OTR Interviews

Word on the Street: Arizonans on Immigration and Ethnic Studies Law Controversies

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 17, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: "On the Record" is on the ground in Arizona, where controversy is exploding. Now, first it was the new illegal immigration law, and now it's the ethnic studies classes. Griff Jenkins has the story.


GRIFF JENKINS, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: As the debate heats up over the new ethnic studies law, house bill 2281, which would ban, among other things, the Mexican-American studies program here in the Tucson unified school district, we spoke to a student who sat in those classes, as well as the director of the program itself.

Is it racist?

SEAN ARCE, DIR., MEXICAN-AMERICAN STUDIES: I believe it is racist, yes. Excluding any cultural group, a significant group as large as the Mexican-American, Latino population, excluding their history, their culture, which is the American experience, is indeed racist.

JENKINS: It's a bill that would ban classes that would promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote one ethnic identity over another, that would support or promote ethnic solidarity. Why do you think that Tom Horne and the others believe that's taking place?

ARCE: It's purely a political platform. It's an anti-Latino platform. In the state, we've had a number of laws right now. It's a very anti-immigrant, anti-Latino sentiment that is so pervasive here in the state of Arizona. And unfortunately, that type of platform, he believes that is going to get him into office, the attorney general position.

JENKINS: What are you hearing from the students about this? What's their reaction to this law?

ARCE: They're very engaged in the educational process, in terms of relevancy. They have read the bills, the numerous bills, not only HB- 2281 but SB-1070. And they're very informed.

JENKINS: Supporters of this bill say that it may possibly include ethnic solidarity or isolate groups by their ethnicity or even call for the overthrow of the U.S. government. Do you recall any of that from your classes?

ARTURO RODRIGUEZ, FORMER ETHNIC STUDIES STUDENT: I don't recall any of that. When I was here we also had -- and I say "we" as, like, the department because we can feel in the classes that a lot of people do not like them. And but nobody ever shows up. And they never -- we also tried to talk to them. I personally sent Tom Horne a letter saying that he should come over here and we can dialogue about this like civil people. But he doesn't want to come and do it. So I can't see why they can make it sound like that without even trying to come here and figure out what's wrong, like, why don't they like it precisely, or to even come here and try and prove that they're right.


VAN SUSTEREN: Now, you just heard a student criticize Arizona superintendent Tom Horne for not sitting in on any classes. To be fair and balanced, Horne says, in part, "It's my view that if I were to come into the class, it would affect what was taught there."

Things in Arizona are getting more intense every single day. And today, Arizona senators John McCain and Jon Kyl sent another letter to President Obama calling for 6,000 National Guard troops on the border. It's the second time since April Senators Kyl and McCain have called for troops on the border, the urgent request coming just hours before Mexican president Felipe Calderon arrives in Washington. President Calderon visits the White House on Wednesday.

Now, earlier, Griff Jenkins talked to Senator Kyl about the illegal immunity fight.


JENKINS: Senator, the immigration issue -- how it is playing here on the ground in Arizona and in Phoenix?

SEN. JON KYL, R - ARIZ.: Probably differently than around the rest of the country. People here live it every day, and that's why you have strong public support for what the legislature did, for example, and why you have so many people asking for the federal government to secure the border.

JENKINS: And polls are very strong supporting the law. Where do you think it goes? You know, people are talking about lawsuits. Two officers said they're filing a suit against the governor. Yesterday, Sarah Palin came to support the governor. Where do you see this headed?

KYL: I'm sure it'll be decided by courts. Who knows how long that might take. And whatever those decisions are, obviously, the state will live with it. But in the meantime, I really don't think that all of the horrible things that people have predicted will occur, especially since the legislature changed the law after the initial legislation was passed.

JENKINS: Boycotts -- a lot of talk about boycotts -- LA council, Austin, Texas, now doing it. How do you feel about it?

KYL: Well, it's, first of all, silly. And it's not helpful to have Arizonans calling for boycotts. The first people that will be affected by that are the people in our tourism industry, many of whom are Hispanic Americans. And so if you want to hurt our own citizens here, that's sure enough one way to do it.

JENKINS: Last question. There's a story not getting as much attention but it's starting to grow. It's a new law with regards to the ethnic studies curriculum in Tucson. What are your thoughts on that?

KYL: Well, that's been a problem for years. Newspapers have written about it. People have been critical of this ethnic studies program at the Tucson high school district. And the legislature finally, I think, had it with that, as well, and passed a law that said that they cannot teach things that try to pit race against race and really teach students that they should be -- that they should feel oppressed by their own government.


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