National Public Radio presidential debate

What your panel here is conjuring is taking — is the same approach that the Bush administration has used in denying any kind of rights at all to so-called enemy non-combatants. And I say that a Kucinich administration, everyone who's in this country or within the reach of this country has to be accorded constitutional rights that would be accorded to anyone else, because that's what we stand on. This is one of the reasons why I'm pursuing impeachment against the vice president, because he's trashed the Constitution.

MR. INSKEEP: Former Senator Gravel.

MR. GRAVEL: Hasn't it become obvious in this discussion that there has to be a reason why over the last 15 years we haven't solved this problem as a nation? Stop and think. Our unemployment level is about 4.5, and that's about as low as you can get it. So, where is the problem? We have to have people fill these jobs. They come in and fill these jobs. We call them illegal. Are they illegal? They're filling jobs that need to be done.

If we were to chase them out, aren't we playing to the nativists, the crazies, who are opposed to anybody coming in since they got here? And the media plays into this. The Congress plays into this. Just open our doors. When the jobs are there to be filled, they'll come in. If the jobs aren't there, they'll go home. We can deal with all these other problems in trade.

But we're making a mountain out of a mole hill. We're creating laws. We're trying to deal with this. Deal with the obvious: We do not seem as a nation to be able to solve this problem the way we've been approaching it.

MR. INSKEEP: Senator Mike Gravel, former Senator Mike Gravel, thanks very much.

A couple other candidates had their hands up but we are approaching a break here. So let me assure you that we will continue a bit more on this topic after the break.

You are listening to the NPR Democratic Candidates Debate from Des Moines. We're going to take a break of about a minute. This is special coverage.

(Announcements.)

MR. SIEGEL: From NPR News and Iowa Public Radio, this is NPR's Democratic presidential debate. Along with Michele Norris and Steve Inskeep, I'm Robert Siegel.

Our topic right now is immigration, and Steve is leading the questions. Steve.

MR. INSKEEP: Now, let's dive right back in with Senator Clinton, who had her hand up before. And I do want to ask about a very similar topic, Senator.

You said in a debate on Saturday night that you support people who are, as you put it, "Yes, undocumented, but also working hard, trying to support their families. That's why they're here." In the same answer, you said you want to crack down on employers. Is there a contradiction there? If you crack down on employers, doesn't that mean you're telling employers to put these hardworking people, as you define them, out of work?

SEN. CLINTON: No, there is no contradiction.

You know, comprehensive immigration reform means five things. You have to have tough border security plus a system of knowing who's here and what they're doing. Secondly, you've got to crack down on employers, because people wouldn't come if there weren't a job waiting for them. Third, you've got to provide more help to local communities to be able to bear the costs, because they don't set immigration policy. Fourth, you do have to do what Chris Dodd is talking about, and that is try to create some economic activity by working with the countries to our south. But fifth, you've got to have a path toward legalization.

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