National Public Radio presidential debate

MR. INSKEEP: You interview a number of applicants. They all seem very nice. They seem like they would take care of the kids, but it would appear that their documents may not be in order. What would you want an American to do?

SEN. DODD: Well, I think you've got an obligation here to go beyond that if you have any doubts or questions here. People who knowingly hire undocumented workers, I think, need to be held accountable to a far higher degree of penalty, civil and possibly criminal, if in fact it's widespread, because there are the things that are going to slow down the 4(00,000) to 500,000 people who come here each year.

You know, I understand — look, I think this debate has to begin someplace. I'm very worried about the fear- and hatemongers out there who are going to divide this country very terribly on this subject matter. We've been a welcoming people for the entire history of our nation. I hear there were exceptions in the 19th century with the "Know-Nothings" and at the end of World War I, which were dangerous periods here.

But obviously, any self-respecting country has to control its borders. It has to impose penalties — it would otherwise attract people to come here — understanding why they want to be here but also understanding our capacity and ability to handle this.

That's why I've taken the strong position here of doing whatever we can on both sides of the border, and I've worked this for a long time. For 20 years, I've chaired the interparliamentary meeting with Mexico. I speak the language fluently. We have a large percentage of people coming from Latin America. We passed the CAFTA trade agreement here. You want to go right to the heart of these things here. We allowed every single country under CAFTA to be able to set its own labor standard. Exactly what happens is, businesses locate there and race to the bottom. Instead of improving the quality of working conditions that would give people in these countries a chance to stay in their own nation, which most of them would prefer to do, we're encouraging people to come here by not having trading agreements that don't insist upon —

MR. INSKEEP: We're going to talk more about that, those issues, as we go along here.

But sticking with real people, Congressman Kucinich, the real person in that situation, what should they do?

REP. KUCINICH: Rely on the Constitution. You know, we don't encourage vigilantism in this country. We have a Constitution, we have due process, we have equal protection, we have habeas corpus. This administration, as — like — you know, would like to shred the Constitution and deny people all those rights. But when we get into that, what we do, we take the path of the non-constitutional rights, and we're back to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and all those other violations of rights that we're ashamed of now. And I'm saying that we have to realize that these are economic refugees from NAFTA.

You know, I've said it over and over. Cancel NAFTA. Negotiate a new trade agreement with Mexico based on workers rights, human rights, environmental quality principles. Give a path to legalization for the people who have been here. You can't send them home willy-nilly. You have to have a way in which our immigration policy resonates with the deeper principles of inclusiveness in America, as symbolized by our Statue of Liberty.

MR. INSKEEP: We may get to NAFTA as well, time permitting.

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