This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," May 17, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Our top story tonight. A deal has apparently been reached in Washington on illegal immigration. Now, a bipartisan group of senators announced the deal this afternoon, and the president even threw his weight behind it. But critics immediately denounced it. They have labeled it as amnesty.
So here are the details of the plan. Illegal immigrants who arrived here before January 1, 2007 are eligible to apply for what is being called a “Z visa.” Now, that would allow illegals to transition to citizenship when they meet certain requirements. Among those requirements, the head of the household has to return to their home country within eight years, visa processing fees and a $5,000 fine that can be paid over a period of time.
Now, the deal also includes a provision called the “DREAM act,” which would allow illegals who came to this country as children to immediately be eligible for the Z visa, as long as they are in school or they're serving in the Armed Forces. Now, as long as they remain employed, do not have a criminal record, they are put on a three-year path towards legal permanent student residence status.
And the deal is also heavy on border enforcement. And according to reports, these were some of the toughest provisions to be agreed upon. Now, the agreement raises the number of Border Patrol Agents to 18,000 from the current level of 12,000. It also calls for 200 miles of vehicle barriers and surveillance towers to be placed along the border.
But the deal also includes triggers, which means that the temporary worker provisions don't begin until the security issues are first met, including the 370 miles of border fence that was previously agreed upon. The deal also addresses workplace enforcement. It calls for the tamper-proof I.D. to be issued to all workers and a new government identity verification system, so that employers who still employ workers outside of the system can be punished.
And finally, the agreement makes plans ahead for future immigration. It sets aside 40 percent of all future visas to be issued to people based upon a merit point system. Now, that system would reward people with special skills needed in the U.S. workplace, as well as reward those with higher levels of education.
So that's the deal, and many people are upset tonight. And joining us now is one of the senators who negotiated the provisions, Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl. Senator, welcome back to the program. Thanks for being with us.
SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: Thank you, Sean. You bet.
HANNITY: Well, a lot of people, Senator, in spite of what's being said here are calling this amnesty.Senator DeMint called it amnesty. I spoke to Newt Gingrich earlier today. He said it is a sellout to American security and a sellout to conservative principles. How do you respond?
KYL: Well, first of all, I respect Newt a great deal, and he is a great political adviser. But this is about a lot more than politics. And with all due respect, with regard to the security comment, we've got to secure our borders.
I ran for the Senate for re-election, as you know, last year. And the message from the voters in Arizona to me was loud and clear: Do something about illegal immigration. Don't sit on your you-know-what and allow this situation to continue, where thousands pour across the border every day, where you've got crime, and illegality, and violence. And so we felt it was important to do something, and we have in this bill.
HANNITY: But I can tell you, Senator, as conservatives — and, by the way, we're looking at live pictures of a Los Angeles immigration protest going on right now as we speak here. Senator, I can tell you, as somebody who's on the radio three hours a day, I'm here at FOX one hour every night, I speak to conservatives all the time.
They want a specific answer to this question: Is this an amnesty bill? Do people who have broken our laws and not respected our sovereignty, do they get to stay in this country?
KYL: They do get to stay in this country under certain conditions. I don't consider it amnesty. There were three features in it that to me make it not amnesty.
First of all, all of us who oppose amnesty said you cannot allow chain migration. That's one of the things that you omitted from an otherwise excellent summary, by the way, of a complex bill. But we have ended, as of two years ago, chain migration, so you can't bring in all of your relatives and aunts and uncles and so on so that they, too, can become citizens.
Secondly, unlike the bill last year, there is no automatic path to citizenship. Among all of the other things, and you mentioned some of them, there's a merit-based system that sets the priority for you if you want to get a green card. And, as you know, you do have to apply from outside the country.
And, third, of course, there is the early parole situation, where if you don't turn yourself in within the period allotted, you're going to be deported, and you've got to comply with all of the requirements in order to get the temporary visa.
HANNITY: There are a couple of questions here, and I want to get — I guess the devil is in the details. And nobody that I know, Senator, has gotten a chance to read the bill, and there seems to be a rush to get this thing passed here. But it sounds like amnesty to me, if, in fact, they get to stay, if they didn't respect our laws.
Why was this all done in secret? And when will we get a chance to actually read the specifics in the bill? And why not take a little bit more time and give people an opportunity to put more amendments, instead of rushing this through as it appears to be headed?
KYL: OK, several questions there. First of all, I think that the text will be done tomorrow. Everybody should have ample opportunity to read it. Senators are going to need plenty of time to read it and to go over it. It's not being rushed. We take it up Monday, and we'll take as long on it as it takes in order to get it finished. I know that the majority leader would like to have it finished before we go on the Memorial Day recess, but if it's not finished, then we carry it on after a period of time.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Senator, it's Alan Colmes. Welcome back to our show.
KYL: Sure, thanks Alan.
COLMES: Everybody has got some problems with this bill. Everybody likes other parts of it. For one thing, I think it's bipartisanship. People complain about there's no bipartisanship in Washington. Here you have bipartisanship and people complain about the bill. But you were against the last one last year.
KYL: Yes, sir.
COLMES: Why are you for this one? What enabled you to change your mind about this bill?
KYL: Because I got to write part of this bill. My voters said, "Do something about illegal immigration." I didn't think I could sit on the sidelines and just let Ted Kennedy and some of my other Democratic friends in the Senate write an immigration bill that I knew I would hate. So I got into the game, and fought very, very hard for what I believe, and I am confident that the provisions that I helped to get in that bill will make it a much better bill.
COLMES: Well, some of the concerns I have are that illegal immigrants have to go back to their home country and then get back into the United States. The criticism of that is that will drive some people underground, because no way do they think they're going to go back and be allowed back in, so they get driven underground and don't become part of the system.
KYL: That won't happen because they are given in the meantime a Z visa, which enables them to leave and come back into the country at any time, so they would have the right to come back in.
COLMES: The other thing is, you mentioned there's a $5,000 fee. Somewhere in there there's a $4,000 fee. Does this favor those who can afford it, and it doesn't favor those who need more money to make this work for them? Do you have to have a certain amount of income in order to even be a participant in this?
KYL: You know, what you're doing, Alan, is showing how this cuts both ways. There are a lot of liberals that don't like parts of it; there are a lot of conservatives that don't like parts of it.
You bet there's a $5,000 fine. These people violated American laws, and they're going to have to pay a fine. In addition to that, they're going to have to pay several user fees – or, “user fees” may be the wrong phrase — but the fees in order to process their applications at various stages in the process.
COLMES: So it favors those of a certain income, doesn't it?
KYL: Well, you're going to have to pay the fee if you want to stay in the country. Remember, this is a parole. It's not an amnesty. And on parole, when you violate a law, sometimes the judge will say, "I'm not going to put you in prison the first time. I'm going to put you on parole and put you on good behavior. And one of the things you're going to have to do is pay a fine.” We make people do that here.
COLMES: The other issue which has come up is there's a point system here that favors those who have certain education and certain skills over family relationships. And what about all those pro-family conservatives who claim they want to keep families together? Doesn't this bill go in the opposite direction from that?
KYL: Well, it does both. First of all, there is a long backlog for people who are applicants for family-based visas, which you today have a right to chain migrate any one of your relatives. But in some countries like Mexico, I think the waiting line was like 176 years.
This would allow over an eight-year period all of those people to clear that backlog. So I think that's a pretty family-friendly family reunification provision.
HANNITY: All right, Senator, the devil is always in the details. We'll be watching in the days to come. Thank you for being with us, though, tonight. We appreciate it.
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