This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from May 21, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, R-ALA.: I feel like that if he can't enforce the law, he shouldn't have the job. That is the top immigration enforcement position in America. He is required in my view to seek the help he can to enforce the law in Arizona and all over America, for that matter. It makes him in my view not fulfilling the responsibilities of his office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: What is he talking about? The head of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or ICE, told the Chicago Tribune editorial board his agency would not necessarily process any illegals arrested in Arizona.
Here is what the Tribune wrote: "His agency will not necessarily process illegal immigrants, refer to them by Arizona officials. The best way to reduce illegal immigration is through a comprehensive federal approach, not a patchwork of state laws."
Now about this, the DHS released a statement late this afternoon, saying, quote, "Across the country we exercise lawful discretion in order to focus our efforts on violent and dangerous criminal in order to make our streets safer. The president ordered the DOJ to examine the civil rights and other implications of the Arizona law, and that review will inform the government's actions going forward."
So did director John Morton of ICE say something that the Obama administration wished perhaps he hadn't? Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, Erin Billings, deputy editor of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
Steve, we've heard the administration speak out against the Arizona law, but this is a person who would be in a position to enforce the law that is supposed to be a mirror of the federal law.
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, what is interesting about this is this is the latest in what has become a long pattern of the Obama administration, with a wink-wink, nod policy towards enforcement toward the immigration law.
You saw this last summer when the ICE sent out a directive saying, in effect, there are 85 percent of people who are detained don't show up for their immigration court date. And the ICE sent out a directive, particularly hard-hitting in Tennessee saying, look, we need to release the people on their own recognizance rather than detain them. The effect of that was people didn't who up for their immigration proceedings. So it was sort of a path and way of saying let them go. This is a direct way to do it. I'd be surprised if there aren't political implications like we saw from Senator Sessions.
ERIN BILLINGS, ROLL CALL: I agree. This is a Friday afternoon, so a lot of members aren't here. Senator Sessions is obviously still on Capitol Hill, but if members were here, if this were a Tuesday or Wednesday, we'd have heard from a slew of members saying whoa, whoa, whoa, what is going on here?
I don't think this is the last of it. This is more gasoline on the fire. This Arizona law fueled passions on both sides, and I don't think this is the last word.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think it's a perfect example of the arrogance and the near lawlessness of this administration. The Constitution requires that the federal government ensure that every state has a republican form of government. Last time I checked Arizona does.
There is no allegation that the immigration law in Arizona was passed anyway other than legally. There were no procedural problems with it. If the president doesn't like it, well, he has an option. He can instruct the Department of Justice to go and have a judge strike it down. If he likes he can get an injunction in the meantime to suspend it until the constitutionality is ruled upon.
In the meantime, it's as legal a law as any other in the land. For executive to say we'll ignore it or un-enforce immigration on this state on account of this is lawless. We had a civil war and a civil rights movement over the claim of southern states they could ignore the federal laws on slavery and civil rights, and that was struck down. Everybody from Abraham Lincoln on opposes that. Now we have the reverse. The federal government, this guy says he doesn't think the Arizona law is good way to go about it. That is not his business, not his jurisdiction. Arizona decides what it is to do.
His job is to enforce the federal law which he is openly saying he wouldn't do simply because of a referral comes out of the state whose laws he doesn't like.
BAIER: DHS says they have discretion now and they are pointed to go after the criminal elements of illegal immigrants and that's what they are focusing on, and that's what their response is.
KRAUTHAMMER: If immigration has a set of priorities, as it should, looking into the criminality, dangerousness, compassion, humanitarian concerns. All of those are relevant. If a person comes out of a state from someone you don't like is an irrelevant criteria and a high-handed one, and I think probably an illegal one.
BAIER: Steve, I want to tick down these polls. Fox News opinion dynamic polls came out yesterday and are pretty telling. Poll number one, "Should the individual states have the right to make their own immigration laws?" And 65 percent said yes.
Two, "Your state passing immigration law like Arizona's new law?" Favor, 52 percent. Three, requiring people to show documents proving their immigration status, 84 percent favor. Four, current level of security at U.S. borders not strict enough, 76 percent, and that is tracking roughly with 2006 when this was a big issue.
Those polls are pretty blunt.
HAYES: Yes, absolutely. They confirm the poll that found 70 percent roughly of Americans who agree with what Arizona did.
The politics of this are absolutely fascinating. When you think Harry Reid in effect brought this issue up, he wanted to inject the issue in national dialogue to give himself an advantage in state where there is a heavy Hispanic voting population. It's completely backfired.
You have -- these number are overwhelming, and you have seen such a sharp turn that you have John Morton in the same interview with the Chicago Tribune yesterday emphasizing enforcement. He predicted that there would be a sharp increase in deportations this year because I think the Obama administration now wants to even as it savages the Arizona law wants to say, hey, look, we are not so weak on this that we are not going to enforce. So they are trying to muddle the message.
BAIER: Last thing, Erin. We talked about how the attorney general last week said he didn't read the 16-page bill. The Homeland Security secretary said the same thing. Number of other officials said they didn't read it though they are speaking out about it. And the president says it's possibly discriminatory, how it's enforced.
Is it fair to say that the administration is trying to find a way to deal with Arizona's law?
BILLINGS: Yes. I think they are looking for the sweet spot. Who knows where it is?
You have, on the one hand, the Mexican president here this week. The president standing up and saying well, you know, we are looking into it and it could be discriminatory. On the other hand, you see these poll numbers and clearly the public enjoys -- favors the law. I think they're trying to thread the needle, and it's not an easy one to thread.
KRAUTHAMMER: I think it is easy. You challenge it in court. That is why we have courts.
BAIER: You can learn more about this story at our homepage at Foxnews.com/SpecialReport.
Next up, the Friday lightning round and your choice online topic of the week.
BAIER: Every week on the FoxNews.com "Special Report" homepage viewers vote on the topic to discuss here in the Friday lightning round. As of 4:00 this afternoon, the winner by a nose -- Erin was very close -- the winner, the textbook controversy in Texas. We'll get to that in a minute.
But first, there is word that proposed news sanctions at the United Nations against Iran may not prevent the regime from acquiring sophisticated weaponry from Russia. That's where we begin tonight's discussion.
This is about the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles. We have a shot of them. They're truck-mounted and they can take out pretty much anything that would come at Iran's facility. Charles, what about this? If there is a loophole in the proposed sanctions, that seems like a big deal.
KRAUTHAMMER: This is a huge loophole. This tells you how pathetic the resolution is. It has almost no effect on Iran. The U.S. had wanted a full arms embargo, so instead of negotiating down, because this administration always has to have an international consensus, so it negotiated it down with the Russians and Chinese to include only heavy weapons, which are irrelevant, like tanks.
But then it left out the only important weapon, because the delivery of the S-300 and the installation of that system would trigger a war in the Middle East. The Israelis can't wait to see if the world can stop Iran, it can wait on the development of nukes because it won't happen tomorrow.
But if the S-300 is in place it loses any option, we lose it, Israel loses it of every attacking because it will defend nuclear facilities. And that means Iraq will go nuclear. Israel will not allow it.
BAIER: Iran will go nuclear.
KRAUTHAMMER: I'm sorry, Iran will not go nuclear. Israel will not allow it.
BAIER: In fact, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu traveled to Moscow to urge them not to sell the missiles to Iran.
Erin, what about the administration pushing for the sanctions if they have this big of a hole in it?
BILLINGS: It is a huge gaping hole. To me this sparks a whole new set of questions about our relationship with Russia. We have the START treaty pending, the nuclear arms treaty pending that the Senate has to approve at some point. They have questions about it, obviously.
You know, this is a big deal. I think what is the point of having the treaty if it has no teeth? I think there are a lot of questions that we will hear about this.
HAYES: That is a good point. What is the point of having it if it doesn't have enough teeth? There isn't a point. There are exceptions and other loopholes and exceptions written in for Russian companies found doing illicit arms business in Iran in 1999. This had no effect of Chinese importation of Iranian oil. Iran is the third biggest producer for Chinese oil. It's a multi-billion dollar industry and Chinese said we're going ahead.
BAIER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says there must be international response to North Korea firing a torpedo and taking down a South Korean warship, killing 46 South Korean sailors. The evidence she says is overwhelming and condemning.
Quickly down the row. How big a deal is it? And what does it mean internationally? Steve?
HAYES: I think the attack was quite a big deal and Hillary Clinton saying there will be consequences is virtually meaningless. She said it in April and May and July and we said it in September. All we got was toothless U.N. resolutions.
And then we sent a high-ranking diplomat to meet face to face with the North Koreans in Pyongyang rewarding them for their bad behavior. This is the same thing that will happen again.
BILLINGS: Again, we had lot of talk. There needs to be action, international action but not bilateral action. But what is that? Sanctions haven't worked on North Korea. North Korea continues to provoke and provoke. It's a very dangerous line, but something, you know, stronger than sanctions needs to happen.
KRAUTHAMMER: I think our inaction shows what the danger when a rogue state acquires a nuke as Pyongyang has. It's not that it will drop a nuke tomorrow on America or its allies. It's that if you have a nuke you can then do the kind of aggression that they have conducted, attacking a warship and be immune.
And that would happen if Iran acquired a nuke. It would be immunity for all kind of terrorism and non-nuclear action, because it would have a nuke. It would be invulnerable.
BAIER: These are two stories obviously we'll follow.
Last thing, the Texas textbooks, high school decided tonight in Texas what is going to be in books? How important, Charles?
KRAUTHAMMER: It's a trend. The textbooks have swung way to the left in the non-teaching in American history and American exceptionalism, and this will be a small swing back.
BILLINGS: This is a huge state and a lot of these textbook makers don't want different textbooks for different states. So this could influence other states across the country and textbooks they put in the classroom from Ohio to California.
HAYES: We should spend at least as much time teaching the founding as we do teaching about Cesar Chavez and workers' rights. This is an important step in the right direction.
BAIER: One thing being debated in Texas was how to handle the separation of church and state. On our homepage, James Rosen has web exclusive of what the founding fathers really believed about religion and government. Check that out.
That is it for the panel, but stay tuned for a very elite list in Washington this week.
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