Don't Mess With Texas

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," June 3, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The Minutemen (search) say their civilian patrols helped capture hundreds of illegal immigrants in Arizona. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) says that their efforts should be praised. Now they want to head to Texas. But they're not getting a real warm welcome in Texas.

In Texas, they say they're ready to give these civilian security guards the boot if they come to the Lone Star State; 11 state senators signed a resolution urging the governor to block the patrols.

Joining us now is one of those senators, Eliot Shapleigh.

So, Senator: Why don't you want the Minutemen coming to Texas to control your borders?

SENATOR ELIOT SHAPLEIGH, D-TEXAS: Well, I think the president called them vigilantes and I think that's exactly what they are.

We have immigration here in El Paso. We've had it for 100 years, in terms of trained, certified law enforcement. Why would we have vigilantes here from other parts of the country to handle what is essentially an immigration problem? And I think that's the central issue. We live here in this community. We see every day the best ways to handle these issues, and I think the best way is to get certified, good immigration officers in the field and pay for them.

GIBSON: Well, Senator, you call them vigilantes and you cite the president. But I think that it's widely recognized that, during their period in Arizona, they caused no problems. They didn't act like vigilantes. They seemed to have been effective. They seem to have been useful.

And what you seem to be saying to me is, we don't have an illegal immigration problem in Texas that would require any help. Is that the situation?

SHAPLEIGH: What I'm saying is that we have an agency set up at the federal level that's governed by elected officials, such as the president, such as U.S. senators. It's an agency responsive to government.

And the mission of that agency is to deal with immigration issues. And if we have a problem in immigration, then let's beef up that agency. Let's make sure that we have enough people to do the job. What if we came to your neighborhood and said, "Well, we don't have enough folks out handling drinking and driving issues. And in your area in Westchester County in New York, we decided to bring some vigilantes up there"?

GIBSON: Well, my neighborhood is...

SHAPLEIGH: Wait. Let me finish my thought here.

GIBSON: Yes, but my neighborhood is Texas and I'm concerned about illegal immigration in Texas.


SHAPLEIGH: Let me get my thought out. Whether it's Plano or any other area, say, you're not enforcing the law because you're not catching all the people that are drinking and driving, and so we're going to have citizens set up checkpoints and we're going to have that law enforced by people that don't have training.

GIBSON: Yes, but, Senator, that's a mischaracterization of what went on.

SHAPLEIGH: Well, let me finish the thought.


GIBSON: No. It's a complete mischaracterization of what went on. What they did was sit on the border in lawn chairs with binoculars and radios and just sat there as kind of an invisible barrier, didn't stop anybody, didn't set up any checkpoints if anybody came across. People just didn't come in their direction because they were there, physically present. Your analogy is misstating what they did.

I want to know, in those long stretches of Texas, where there are border areas that are not guarded by our understaffed, but valiant Border Patrol (search), what is wrong with these guys sitting in their lawn chairs with their binoculars and their radios providing an invisible barrier?

SHAPLEIGH: What is wrong is that they are essentially unelected, uninvited law enforcement. They're acting as law enforcement officers, even though they're not certified, they have not gone through the training, and they don't know exactly what they're doing in enforcing that part of the law.

GIBSON: Senator, do you want the illegal immigration to stop?

SHAPLEIGH: Just a second. Just a second. Let me finish my thought. It is no different...


GIBSON: Senator, answer my question. Do you want illegal immigration to stop?

SHAPLEIGH: If I went and got 10 or 20 people and went to your neighborhood and said, "I'm going to set up some places in your neighborhood to look for folks..."

GIBSON: Senator, you have tried that out twice. It ain't washing here.

I am just asking you, do you want illegal immigration to stop?

SHAPLEIGH: I think we should have an immigration policy in this country, for sure.

I also want drinking and driving to stop. So, if we go into your neighborhood and say, let's set up some citizen folks to stand at bars and call the police as they're coming out of — folks from suburban neighborhoods north of Dallas or west of Houston and say, we want this to happen, to me, it's the same issue. If you have a law that's on the books and you are an elected government and you have an agency that is set out to stop that issue or deal with it, then deal with it in the agency and not from vigilantes.

GIBSON: I guess, then, the bottom line is: You say that everything is fine on the Texas border. Is that the position?

SHAPLEIGH: I say that we have Border Patrol that's doing a job. Certainly, it's been effective here in El Paso, once we started manning that border 24 hours a day.

There are places west of here in Arizona where there have been some issues. There are places east of here that are towards the Big Bend area. But, frankly, there's no population until you get to the I-10 Corridor. And what I'm saying is, if you want that issue dealt with, deal with it through the immigration authorities, law enforcement and the Border Patrol, not through self-appointed, unelected folks that go out to enforce the law.

GIBSON: Senator Eliot Shapleigh of Texas, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

SHAPLEIGH: Appreciate it.

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