Video: Video: Immigration uproar

msnbc.com
updated 4/12/2006 5:20:26 PM ET 2006-04-12T21:20:26

A massive pro-immigration demonstration filled the National Mall this week.  Similar scenes were repeated in cities across the country.  Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators cheered, chanted and demanded citizenship for illegal immigrants in scenes that reminded some of the anti-war protests of the 1960s. 

One of the rally organizers, Brent Wilkes, joined Tucker Carlson in Washington D.C. to discuss.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, "THE SITUATION":  So to put it bluntly, why should Congress listen to rallies of a lot of people who can't even vote because they're not even here legally?

BRENT WILKES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LULAC:  I think because they can see that there was a tremendous outpouring of humanity today throughout the country. 

These are people that are working hard in our nation.  They're picking our food.  They're building our homes.  They're taking care of our children.  They're cleaning our offices.  And all they want is the same opportunity that your ancestors and my ancestors had. 

CARLSON:  Look, one thing I was reminded of today is something I knew as a child, growing up next to Mexico; is that a lot of people who come here illegally are nice people, and they want to work and I admire that.  And I always have admired that.

However, it's a bit much to sneak into a country illegally, breaking its laws by definition, and then start lecturing that country on what kind of country it should be. 

WILKES:  That's not what's happened at all.  Let's just start from the beginning.

CARLSON:  Sure it is.

WILKES:  Right now, we offer about 5,000 visas per year to about a million people coming in, taking these jobs that we're all too willing to offer throughout this country, doing these very needed things for our economy.  You're benefiting and I'm benefiting from their labor. 

And instead of thanking them, we punish them.  We take away their driver's licenses.  We say they can't have bank accounts.  We persecute them throughout the country. 

CARLSON:  Persecute?  Wait a second.

WILKES:  Because they are illegal, One misdemeanor violation of the immigration law and we think that means anything goes, we can punish them as much as we want. 

CARLSON:  You've got to be kidding.  They're here illegally.  If I show up in Salvador, Guatemala or Mexico, which is a prime offender in this way, without papers and say, you know, “I'm taking this job, and I want you to speak English, and I actually want a driver's license,” they'll say, “Shut up, pal,” and if I don't shut up, they'll put me in jail.  Because that's what sovereign countries do.  They control their borders.  Or we don't.

WILKES:  Tucker, there are plenty of Americans living in Mexico right now.  They've retired.  They're having a great life down there.  Mexico allows people to come across legally.  We do not.  We do not provide them a legal avenue, and that's what's created the problem in the first place. 

CARLSON:  Wait.  I'm sorry, not to counter your spin with facts here, but Mexico has put thousands of Central American immigrants in prison.  It is a crime punishable by prison in Mexico to sneak into that country without documentation.  Period.  They're in prison right now.

WILKES:  Look me in the eyes and you tell me that we are not benefiting from these immigrants' labor. 

CARLSON:  You're dodging the question. 

WILKES:  We need to give them an opportunity to come here legally.  That's all we're asking.  You give them that legal opportunity and they will take it.  We're forcing them to take an illegal path. 

CARLSON:  To some extent you're right.  And you're also dodging my previous question.  Isn't it our right to decide who comes here and who does not?

WILKES:  Yes.

CARLSON:  We're America.  It's our country.  Now, you may want to see more immigrants come here.  I might want to see more immigrants come here.  But it's up to Congress.  We elect them to make those decisions.  And they have said we have this many slots open.  These people are ignoring that and coming here anyway.  Don't we have the right to punish them?

WILKES:  We have the right to decide how to change our immigration laws.

CARLSON:  Right.

WILKES:  That's clearly the case.  And they are letting us know how they feel about how we've been treating them up until this point. 

CARLSON:  But where do they get the right to weigh in on a political process of which they are not a part?  They are not American citizens.  I can't go to Mexico and organize a rally with a million of my closest buddies and say the Mexican government ought to change.  They would turn the fire hoses on me. 

WILKES:  We talk about Mexico's government all the time and give them advice.  Listen, there are human rights.  There are higher laws than just the Constitution

CARLSON:  It's God's law.  I got the clergyman the other day: it's God's law.

WILKES:  No, Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence said that we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  And he meant, by pursuit of happiness, he meant the right to work.  That's the natural law.  You cannot violate that.

CARLSON:  So once you show up in this country, even though we don't invite you and we don't want you, you suddenly have a right to tell us how to live.  You get to force our government to bend the will, simply because you got here?  See, that's why people dislike immigrants when you say things like that. 

WILKES:  I'm not saying that.  What I'm saying is they're letting us know how they feel.  These are people working for us, helping us.  All we have to do is give them a legal opportunity to come.  What's wrong with that?  Why won't we give them that legal opportunity? 

WILKES:  Folks like you try to get the public riled up.

CARLSON:  What do you mean get the public riled up?  I started this conversation by saying what I really think, as I always do, and that is that immigrants are admirable.  I like immigrants.  OK?

WILKES:  Give them a chance then.

CARLSON:  I even like illegal immigrants, personally.  You don't see them begging, which I admire, and they've always been nice when I've dealt with them. 

However, they are illegal.  So I need you to concede this point.  We have a right to say to people, “This is our law.  If you don't abide by it, we can boot you out, because it's our country, not yours.”  Don't we have the right to say that?  You seem to be suggesting we don't have that right.

WILKES:  We have that right, but we have to be reasonable and practical.  And the thing is, if they're helping us, why would we want to do that?  Just to be mean-spirited?

CARLSON:  Well, I don't know.  Your contention is illegal immigration is a net gain to this country. 

WILKES:  Yes, it is.

CARLSON:  You represent an interest group that has an interest in saying that, but a lot of  people disagree with you, actually.  A lot of people say, and there's some evidence to support that, that illegal immigrants bring a disproportionate amount of crime to this country, that they tax our health care system along the border.  And that's inarguably true.  You're ignoring that. 

WILKES:  No, not illegal immigration.  Immigration is a net gain.  We wish they were legal.  You're the one who wants them to be illegal, because you refuse to change the law.

CARLSON:  But they're not legal, and that's the point. 

WILKES:  Because you've made it impossible for them not.

CARLSON:  The people who live in Arizona, if they don't want illegals there, I think they want to be able to say, “Leave, it's not your country.  You have the right to determine what happens within your borders.  We have the right to determine what happens within ours.”

WILKES:  Look it, you're ignoring the big benefit, which is the value of their labor.  That's $890 billion worth of economic stimulus to the United States every year.  That more than makes up for the small amount of expenses that we pay on health care and on education.  That's only about $43 billion.

CARLSON:  Your job isn't going to be taken by an illegal immigrant.  If you're a talk show host, you're similarly safe.  But there are Americans who believe, and they may be correct, that their jobs are taken by people who will work for cheaper, because they're illegal.  And that does hurt Americans.

WILKES:  They might believe that, but they're mistaken.  And here's why.   We're in a global economy.  Those jobs could easily go over the seas in the blink of an eye.  Those immigrants that are coming here are helping keep certain occupations here in the United States, like agriculture that's dominated by immigrant labor.  If we lost those immigrant workers, you could kiss all those agricultural jobs good-bye and with it the positive trade deficit situation. 

CARLSON:  And they'd be replaced. I mean, those are bad jobs in the first place.  I wish we had time to argue the economic intricacies of this, but we don't.  But I appreciate your coming on.

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