This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 19, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Before the break, we asked you will immigration reform be a crucial issue in the 2012 elections? 64 percent of you said yes, 36 percent said no in our unscientific poll. But the president may believe that it is going to be a big issue in 2012. Take a listen.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Politically, Republicans may start recognizing, you know, the last census, and notice that, you know, they're going to have some serious problems in the future if they don't notice the growing power of the Latino vote inside the United States.

I believe that the American people can rally behind a strong comprehensive immigration reform effort. What we've done in terms of border security is unprecedented. I was a strong supporter of the DREAM act. This is something I believe is the right thing to do, and I'm going to keep working until I get it.


BAIER: And in an interview with a local TV anchor from Texas he said this -- "The question is going to be, are we going to be able to find some Republicans who can partner with me and others to get this done once and for all instead of using it as a political football?" We're back with the panel. Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Another example of the president campaigning and not governing. The problem in the last two years for him was not Republicans. He controlled with Democrats, the House and the Senate. He didn't pass anything. And the meeting he had today with the Hispanic leaders and those interested in this issue was a charade. There's no way of getting any comprehensive immigration reform in the next two years. It's a way to shore up his base.

And when he talks about border security, which would be a real way of getting Republican or conservative support, in the deal that was struck on the budget for 2011, at the suggestion of homeland security, there was a cut of a quarter of a billion in the border fence. That's an indication of how serious the administration is about border control.

BAIER: Mara?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think that this is an issue that is really important for both parties. I don't see how the president stands for re-election without having made tremendous effort to fulfill his promise to Hispanic voters that he would do this in his first term.

And I don't see how Republicans stand -- win presidential election if they are seen as the anti-Hispanic party. There is a lot of room for compromise, there are plenty of Republicans. Utah just passed a law to legalize illegal immigrants, give them a kind of guest worker card while they are in Utah, get them out of the shadows. There are plenty of Republicans who would like to do something, maybe legalize people, not necessarily have it lead to citizenship.

But if you could stagger it, so that there were some kind of a way that the president would certify border security, there would have to be some kind of guarantees in there, I think you could get something done because it's in both party's interest.

BAIER: Steve?

KRAUTHAMMER: Why did they cut the funding on the fence?

LIASSON: Well, I think they were asking to cut funding across the board. You're saying Republicans were fighting to keep the funding for the fence? I don't know enough about that.


KRAUTHAMMER: I'm saying, it would be odd if the president was the one who suggested it if he's that serious about border control --

LIASSON: That I don't know about.

BAIER: Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: The president came to office in January of 2009 with 73 percent approval from the Hispanics. Earlier this month he came in at 54 percent according to Gallup. That explains why we are talking about immigration, that and that alone. He needs to reach out to Hispanics, he needs to invigorate his base across the base. And I think he sees this as a way to do it.

He needs to be careful, though. Because I think he risks losing some moderate, or conservative Democrats, blue collar Democrats that this president has had particular trouble engaging in and reaching out to because on immigration they are not necessarily with him. And I think polling from state by state and across the country bears that out.

BAIER: And does that statement that "What we've done along the border is" -- what did he say? "Amazing"?

LIASSON: Unprecedented.

BAIER: "Unprecedented." Does it pass the test for all those border states?

HAYES: Well, no. I certainly think the perception in the border states is that they have not done everything they could possibly do. And you notice that he says that casually, sort of almost in passing in an interview but he is not out there giving speeches about how tough he has been on border patrol.

BAIER: Last word.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, look, I think the president here as in the speech he gave on Wednesday is shoring up his base and preparing for his campaign. I don't think there is anything serious about this. This is nothing but a campaign issue. It's not going to eventuate in legislation by any means.

BAIER: Really, the last word. Is it a big issue in 2012?

LIASSON: I think it's going to be a big issue in 2012. I mean, yes, I do. Hispanics are going to vote in much larger numbers than in 2010, proportionately.

BAIER: That is it for the panel. But stay tuned for the competing efforts to illustrate the debt and deficit.

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