This is a rush transcript from "America's News HQ," November 19, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, HOST: A two-time drunk driving offender with a criminal past strikes again. And get this: He's not even in this country legally. Daryush Omar has been charged with manslaughter and drunk-driving after slamming into a livery cab in Queens, New York over the weekend.
Driving with a blood alcohol rate more than twice the legal limit, he apparently ran a red light killing the driver of the limo and her passenger, an outrage especially because Omar has a previous DUI conviction.
Meantime, we told you about an investigation that revealed thousands of illegals in Texas prisons, many convicted of violent crimes are often released right back out on to the streets without any deportation at all.
Our next guest is calling for an investigation into how immigration officials screen illegal prisoners in jail, not only in Texas, but really across the country. Texas Senator John Cornyn has written a pretty scathing letter to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division. What are you pushing for, senator?
SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-TEXAS: Well, I want to know what the problem is, Jon. We've supplied all the resources we believe that are necessary in order to have the Department of Homeland Security, and specifically Immigration and Customs Enforcement screen these dangerous criminals at the county jail facilities.
And what's happened is, as you have described, too often, because of the shortage of manpower or some other problem that we're trying to get to the bottom of, they're simply released back into the community. And these folks are a threat to the immigrant communities where they live, and not just the public at large.
SCOTT: Talking about a shortage of manpower, though, didn't ICE ask for $150 million? I mean, didn't you in Congress give ICE $150 million more than they asked for in the last budget go-around?
CORNYN: Absolutely. I think the mood in Congress is whatever the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement need in order to enforce the law, in order to protect the community, we're going to provide that resource. But unfortunately, they haven't spent it, and we have been — asked for a report to get to the bottom of this problem.
Because it looks like either there is a lack of resources, a lack of actually executing on the plan that Congress has laid out or just pure incompetence. And I can't figure out yet which it is.
SCOTT: Because there are some cases in which illegal aliens are thrown in jail and they actually are released on bail to face whatever charges, you know, they were thrown in jail for, even though they're here illegally. Does that make any sense?
CORNYN: Well, it gets even worse than that. After someone who's here in the country without the proper visa has served their time, let's say it's a short jail term, they cannot be detained by the authorities beyond six months because of a Supreme Court decision if their country of origin will not take them back.
So we've got a lot of problems, and part of it is a need to update our laws. The other part of it is just sheer bureaucratic incompetence, it appears, in actually doing what Congress wants them to do, which is actually to protect the public by keeping these people locked up.
SCOTT: You've also got a lot of problems among the Republicans in the Senate, namely, you don't have many of them, or not as many as you used to have. And you just found out today that Ted Stevens lost his race in Alaska. Maybe that's not such bad news for Republicans in that particular case. But you're the guy in charge of trying to win back Senate seats among Republicans. How do you do that?
CORNYN: Well, my job starts January the 1st, but we're getting ready, and you're right. That's my job to try to make sure that we win some elections and get back in the majority. It's about policy. It's about the right sort of message, but it's also about going out and being competitive when it comes to winning those elections.
It means recruiting good candidates to run against Democratic incumbents, because a good candidate can go a long way in winning those elections. But it also means becoming more competitive.
The Democrats outspent Republicans by huge margins nationally and in local elections all across this country. And of course, Obama was a phenomenon unto himself, and it turned out a lot of new voters. So we've got to get back in the game. And that's going to be my job come January the 1st.
SCOTT: Texas Senator John Cornyn. Thanks.
CORNYN: Thank you, Jon.
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