Near the end of an interview with Arizona Senator John McCain on Tuesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith turned to the subject of illegal immigration and the new Arizona law to combat it: "a very tough immigration reform bill which basically makes it illegal for you to be in the state without some sort of documentation. Is this law the answer to the immigration crisis?"
McCain noted the number of illegal immigrants entering Arizona and the level of drug trafficking taking place: "Across the Tucson sector of Arizona last year, there was 241,000 apprehensions of illegal immigrants....1.3 million pounds of marijuana intercepted on the Tucson border just last year." Smith followed up by wondering: "And for the millions of Hispanic Americans who live in Arizona, what do you say to them who feel like this bill is purely discriminatory?"
In a news brief on the topic at the top of the 8AM ET hour, fill-in news reader Betty Nguyen described how: "The Obama administration and activists are considering legal challenges to Arizona's new immigration enforcement law, which has reignited a national debate." A series of signs from an immigration protest in San Francisco appeared on screen: "Latinos Today, Who's Next? Shame on Arizona;" "Boycott Arizona;" "Brown Is Not A Crime."As footage of the protest rolled, Nguyen explained: "The law makes it a crime to be an illegal immigrant." On Monday, an MSNBC headline made the same odd statement.
On Monday's CBS Evening News, correspondent John Blackstone argued: "many feel the sting of racism in the new law."
The Saturday Early Show also covered the passage of the Arizona immigration law, as co-host Chris Wragge declared at the show's opening: "Border War. Arizona's governor signs the nation's toughest law against illegal immigration. Will the new legislation help secure the nation's borders or expand racial profiling?"
Moments later, White House correspondent Bill Plante reported: "The bill makes it a crime to be in Arizona illegally....Brewer said that she would not tolerate racial profiling, but that's what federal officials fear. President Obama called the Arizona law 'misguided' and urged lawmakers to get going on immigration reform. 'Failure to act,' he said, 'opens the door to irresponsibility.'" A headline on screen read: "Arizona Crackdown; New Law Makes Illegal Immigration A Crime" Apparently neither MSNBC nor CBS seem capable of seeing the irony in that declaration.
Following Plante's report, Wragge moderated a debate on the issue between Republican strategist Bay Buchanan and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. Wragge wondered: "Does Arizona's new immigration law go too far?" He then asked Buchanan: "Do you find it in any way unconstitutional?"
Turning to Cardona, Wragge continued his negative tone: "Why is this bad for the people of Arizona, in your eyes?" That gave Cardona the opportunity to rant: "It is not only horrendous policy, it is even worse politics. This is an insidious law that will actually make, not just all undocumented immigrants, but all legal and U.S. citizen Latinos, many of which, whose families have been in Arizona even before Arizona was part of the United States. It makes them under suspicion."
Following up, Wragge did challenge Cardona to present an alternative solution to the immigration problem: "$3 billion a year to educate, medicate, and incarcerate illegals in the state of Arizona. You're not in favor of this law, so what could have been done differently?" Cardona called for a "comprehensive" federal approach and again attacked the Arizona law: "The only thing this law will do is to make it open season for any immigrant, anybody who does not look Anglo, and it will make actually racial profiling legal in Arizona. It's insidious and it's wrongheaded."
Here is a full transcript of Wragge's discussion with Buchanan and Cardona:
CHRIS WRAGGE: So, does Arizona's new immigration law go too far? Let's get two points of view this morning. Bay Buchanan is a Republican strategist, who supports the measure. Maria Cardona is a Democratic strategist, opposed to it. Both are in our Washington bureau this morning. Ladies, good morning to the both of you.
BAY BUCHANAN: Good morning to you.
MARIA CARDONA: Good morning.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: The Great Immigration Debate; Does Arizona's New Law Go Too Far?]
WRAGGE: Bay, I'm going to start with you. I know you fully support this bill, but do you-
WRAGGE: -do you find it in any way unconstitutional?
BUCHANAN: Oh not – not whatsoever. You know what they're giving is the tools to the law enforcement officers of Arizona. The same tools that we now have given to the border agents. They have the ability to ask people about their legal status. And the key was what Russell Pearce, the Senator who's behind this bill, did. See he went to the police officers and the law enforcement officers, the prosecutors in Arizona and said, 'what can we do? What do you need to finally take care of this issue here in the state?' And they said, 'we need greater tools, we need these abilities,' and that's what they did, is they have now put it into law, given the law enforcement officers of Arizona the ability to secure the welfare and the safety of the people of Arizona.
WRAGGE: Lots of responsibility for local law enforcement in Arizona. Maria, why is this bad for the people of Arizona, in your eyes?
CARDONA: It is not only horrendous policy, it is even worse politics. This is an insidious law that will actually make, not just all undocumented immigrants, but all legal and U.S. citizen Latinos, many of which, whose families have been in Arizona even before Arizona was part of the United States. It makes them under suspicion. They become people of interest under this law. They could be speaking Spanish on a corner. Who knows what 'reasonable suspicion' means. The Governor herself could not answer the question yesterday about what an illegal immigrant looks like. So, law enforcement officers, a lot of – a lot of law enforcement officers in Arizona don't want this law. They understand that they need community policing and in order to be effective law enforcement officers, they need the trust of the Hispanic community, which will absolutely evaporate under this law.
WRAGGE: Yeah, go ahead, Bay.
BUCHANAN: But you know, Chris, the law, as it stands before this was written, has not done the job. Arizona is a target for human and drug smuggling. It's the number one place, the number one state in the country where that's coming through, that's the target of the drug cartels to take them right through that state. And, as a result, Phoenix is the kidnapping capital of the country and it's one of the top kidnapping capitals of the world now.
CARDONA: But, the-
BUCHANAN: The crime in Arizona is outrageous. People are being murdered, the crime is high. The schools are overloaded. This – laws have not worked and so now they're given the tools. They're taking the handcuffs off the police officers and they're going to be putting them on those who are violating the laws of this country.
WRAGGE: Alright. Maria, let me ask you this. $3 billion a year along the lines of what Bay is saying here, $3 billion a year to educate, medicate, and incarcerate illegals in the state of Arizona. You're not in favor of this law, so what could have been done differently?
CARDONA: Look, what we need, clearly, is comprehensive immigration reform. I absolutely understand the frustration of the folks in Arizona, of all of our leaders in the border states who – who look at this problem and have – and have had this problem for many, many, many years. It is an issue that we need to deal with at a federal level, which is why the President said yesterday that we need to deal with this by passing comprehensive immigration reform.
The law in Arizona is not the way to go. I agree with Bay that there is a huge problem with undocumented immigrants who are actually drug traffickers and – and all of the crime is clearly an issue. This law does nothing to address this. The only thing this law will do is to make it open season for any immigrant, anybody who does not look Anglo, and it will make actually racial profiling legal in Arizona.
WRAGGE: Bay, last word to you, Bay-
CARDONA: It's insidious and it's wrongheaded.
WRAGGE: Bay, last word to you. How do you apply this law without racially discriminating against people or profiling?
BUCHANAN: You know, our border agents do it every day. So, this is nothing new. And, so-
CARDONA: They are trained.
BUCHANAN: -what they're saying is – they are trained – and that is what the governor of Arizona said, she's going to train her police officers. The key here is this is what the people of Arizona want. They've had it with federal government. They have refused to do the job, and the answer is not amnesty for the 15 to 20 million illegals here. That's what Obama wants. That's what the Democrats want. It is not – that just increases the number of people coming into the country illegal. The people of Arizona on the front lines that are paying the price, they've had it. This will clean up the problem in Arizona. That's what it'll do.
WRAGGE: Ladies, I got to leave it there.
CARDONA: It'll do nothing to do that.
WRAGGE: Got to leave it there. Thank you both very much. We could probably spend the next two hours on this topic.
BUCHANAN: We could.
WRAGGE: It is a hot topic. Alright. Republican strategist Bay Buchanan, Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. Thank you both, ladies, we do appreciate you getting up early with us this morning.
BUCHANAN: Sure, thank you.
CARDONA: Thank you very much.