Should Some Illegal Aliens Be Granted Permanent Residence?

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, June 23, 2003  that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order a transcript of the entire show.

OLIVER NORTH, GUEST HOST: A Democratic congressman has proposed a plan to grant permanent residence to illegal aliens (search) who have been in the country for more than five years. But should we be rewarding people who knowingly break our federal laws by crossing our borders illegally?

Joining us now from Washington, Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez.

Congressman, first of all, thank you for taking time to join us.

REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ, D-ILL.: Thank you, Colonel.

NORTH: Congressman, let me just confirm that this is not some kind of affirmative action program for people who have broken the federal laws. This is not just a blanket amnesty, or is it?

GUTIERREZ: Well, here's the premise. If you're working and you've been here five years and you're paying your taxes and you haven't violated any of the laws of this nation, we think we should integrate you fully into our American work force and into our society.

NORTH: Go ahead. I just want to make sure...

GUTIERREZ: I say that because, Colonel North, in the absence of a requisite political will, and the resources to deport between seven and 10 million undocumented people who work each day at some of the worst jobs in our nation, then we should organize and we should tax them and we should regulate their stay in this country.

Now if somebody comes forward and says, "You know Luis, I have the political will, here are the resources, we're going to deport them," then I say that's an option. But in the absence of that shouldn't we integrate them into our society?

NORTH: So this would apply to someone who an illegal, maybe got here by visa fraud from Iran, Libya, Yemen.

GUTIERREZ: No, no, no.

NORTH: Wait a second. They've been in this country for more than five years and have not broken any laws that we know of and therefore they're working at some other job, maybe a flight school, learning how to fly a big airplane or something like that.

GUTIERREZ: I understand that our immigration laws, they're probably in violation of.

When I say hard working, tax paying, law-abiding, I mean, they're not burglars, they're not drug dealers, they're not rapists, they're not murderers. People who violate the laws of our land, our criminal statutes, not immigration statutes, should be deported.

NORTH: But the 19 people who came here and blew up airlines on 9-11 hadn't broken any other laws other than, apparently, the visa laws of this nation.

GUTIERREZ: And let me just suggest to you, Colonel North, that we should distinguish between foreign nationals who come here to destroy our nation, and immigrants.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: And we also should enforce the laws which we have which would have prevented, perhaps, some of those visa violations.

Congressman, it's Alan. Look, Ronald Reagan did this. He had some kind of amnesty program in 1986, and the very people who oppose it happening now, it seems, didn't spook out when Ronald Reagan did the very same thing, correct?

GUTIERREZ: He didn't do it. The truth is, in 1986 we passed the last immigration reform and naturalization act and three million people have integrated themselves fully into our society today. Most of them are citizens of the United States of America.

COLMES: But doesn't the IRS, I mean, they give these people tax forms. They pay taxes. They are tax-paying workers in this country, paying money to the federal registry and we know where they are.

GUTIERREZ: We know where many of them are because the IRS, in the absence of a Social Security number in order to file an income tax return, the IRS last year issued four million tax identification numbers to individuals, and those individuals used that to file income tax returns.

COLMES: An indeed, rather than have these people go underground, which would happen without this kind of a system, there's a way to track people who are working in country, often taking jobs Americans don't want, so indeed, it makes it safer.

GUTIERREZ: I think it's a good question, if we want national security.

The U.S. attorney of the United States of America and our federal government knows there's between eight and 10 million undocumented workers. They don't have fingerprints, they don't have pictures, they don't have identification for them.

Why don't we, as a simple issue of our national security, integrate them fully? Give them Social Security numbers.

COLMES: They came in here illegally and of course, Ollie and those who are against this will say they came here illegally and they broke the law to begin with.

So how do you meet that argument and say that they have a right to be law-abiding citizens now?

NORTH: Thank you for asking my question.

GUTIERREZ: Here's the point. The point is, that there were jobs for them here in the United States of America, jobs that American citizens legally born in this country, or legally have come here to this nation, won't do. The lowest paying jobs.

Seventy percent of the agricultural workers in the state of Washington picking the apples which we cherish and are so delicious, are undocumented workers. In the absence of a program to deport them and the political will to execute that program, I say integrate them.

COLMES: I want to reemphasize here that knowing the identities of people who are working in this country, who are not yet citizens, and being able to track them helps us then focus our resources going after real terrorists who will do us harm, who are not the people getting IRS forms to pay taxes.

I think something like $1 billion in New York state is paid in taxes from...

GUTIERREZ: There was a recent study in the city of Chicago, there is approximately a quarter of a million undocumented workers in the city of Chicago. A quarter of a million undocumented workers create 33,000 jobs for citizens of the United States.

COLMES: So what right should these people have who pay taxes, other than deportation. I mean, is it ever logical to think we can deport everybody who is here illegally?

GUTIERREZ: Well, I think that's the point. And that's the one I want to convey to Oliver North and to the rest of America.

Look, in the absence of the political will and the requisite resources to execute the deportation of eight to 10 million undocumented workers, people that we go to church with, people that we see in the hotel rooms making our beds, that pick our fruit, that do some of the most menial jobs in America, but important jobs in order to keep our economy functioning, why don't we integrate them and regulate their stay for national security?

I'll give you another one. Look, since they have approximately 30 years of life to work, why don't we have them pay Social Security taxes so that baby boomers like Oliver North and I, when we need that Social Security check, the money is there?

NORTH: Congressman, here's the problem.

One, you're starting somebody out who's broken the law to begin with. They're continuing to break the law by being in an illegal status.

We have no way of separating, unless you're just going the take people with Hispanic last names and you're going to separate out, nobody from Yemen could pass this test, nobody from Libya could pass this test and now you've got yourself a court challenge and a half that will go on for years.


NORTH: Second of all, and I don't want to put you in the unenviable position of trying to defend Alan Colmes, but he raised the Ronald Reagan 1996 amnesty. The 1986 amnesty that was supposed to top illegal immigration into the United States because the goal of it was, let's legalize those that are here and from now on out everybody who comes will be legal.

It didn't work, did it?

GUTIERREZ: Well, let me just say that that's an essential, critical component that needs to be added to the debate.

NORTH: I'm adding it to the debate, Congressman. The fact is nothing that you've proposed is going to stop illegal immigration. It is simply going to encourage it.

GUTIERREZ: OK. Let me suggest that you're absolutely right and that is a critical, fundamental element that we are working on and that is how, how do you regulate the increasing needs for work force? Let me just give you an example.

COLMES: We've got 10 seconds, Congressman, and we have to part company.

GUTIERREZ: Oliver North, in the next 10 years, we're going to need seven million new people working in the United States of America. We have a higher educated population, it's older, they're not going to fulfill those jobs. Someone's going to need to do it.

COLMES: We're just out of time. Congressman, thank you very much for being on with us.

GUTIERREZ: Thank you.

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