CBS's Blackstone: Immigration Debate 'Boiling Over,' 'Often-Angry'

John Blackstone, CBS In a report on Arizona's immigration law for CBS's Sunday Morning, correspondent John Blackstone declared: "In the heat of the Arizona summer, America's long-simmering immigration debate is boiling over." He portrayed it as the latest wave of anti-immigrant sentiment: "The often-angry debate....whether yet another influx of outsiders can be accepted into a nation of immigrants."  

At the top of the program, the Early Show's Harry Smith, filling in for host Charles Osgood, teased Blackstone's report this way: "'The New Colossus' is the name of the Emma Lazarus poem about the Statue of Liberty, the poem that speaks of a 'golden door' for immigrants to America. S.B.1070 is the name of the Arizona law that critics say betrays that promise, but which supporters say is necessitated by a tide of illegal immigration."

As Blackstone introduced his report later, a series of newspaper headlines flashed on screen: "Ariz. immigration law creates rift; Obama Blasts Arizona Law; Arizona Enacts Stringent Law on Immigration." He then profiled one illegal immigrant: "...the immigration debate...means everything to 23-year-old Hermann. He's an undocumented immigrant we met at a church gathering....The current atmosphere leaves Hermann nervous but eager to tell his story." A clip was played of Hermann fretting: "For eight years, I've been in the shadows, you know. It's been to a point where you're almost paranoid, walking around."

Blackstone touted Hermann's accomplishments: "He went to high school and then college...The day of his college graduation, he was awarded not one degree, but two...And the speaker that day was President Obama." Blackstone added: "It's often said illegal immigrants don't pay taxes. Hermann does pay taxes and showed me his returns."

Later in the story, after describing the "often-angry debate" over the issue, Blackstone observed: "In Arizona, fears that the state is being overrun by those who won't wait and that the border is out of control don't match reality, says Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano." A clip was played of Napolitano: "There are more than twice as many border patrol agents at the border than just a few years ago. There's more technology. There's more infrastructure. There's more air cover and there's more every day on the way." As she listed each border security effort, CBS was helpful enough to provide corresponding video footage to bolster her case.

Blackstone continued: "Despite a perception that illegal immigrants are causing a crime wave, the FBI says violent crime near the border has actually fallen in the past decade....The Department of Homeland Security estimates the number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. dropped from 11.6 million in January 2008, to 10.8 million in January 2009." Napolitano claimed: "...the numbers are all going in the right direction."

Nearing the end of his report, Blackstone did some lobbying for a particular piece of immigration legislation: "Many young undocumented immigrants, like Hermann, have their hopes pinned on the Dream Act – legislation first introduced in 2001 that has stalled in Congress. It would award residency to many brought here as children, younger than 16, who have graduated from high school. Hermann sees the Dream Act as his chance to make a life in the country where he studied, works, and pays taxes."

Here is a full transcript of the August 8 segment:

9:00AM TEASE

HARRY SMITH: 'The New Colossus' is the name of the Emma Lazarus poem about the Statue of Liberty, the poem that speaks of a 'golden door' for immigrants to America. S.B.1070 is the name of the Arizona law that critics say betrays that promise, but which supporters say is necessitated by a tide of illegal immigration. The heated debate is almost certain to end up before the Supreme Court. John Blackstone will report our cover story.

JOHN BLACKSTONE: Each year, some 700,000 people from around the world are sworn in as American citizens. The controversy in Arizona and elsewhere is about the 500,000 or so who come in illegally each year. Hermann is one of them. Just you being here, you're breaking the law.

HERMANN: Absolutely. And – and the thing is that it's an outdated law.

JOHN BLACKSTONE: The immigration debate in Arizona and across the country, later on Sunday Morning.

9:09AM SEGMENT

HARRY SMITH: S.B.1070 is the controversial Arizona immigration law that a federal judge found partially unconstitutional last month. As the appeal of that decision works its way toward the Supreme Court, the argument in the court of public opinion goes on as well. Our cover story is reported by John Blackstone.

JOHN BLACKSTONE: In the heat of the Arizona summer, America's long-simmering immigration debate is boiling over.

CROWD PROTESTING IMMIGRATION LAW: Si se puede! Si se puede!

Newspaper Headline, CBS [ON-SCREEN GRAPHIC OF NEWSPAPER HEADLINE: Ariz. immigration law creates rift]

BLACKSTONE: While protestors take to the streets, the state and federal governments are fighting in court over who can write and enforce immigration law.

[ON-SCREEN GRAPHIC OF NEWSPAPER HEADLINE: Obama Blasts Arizona Law]

UNIDENTIFIED MAN A: We will not comply.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN B: We will enforce the law.

BLACKSTONE: When Arizona's Governor Jan Brewer signed the state's tough new immigration law in April, she said it was needed because of Washington's failures.
[ON-SCREEN GRAPHIC OF NEWSPAPER HEADLINE: Arizona Enacts Stringent Law on Immigration]

She was angered by the court decision, that temporarily at least, blocked major parts of the measure.

JAN BREWER: Now they've got this temporary injunction, they need to step up, the feds do, and do the job that they have the responsibility to do for the people of America, and for the people of Arizona.

JANET NAPOLITANO: All allegiance and fidelity.

BLACKSTONE: Former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano now has responsibility for securing the border as secretary of Homeland Security.

NAPOLITANO: There's frustration out there. I think there's a misconception that securing the border means sealing the border and anyone who's been on the border knows that that's just a physical impossibility among other things. You don't seal the border but you secure the border.

BLACKSTONE: Securing the border was Harold Beasley's job for more than three decades. Now retired in Arizona, the current battle has him talking about putting on his uniform again.

HAROLD BEASLEY: Why don't you give it a try? Bring me out of retirement and give me 200 Border Patrol agents and I'll show you how many people I can deport in a couple of months. You know, it's – it's – it's – it's a hard job, but you can do it.

[CROWD PROTESTING IMMIGRATION LAW]

BLACKSTONE: If the immigration debate means a lot to Harold Beasley, it means everything to 23-year-old Hermann. He's an undocumented immigrant we met at a church gathering. He was brought here by his family when he was 15.

HERMANN: And I completely fell in love with the country. I – I felt, you know, there's so many opportunities. There's so many things you can do here. I want to stay. I want to, you know, be someone. I want to go to school, be the best I can be.

BEASLEY: I see people in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona now demonstrating, carrying signs, saying that I owe them something. I owe them rights. I owe them, you know, welfare. I owe them this and I owe them that.

BLACKSTONE: The estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona cost the state about $900 million dollars a year for education, health care, and incarceration, according to Arizona officials. And at a time when unemployment in Arizona is 9.6%, there are fears undocumented workers are taking jobs Americans should have.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN C: We are America! Get over it!

[SPLIT SCREEN: On Left: Protestor sign reading 'Land of the Free! Really?'; On Right: Police officer in riot gear]  

BLACKSTONE: The current atmosphere leaves Hermann nervous but eager to tell his story.

HERMANN: For eight years, I've been in the shadows, you know. It's been to a point where you're almost paranoid, walking around. But I think this is – it's now or never, you know. You got to say what you got to say.

BLACKSTONE: Hermann's family came from Venezuela on tourist visas but never left. He went to high school and then college.

HERMANN: And I worked full time while I was at school, almost 40 hours. Actually, my senior year, all throughout the – the year, I worked at nights, delivering newspapers.

BLACKSTONE: The day of his college graduation, he was awarded not one degree, but two.

HERMANN: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Magna Cum Laude. And that's my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Magna Cum Laude as well.

BLACKSTONE: And the speaker that day was President Obama.

BARACK OBAMA: We need young people like you to step up. We need your daring. We need your enthusiasm. We need your energy. We need your imagination.

HERMANN: If there was a pathway for me to become legalized even right now, I would do it, I would do it.

BLACKSTONE: It's often said illegal immigrants don't pay taxes. Hermann does pay taxes and showed me his returns. He doesn't have a Social Security number; but the IRS gives undocumented workers a special taxpayer number, information that is not shared with immigration authorities.

HERMANN: It's funny how the system works. You know, they – they won't give you that chance to work but they do want you to pay those taxes.

BLACKSTONE: The often-angry debate here in Arizona reflects a discussion that's been going on through much of America's history. The country's dilemma is whether yet another influx of outsiders can be accepted into a nation of immigrants. Each year, about 700,000 people raise their hands to be sworn in as American citizens. Getting into America legally isn't quick or easy. Mumtaz Shamsee, from Pakistan, became an American citizen last month.

MUMTAZ SHAMSEE: The whole process, since the day I arrived till the day I took my oath, is almost 19 years.

BLACKSTONE: He came here first on a student visa. Then, after graduating as a computer engineer, he got a temporary work visa, and eventually citizenship.

SHAMSEE: I feel like I earned my citizenship because the rule is if you are on work visa, H1, and you get laid off, you have to find another job or you are illegal, your status is illegal. You're supposed to leave the country.

BLACKSTONE: Fortunately for him, his skills were in demand in Silicon Valley so he could stay. Many other prospective immigrants have to wait patiently in their home countries.

SUSAN CURDA: There has to be a visa number available, and sometimes that actually can take several years.

BLACKSTONE: Susan Curda of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says to come here legally most immigrants need either a job offer or an immediate family member already living here. Then get in line.

CURDA: The countries that have the most people wanting to come to the United States, the wait's going to be longer.

BLACKSTONE: In Arizona, fears that the state is being overrun by those who won't wait and that the border is out of control don't match reality, says Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano.

NAPOLITANO: There are more than twice as many border patrol agents at the border than just a few years ago. There's more technology. There's more infrastructure. There's more air cover and there's more every day on the way.

[ON-SCREEN: Footage of Border Patrol efforts as Napolitano lists them]

BLACKSTONE: Despite a perception that illegal immigrants are causing a crime wave, the FBI says violent crime near the border has actually fallen in the past decade: in Phoenix down 10%, in San Diego down 17%, in El Paso, Texas, down 36%. In fact, illegal immigration as a whole is actually declining, although the poor economy may have as much to do with that as improved border security. The Department of Homeland Security estimates the number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. dropped from 11.6 million in January 2008, to 10.8 million in January 2009.

NAPOLITANO: Even as that has been going on and the numbers are all going in the right direction and – and all the rest, I think there's a realization, particularly in border states, that the underlying immigration law needs to be updated, needs to be reformed.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN A: It's a fight for the Dream Act-

BLACKSTONE: Many young undocumented immigrants, like Hermann, have their hopes pinned on the Dream Act – legislation first introduced in 2001 that has stalled in Congress. It would award residency to many brought here as children, younger than 16, who have graduated from high school. Hermann sees the Dream Act as his chance to make a life in the country where he studied, works, and pays taxes.

HERMANN: This is my home. I – I do feel like I'm an American. You know, I have a great love, a great respect for this country. I've always had it.

BLACKSTONE: But Hermann's wish to live here legally is one shared by millions around the world.

CROWD: And to the Republic for which it stands-

BLACKSTONE: Many immigrants think coming to America is like winning a lottery. And that's exactly how Paras and Davita Upadhyay from Nepal got here. They were winners of the State Department's Diversity Visa Lottery, which awards 55,000 visas a year to people in countries that send few immigrants to America.

DAVITA UPADHYAY: He was all excited, yeah. It was exciting. We were not expecting that.

PARAS UPDHYAY: Yeah, we were not expecting that.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN B: Raise your right hands.

BLACKSTONE: More people want to come to the United States than to anywhere else and that is a challenge of immigration reform. Among all those who dream of becoming American, how do we choose who to accept?
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC