Stuart Loory, Lee Hills Chair in Free-Press Studies, Missouri School of Journalism: Today we’re going to discuss illegal immigration. Immigration is a thing that made our country great. All of us, except Native Americans, are immigrants or descended from immigrants. Many of us have illegal or forced immigration in our backgrounds. This new Arizona law says that if a policeman stops you and has reason to believe that you are an illegal immigrant, he or she may ask for documentation. If you can’t produce it, you may be summarily deported. Will the new law control the problem of illegal immigration in Arizona?
Alia Beard Rau, legislative reporter, The Arizona Republic; Phoenix: The supporters hope that the provisions of the law may convince folks who are here illegally to go back home. A lot of the supporters of the bill say that the undocumented population is contributing to crime, to the cost of health care, to cost of education. They see this as an additional tool for police officers to help them stem problems.
Loory: This is not viewed as a good law in Washington or in many other places around the United States. In fact, a lot of people think that it is unconstitutional. What is going to be done to challenge this law?
Michele Waslin, senior research analyst, American Immigration Council; Washington, D.C.: This law is very problematic, and I believe there are several groups that are already preparing lawsuits challenging it. The White House is also taking a look to see if there is anything that can be done by the federal government. More than anything, this law highlights the fact that our immigration system is badly broken. We’re seeing more and more of these harsh anti-immigrant laws at the state and local level.
Loory: President Obama has promised to submit a bill to Congress on immigration. Given the conflict between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, it would be difficult to pass. Is the president really going to go through with this plan for a bill?
Waslin: Immigration is a contentious issue. We know that Sen. Lindsey Graham has been working with Sen. Chuck Schumer for the last several months trying to put together a framework for a comprehensive package. We also know that the president has spoken strongly about this. I think the Democrats are sincerely reaching out to Republicans to work together on this bill, and I think it is in the interest of both parties to show that they can pass meaningful legislation that would offer a solution.
Loory: There have been stories from Mexico that say people seeking to get into the U.S. illegally are not really going to turn back because of it. Is that true?
Rau: It’s a little too early to know the numbers. I have heard from people who say this isn’t going to stop illegal immigration. Some people will come across illegally regardless of the law. We have seen numbers decreasing a little over the past couple of years, but I think that is more related to economic issues and fewer jobs.
Loory: John McCain, the senator from Arizona, has been interested in immigration reform. But apparently he has turned against a bill. Why is that?
Rau: I am not sure. He initially was supportive of it then said he had to look at it more closely. I know he consistently supported a more wide-reaching reform effort that would also include some more opportunities to come into the country legally, and this bill has not addressed any aspect of legal entry into the country.
Loory: How do you explain Sen. McCain’s reactions at the present time?
Waslin: Sen. McCain had always been a very strong advocate of comprehensive immigration reform. However, he is in a very tough primary race right now, and his opponent is a staunch anti-immigrant candidate. He has been pushed further to the right.
Loory: What would comprehensive immigration reform mean?
Waslin: You have to start with the understanding that our current immigration laws are broken and out-of-date. A comprehensive immigration reform would have to deal with those 10 million to 11 million people here illegally. It would include a requirement that they come forward, register with the government, learn English, pay their taxes, pay a fine, jump through some other hoops and then legalize their status. It would also have to include smart enforcement measures. We believe that once you take those 11 million illegal immigrants off the table by legalizing them, our law enforcement can focus its efforts on real national security threats and serious criminals. Right now they’re spending too much time running after busboys and hotel maids. They should be able to focus their resources on real threats like we see along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona.
Loory: I would like to turn our attention now to Europe. My understanding is that there are 16 million Muslims who have immigrated in past years to Europe, and many of them are illegal. How is that being handled in Italy and the rest of the European Union countries?
Anna Momigliano, freelance correspondent, Christian Science Monitor and The Nation; Milan, Italy: The situation is quite schizophrenic in Europe, to be honest. There is a 2008 EU agreement that basically says each country needs to tackle immigration according to the general European interest. In practice, the countries do whatever they please. In Italy, the situation is particularly schizophrenic because in theory they have tough anti-immigrant laws. In practice, it is easy for illegal immigrants to come to Italy because every year the government passes an amnesty saying whoever is here and has a job can stay.
Loory: My understanding is that much of the illegal immigration is carried out in Sicily. Citizens are patrolling the streets and trying to point out illegal immigrants so that action can be taken against them. Is that so, and how is it working out?
Momigliano: Around the coast of Sicily, there is a police village that has a marina with sea guards. Their task is to prevent illegal immigration to come to Sicily. Sicily is close to Africa, so all immigrants from Africa reach Europe through Sicily. The paradox is that those police vigilantes are severely criticized by other European states because apparently they violate human rights, but Italy gets criticized because illegal immigrants can reach the rest of Europe through Sicily.
Loory: There are two problems in Turkey: One is emigration — the emigration of Turks to Western Europe — and the other is illegal immigration in Turkey. What is going on in Germany, Italy, Switzerland and other countries affecting relations between those countries and Turkey?
Momigliano: Europe is divided when it comes to its relationship with Turkey. There are many countries that view positively the entrance of Turkey to the EU. On the other hand, there is a big Muslim culture scare in Europe. Many illegal immigrants are actually from Muslim backgrounds.
Yigal Schleifer, correspondent, Christian Science Monitor; Istanbul: The real problem between Turkey and the EU is not the question of the migration of Turks because that happened in the '60s and '70s. Those Turkish communities are well-established in Europe. That is more of an internal question in those European countries. The problem right now is irregular migration of Africans or Asians who are flowing through Turkey. Turkey is a major transit route into Europe. The people are trying to get through Turkey and into Europe. Brussels would very much like Turkey to shut its border down, but Turkey is concerned because they don’t want these people getting stuck inside Turkey. Turkey is trying to join the EU, and one of the conditions that is being put forward is that Turkey needs to crack down on these migrants.
Loory: What does the prime minister of Turkey consider to be the illegal role that Armenians are playing in Turkey?
Schleifer: This is more of a political issue. The number that he used was some 100,000 Armenians living illegally in Turkey, and the number is actually much lower than that. I’ve seen 10,000 to 12,000. This all gets wrapped up in the genocide resolution issue and with what happened in (the United States) Congress with the Foreign Affairs Committee there passing a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide. These illegal Armenian workers in Turkey end up getting dragged into this. Turkey says they can just kick them out and that they’re showing great hospitality as a way of trumpeting a Turkish kindness, but it ended up showing a strong intolerance on the prime minister’s part.
Loory: Whenever I talk about immigration, I am reminded of the story of Marian Anderson. She was the first Afro-American diva to sing at the Metropolitan Opera. She was a superstar. And in the 1930s, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused Marian Anderson permission to do a concert in their Constitution Hall in Washington. At some point, Franklin D. Roosevelt came to Constitution Hall to speak to the DAR and he began his talk saying, “Fellow immigrants.”
Producers of Global Journalist are Missouri School of Journalism graduate students Youn-Joo Park, Angela Potrykus, Melissa Ulbricht, Tim Wall and Megan Wiegand. The transcriber is Pat Kelley.