This partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, July 17, 2001, was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.
BRIT HUME, HOST: There are an estimated three million Mexican immigrants living illegally in this country, and there seems no way the Immigration and Naturalization Service can track them down and deport them -- all of them. And besides, these immigrants do a lot of hard work in this country and would not be easy to replace. But a blanket amnesty for them would be hugely controversial, so what should the Bush administration do? The president, eager to smooth relations with Mexico and its new president, is looking for a solution to this thorny issue, one which has considerable political sensitivity, since Mr. Bush hopes to build on the political support he got from Hispanics in the 2000 election.
For answers on this, we turn to Demetrios Papademetriou, head of the Migration Policy Institute here in Washington.
DEMETRIOS PAPADEMETRIOU, MIGRATION POLICY INSTITUTE: Nice to be here.
HUME: So the president is going to have to make a decision on what to do about this. The idea of an amnesty has been floated, and that obviously is not how the White House wants it characterized. What's at stake here?
PAPADEMETRIOU: Well, what's at stake is an opportunity to sort of put behind us and jointly with Mexico begin to address the migration issue that has actually separated, divided, sometimes brought the two countries at each other in the past 30 or 50 years. This is the very first time that the United States has sat and has had a serious negotiation with Mexico about their migration relationship.
HUME: Now, what would be the consequences if the president -- I mean, clearly, we're not going to get all these people out of this country. And a lot of -- and they do a lot of work, as I pointed out.
PAPADEMETRIOU: That's right.
HUME: So how -- what are the president's choices here?
PAPADEMETRIOU: Well, he has a number of choices, but he has to think comprehensively. Some of those people will have to be legalized through a variety of routes, and there are many different ways that you can do that. People who've been here longer can be legalized immediately. Other people who have been here for less -- a shorter period of time, presuming that their employers want to sponsor them, can be legalized for that particular...
HUME: As guest workers?
PAPADEMETRIOU: No, as regular workers that come through the permanent system, get legal permanent residence...
PAPADEMETRIOU: ... a green card...
PAPADEMETRIOU: ... and then if and when they are ready and they choose to become Americans, they will become American citizens.
HUME: So what's the problem? Why aren't we doing that now?
PAPADEMETRIOU: Well, we're not doing that now because there -- these people are here illegally. They came through the back door. They broke the rules. And fundamentally, we are a country of laws.
PAPADEMETRIOU: Perhaps no country is more attached to that idea than we are, as a country.
PAPADEMETRIOU: So you already heard some of the outcry about rewarding law-breakers, (INAUDIBLE) jumpers, et cetera, et cetera. So what you have is, in a sense, the rhetoric of the fact that many of those people are undocumented versus the reality that anything that we have done during the past 15 years to try to stem the undocumented tide unilaterally has failed.
PAPADEMETRIOU: Has failed completely.
HUME: Well, not -- well, obviously, it -- presumably, if there weren't efforts at the border, there'd be even more undocumented workers here.
PAPADEMETRIOU: Well, presumably, theoretically. But let me assure you that today there are many more undocumented immigrants than there were in 1986, when we had the last large legalization program. But all of the efforts that we have done since 1986 have been unilateral, us trying to work against the tide of immigrants and against the market, throwing more money, more border guards...
HUME: You say the market. You mean the market for their services as workers.
PAPADEMETRIOU: Exactly right. As workers. OK? We're throwing all of these obstacles, and they overcome them perfectly easily because we, as a society, as communities, at the same time that we don't like law-breakers, we seem to enjoy their labor, as we have done through immigration for the last 100 years.
HUME: So you make a compelling case for some kind of program to make these people legal.
HUME: All right. Now, but if you do that, what about this question of their getting priority over people who are not yet in the country who are trying to come the legal way?
PAPADEMETRIOU: You cannot never avoid -- you cannot never answer that question, OK? In other words, there are probably about three million people outside of the country that are waiting, some of them patiently, some of them not so patiently. In other words, many of them are already in the United States.
HUME: But we don't know it.
PAPADEMETRIOU: Illegally. We don't know how many of them there are.
HUME: We don't have any record of them.
PAPADEMETRIOU: We don't have any record of that. And essentially, there's going to be some inequity there.
PAPADEMETRIOU: But fundamentally, what you're trying to accomplish is look at the problem straight in the eyes, confront it, realize that you haven't succeeded with your present...
PAPADEMETRIOU: ... set of unilateral policies and say, "Can I enlist Mexico"...
PAPADEMETRIOU: ... "in a joint effort to help me address both the undocumented immigration issue and the needs of the American labor market?"
HUME: So what we would get is -- in exchange for dealing with the problem of the three million or so that are already here, we would get Mexican help at the border, presumably.
PAPADEMETRIOU: Very significant Mexican help at the border...
PAPADEMETRIOU: ... along a whole bunch of different law enforcement initiatives.
HUME: So that would make the law enforcement in the future more easy to accomplish.
HUME: Now, we got about a half minute to go here, but -- politically speaking, one can see what might be in this for a president who seeks to appeal to Hispanics. Is it that helpful -- is this as good an issue for him politically as it seems at first blush?
PAPADEMETRIOU: If he is willing to commit some of his own political capital on this and make it happen at the Congress...
PAPADEMETRIOU: ... yes. It can be a very significant gain for...
HUME: So it would be recognized? Hispanics all over the country would appreciate this...
HUME: ... you think?
PAPADEMETRIOU: Absolutely correct.
HUME: Well, very interesting.
PAPADEMETRIOU: I'm convinced of that.
HUME: Very nice to have you, sir. Thank you.
PAPADEMETRIOU: Thank you. My pleasure.
HUME: Hope you'll come again.
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