Is Congress Ready to Enact Immigration Reform?

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," April 24, 2006, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: President Bush says that it's time to put the politics aside and move in on illegal immigration.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the problems we face in Washington is, we have got too much needless politics. We have got people who aren't willing to — you know, they want to play — they want to make the other person look bad, as opposed to make the country look good.


CAVUTO: By the way, lawmakers return to Washington formally tomorrow, after a two-week Easter break. Is Congress ready to listen to the American people, many of whom really want reform? With us now, Republican Congressman Peter King of New York, co-sponsor of the hard-line House bill.

What do you think, Congressman?

REP. PETER KING, R-N.Y., HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, I think the bill that the House of Representatives passed — and I was the co-author of that with Congressman Sensenbrenner — very much responded to legitimate needs and demands of the American people.

I think it's a very balanced, proportionate bill. We have to have tight border security. And, then, we can consider reforms later. But, right now, the important thing is to tighten up the border, to close the border, and to go after employers who hire illegal immigrants.

CAVUTO: You know, today, Congressman, the president said — and I'm probably not getting the exact words right, so forgive me — that it would be unfeasible to try to get the 11 million here back, to force them back, to deport them, whatever you want to call it. Do you agree with that?

KING: Yes, it's probably true. I'm not even calling for immediate deportation. I don't think anyone is.

I'm saying, tighten the borders, the way they are now, dry up the job market for the illegal immigrants, and I think a number will return on their own. And, then, we can go back, in 18 months, in two years, and deal with those who are still here.

Once we have cut off the supply of jobs to illegal immigrants, then, we can consider what to do with those who are here illegally.

CAVUTO: Do you think that the Democrats are trying to paint the get-tough position on illegal immigrants with an issue that will hurt your party with legal immigrants in the next election, in other words, with the Hispanic community in particular, with whom you have made great gains, that that's what they're going to hang over their head?

KING: Well, you know, it's hard to get into the mind of some of these Democrats. They have totally distorted what the bill is about.

The only reason that the bill came out of the House saying that it's a felony for immigrants to overstay their visa is because the Democrats voted to keep it a felony.

You have people like the Catholic bishops and Democrats saying that we have made it illegal to assist illegal immigrants who need food and water. That's totally untrue. So, I think they are trying to distort it. They are afraid to come to terms with the real issue. They are trying to hurt us with Hispanics.

But, you know, we can't be looking at this as a race or ethnic group issue. It's an American issue. And I think all immigrants, especially those who are here legally, realize what we're trying to do. And I'm willing to do what is the right thing, and let the chips fall where they may.

CAVUTO: While I still have you, do you think that these twin issues, the higher energy prices, still no way to solve the illegal immigration mess, are a one-two punch that are going to kill Republicans this November?

KING: No, I don't expect to be killed at all. I have been hearing this from the Democrats for the last 12 years.

We're going to have tough races. There's no doubt about it. But I believe we're right on immigration, the House of Representatives. The American people do want tighter border security. And one of the reasons we have gas shortages is because the Democrats have stopped us from drilling in ANWR. We can get as much oil from ANWR up in Alaska, as we could from Saudi Arabia. It's a 30-year supply of oil, equivalent to that of Saudi Arabia.

So, you know, there's no easy answer on this, but that's one answer which the liberals and the Democrats have continually blocked, because they cave in to liberal extremists on the environmental issue.

CAVUTO: Yes, but it's your party, right? I mean, there's a different view on the illegal immigration mess held by the Senate, more, I think, in line, Congressman, with the president's views on this, not quite amnesty, but it seems pretty close, and your own House.

KING: No. No, it is pretty close to amnesty. And again, I can only speak for the House of Representatives. What we're doing, I think, is the right thing, have tight border security first.

And, by the way, I'm very proud to announce that it appears that Senator Hillary Clinton has signed up on our side by saying that she wants a wall built all along the southern border, and that we should put off reform for 18 months to two years. So, I welcome Hillary Clinton's conversion. Apparently, she has found out now that Jesus wants a wall built. But...



KING: But, seriously...

CAVUTO: But hers would be an electronic fence, like I keep my dog in, right? I mean, it wouldn't be, like, your big cement moat that you're doing, right?


KING: It's a 700-mile wall — a 700-mile wall along the California- Arizona border. And the rest would be a virtual wall. It would obstacles. It would be lasers. It would be UAVs. It would be patrols.

So, actually, Hillary Clinton's position is very much the Republican position. And I congratulate her on her conversion.

CAVUTO: All right.

Moussaoui, we're waiting to hear very soon whether he's going to get death.

Do you think he should get death?

KING: I certainly believe he should. As someone who came from a district, which lost over 150 friends, neighbors and constituents, I honestly believe that this man deserves to die for what he did.

CAVUTO: All right.

Congressman Peter King, thank you, sir.

KING: Neil, thank you.

CAVUTO: All right.

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