman Gutierrez's point, where are you willing to compromise if the president compromises?

BILBRAY: I would be willing to sit down and talk to him. But where we go the next stage? You got to remember, though, we have already -- the American people have already seen an amnesty before and a promise of enforcement. We have to show --


GUTIERREZ: But that's not what we're talking about. I am ready, John, to sit down with my friend from San Diego and sit down and tell him you can have your E-verify for everyone. How do we -- do we get you at the table so that we can move forward? I think not.

The problem here is

BILBRAY: John --

GUTIERREZ: The problem here is they want enforcement. And, John, we give them plenty.


BILBRAY: You don't want enforcement in the employers.

GUTIERREZ: I listed six different enforcement measures that we take, and they will not sit down at the table, even for DREAM kids, young men and women who are right here at this country at a young age. We can't get them to do that and we're deporting 400,000 people a year.

(CROSSTALK) KING: Let me let Congressman Bilbray respond.

BILBRAY: The American people have heard these -- the American people have heard these promises before. That if you allow us to do this for this population, we promise to get tough on the real problem, the employers. We promise we'll get around to it.

No. The American people know better than that. They say we want to see you do the heavy lifting.

GUTIERREZ: Then let's do it.

BILBRAY: Crack down on the employers.

GUTIERREZ: Let's do it.

BILBRAY: And that's what I'm saying to you. Let's do it.

GUTIERREZ: Then let's do it. I'm ready to do it.


BILBRAY: After that we can sit and talk about that.

GUTIERREZ: But tell me what you're ready to do.


BILBRAY: Requiring that every business that wants to deduct --

GUTIERREZ: It doesn't solve the problem and you know it.

KING: We're obviously not going to solve the problem tonight. The president is reviving this debate. And as you can all se right here, it's a feisty debate.

Gentlemen, we'll have you back. We'll continue the conversation in the weeks ahead to see if we can, get some speeches to policy conversation.

GUTIERREZ: Thank you so much.

KING: Congressman Gutierrez and Congressman Bilbray, thank you so much, gentlemen.

BILBRAY: Thank you, John. ... 09806.html