National Public Radio presidential debate

MR. INSKEEP: But granted that it —

MS. CLINTON: And I'm in favor of all of that. Now, I just want to —

MR. INSKEEP: But granting that it may take a while to do that —

MS. CLINTON: Well, yes it will. But let's put this in context because, you know, sometimes we talk about these issues as though they're stovepipes.

Part of the reason we're having this contentious, demagogic debate right now about immigration is because the economy is not performing for average Americans. Yes, the reported unemployment rate is 4.7%, but the labor force participation rate has fallen dramatically. That means people have given up looking for work. There is no effort to try to ease the transitions that do happen in any economy.

You know, I traveled this country extensively during the 1990s. I did not hear this kind of contentious debate. Why? Because we had 22.7 million new jobs. People's incomes were rising. They felt like there was plenty of opportunity to go around. Now, Americans feel like they're standing on a trap door.

MR. INSKEEP: Granting that you want to do several things, it appears from the reality of the moment that the easy thing to do is to crack down. Everything else is hard and may take a while. January 2009, as I've asked other candidates, are you going to crack down on employers, given that that may harm people you've defined as hardworking?

SEN. CLINTON: I will crack down on employers. I will do all five things that I just outlined.

But I think it's important to look at where this debate is often taken to such an extreme, because you'll hear the voices of those saying deport people, round them up. That is absolutely unrealistic, and it is not in keeping with American values.

The best estimates I have is it would take about $200 billion over five years to round up 12 to 14 million people. It would take tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of new law enforcement officials. It would take a convoy of 200,000 buses stretching 1,700 miles. People in America would be outraged at the loss of their privacy and the invasion of their homes and businesses.

So we've got to do all five of the things, and I would start immediately to do that.

MR. INSKEEP: Senators Obama and Dodd, can you limit yourselves to 30 seconds each? Senator Obama.

SEN. OBAMA: Steve, you've — you've asked a couple of times, are you going to crack down on January 1st, 2009? Listen, I will initiate the process immediately, but to get comprehensive reform, to — to get an employer verification system that works, is going to take some time, just the same way that a pathway to legalization is going to take some time. But what it takes is some leadership.

Look, two years ago I worked with about 10 other senators — McCain, Kennedy, Graham — an unlikely group — Brownback — and we put together a package that had everything that Senator Clinton and others have talked about. It had some provisions we didn't like in it, but we were able to pass it with a significant majority in the Senate. But what you have not seen over the last several years is leadership from the president to change the tone and to describe to the American people how we can be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

MR. INSKEEP: Senator Dodd.

SEN. DODD: Just a couple of points.

That point that Barack has just made is very important. This is a failure of leadership by this administration to step at a critical moment when we could have gotten something done.

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