National Public Radio presidential debate

MS. NORRIS: Thank you. That's where we're going to have to end our discussion to China. We could have gone on, but thanks to all the candidates. We'll continue in just a minute with our Democratic presidential debate.

(Announcements.)

MR. SIEGEL: From NPR News and Iowa Public Radio, this is special live coverage of our Democratic Presidential Debate from Des Moines. I'm Robert Siegel.

MR. INSKEEP: I'm Steve Inskeep.

MS. NORRIS: And I'm Michele Norris.

The other day, an Iowa voter advised us of a big campaign issue. He called it the M-word, M-igration. The so-called M-word is our next topic, and Steve Inskeep will lead our questioning.

MR. INSKEEP: Thanks, Michele.

Candidates, we've just been doing some reporting in the last few days from Marshalltown, Iowa, a city that I know many of you have visited. This is a city with a lot of immigrants, a number of illegal immigrants. There have been immigration raids there. And that raises questions about citizens in places like that all over America.

Some citizens in Marshalltown turn in illegal immigrants, some take them in. There's actually a person who's been indicted for sheltering immigrants, which raises a question that I'd like to put to you: What obligations do American citizens have when it comes to illegal immigrants?

And let's start within Senator Obama. Would you expect Americans, if you're president — January 2009, immigration reform, whatever you want hasn't happened yet. Would you expect Americans to turn in illegal immigrants when they come across?

SEN. OBAMA: We do not deputize the American people to do the job that the federal government is supposed to do. So as president of the United States, I will make sure that the federal government does what it's supposed to do, which is to do a better job of closing our borders and preventing hundreds of thousands of people to pour in, have much tougher enforcement standards when it comes to employers, and create a pathway of citizenship for the 12 million people who are already here.

MR. INSKEEP: So does that mean that Americans should not turn in illegal immigrants?

SEN. OBAMA: The point is that we are not going to have — we're not going to deputize a whole bunch of American citizens to start grabbing people or turning them in, in part because the ordinary American citizen may not know whether or not this person is illegal or not.

Now, we do — we should be holding employers accountable, because they have a mechanism whereby they can actually enforce. But you know, the notion that we're going to criminalize priests, for example, or doctors who are providing services to individuals and throw them in jail for doing what they're calling asks them to do, which is to provide health and service to people in need, I think that is a mistake. I think that's out of America's character.

MR. INSKEEP: I'm going to get to several candidates on this. Senator Dodd, let's say that you're hiring a nanny. Perhaps you've have this experience. A number of —

SEN. DODD: No, I haven't had that experience, and I —

MR. INSKEEP: Well, let's say that you have.

SEN. DODD: Nice try. (Laughter.)

MR. INSKEEP: — for your kids. Let's say that a citizen is hiring a nanny.

SEN. DODD: (Inaudible) — be checking out, very thoroughly —

MR. INSKEEP: Working parent — well that's the question.

SEN. DODD: Yeah.

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