This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," May 21, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: The bipartisan immigration bill is up for debate in the Senate this week, and things are getting very heated. The sparks started last week when Texas Senator John Cornyn accused Senator John McCain on spending too much time campaigning for president. That's when McCain shout back, "Blank, blank, I know more about this than anyone else in the room."
And joining us now is Texas Senator John Cornyn. All right, Senator, things getting pretty heated. We sort of expect that on "Hannity & Colmes." Is that what happened?
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Well, you know, it wasn't anything I hadn't heard before, but we'd been engaged in negotiations for a number of weeks with Secretary Chertoff for the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Gutierrez, Department of Commerce. We'd all been working very hard to come up with something we could be proud of. I still had some really serious questions. But Senator McCain didn't want to hear too much about that. He had an agreement a the core group of senators, and I wasn't part of the agreement. So that's the way it goes.
HANNITY: When you released a statement, Senator, you said, "We may be repeating the mistakes we made in 1986 with the amnesty bill." Do you believe this is an amnesty bill?
CORNYN: Well, what I meant by that, Sean, is that in '86, you'll recall that President Reagan signed an amnesty premised on the idea that there would actually be enforcement and sanctions against employers who cheat. What I'm worried about is, we've focused more on the benefits, that we give people who violated our laws to come to the United States, but we haven't focused enough on whether this program can actually be enforced. That's what I'm mostly worried about.
HANNITY: Senator, I'm concerned about a lot of aspects of this, including the amnesty position here. The Heritage Foundation did a cost analysis, and they believe it's about $2.5 trillion over the next several decades, although Congress has not spent a lot of time doing any investigation into that.
And, secondly, Senator, it seems to be here, amnesty guaranteed the minute the president signs the bill. That's first. And border security issues, once again, get pushed off to the side, and that's second.
CORNYN: Well, that's been our experience in the United States, particularly since 1986. That's why I think some aspects of this bill are very important.
For example, the triggers that Senator Johnny Isakson had insisted upon I think are good credibility-building measures, saying that the benefits of the bill do not kick in until we have double the number of Border Patrol, until we have some physical barriers and fencing in hard-to- control locations, and then we have the technology in place that will allow us to know who's coming into our country and why.
So this, actually — I know, for all the criticism — is a better bill than the one that passed the Senate last year that I couldn't support. But this one still needs a lot of work. I'm glad we're going to have a couple of weeks to prove it.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Senator, it's Alan Colmes. Welcome back to our show. I'm sorry you were talked to on the floor of the Senate like that. Who does McCain think he is, Dick Cheney? Come on.
Look, let me ask you, on this bill, you've got to do something with the 12 million people there. And everybody who objects to dealing with that seems to call that amnesty. How do you have an arrangement for the people already in this country undocumented to normalize themselves, without it being called "amnesty"? How do you do that?
CORNYN: Well, one of the concerns is we don't want to give people who've violated our laws a chance to cut in line ahead of those who are waiting patiently in line outside of the country. I know this bill attempts to deal with that. The other thing is that people just don't really believe that we're serious about imposing a $5,000 fine on each person as a condition to allowing them to get a so-called Z visa.
COLMES: You can't ignore the people already here. What do you do about the people already here? They're not going to go back, or they're going to be forced underground, or they're just not going to go away. Wouldn't it be better to include them or find a way for them to become part of our society, as they're already contributing and paying tax dollars?
CORNYN: I couldn't agree more, but I think what it will require, at minimum, is that they leave the country and re-enter in a legal capacity. And I think we can give them a way to do that with the secure knowledge that they could return in a legal capacity. I think that would help address a lot of the concerns, along with...
COLMES: But isn't that what this does, they have to touch back? Isn't that part of this bill, that they have to touch back before they can then re-enter, pay a fine, and go through an eight- to 13-year process? That doesn't sound like amnesty to me.
CORNYN: Well, actually, you can get a Z visa just by coming forward and registering. You could stay here the rest of your life without ever returning back to your country of origin and returning in a legal capacity. If you want to get a Green Card, that is, on a path to citizenship, then the head of household would need to return and re-enter the country in a legal capacity, but not the rest of the family.
This is where I think we're beginning to cut corners and give people real pause for concern whether we're really serious about doing this or whether this is more optics.
COLMES: My concern, Senator, is, if you force people to go back, they're going to be — they'd rather go underground, not go back. They're not going to want to be part of a system where they have to touch back and possibly not be assured they're going to get back into this country at some point. It might drive them underground.
CORNYN: Well, frankly, we need to offer a humane way for people to get right with the law, but this is not primarily for their benefit. This is really a matter of restoring basic law and order. I think that's the thing that frustrates people so much about our broken immigration system is the rampant lawlessness.
HANNITY: Hey, Senator, I'll tell you what. We'll invite you and Senator McCain on the program. We'll put a 14-second delay in, and I think America would benefit from that passionate debate.
Anyway, thanks for being with us.
CORNYN: Thanks, Sean. Thanks, Alan.
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