May Day came and went in the United States with American businesses and consumers taking less of a beating than a piñata at a child's birthday party. Protesters left their employment positions and took to the streets demanding special rights and amnesty for illegal aliens in an attempt to show how immigrant labor affects the American economy.
As Congress weighs the issues involved in immigration reform, both sides of the aisle struggle to develop a plan that secures our borders while legislating sound immigration policy.
Recently author, activist and Founder of Eagle Forum Phyllis Schlafly joined the CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino to discuss immigration reform, immigration rhetoric and the Republican Party's response to both. What follows are excerpts from the interview that aired on "Your Turn – Meeting Nonsense with Common Sense" on WEBY 1330 AM, Northwest Florida's Talk Radio.
GIACHINO: The issue of immigration reform is monopolizing news coverage nationwide, as protests are organized and both houses of Congress contend with the seemingly vexing issue. In a country that often describes itself as a nation of immigrants, we are asking questions such as what are appropriate levels of legal immigration in the United States, and who should set the levels? These and other immigration related questions are what we will discuss this afternoon with our next guest.
I certainly need more than the half-hour allocated to this segment to even introduce my next guest. For many listeners, she needs no introduction because her reputation precedes her. But I will try to summarize a very long history of fabulous work that she has done.
Phyllis Schlafly has been a national leader of the conservative movement since the publication of her best-selling 1964 book, A Choice Not An Echo. She has been a leader of the pro-family movement since 1972, when she started her national volunteer organization now called Eagle Forum. In a ten-year battle, Mrs. Schlafly led the pro-family movement to victory over the principal legislative goal of the radical feminists -- the Equal Rights Amendment. Mrs. Schlafly's monthly newsletter called The Phyllis Schlafly Report, is now in its 38th year. Her syndicated column appears in 100 newspapers, her radio commentaries are heard daily on 460 stations, and her radio talk show on education is heard weekly on 45 stations.
Mrs. Schlafly is the author or editor of 20 books on various subjects. She is a lawyer and served as a member of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, 1985-1991, appointed by President Reagan. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Washington University, received her J.D. from Washington University Law School, and received her Master's in Political Science from Harvard University.
Mrs. Schlafly is America's best-known advocate of the dignity and honor that we as a society owe to the role of full-time homemaker. She is one of my new heroes as the mother of six children and she was the 1992 Illinois Mother of the Year.
Mrs. Schlafly, thank you so much for joining us this afternoon on "Your Turn."
SCHLAFLY: Well thank you Renee. I am very happy to join you and I appreciate all of those nice words that you said.
GIACHINO: You are the founder and president of Eagle Forum, a fabulous organization. Can you please explain to us Eagle Forum's interest in the immigration debate or should I say debacle?
SCHLAFLY: Yes, well it is the hottest issue at the grassroots. Eagle Forum built up its membership fighting the Equal Rights Amendment and the feminist movement. But our women got very skillful and interested in politics and they became good volunteer participants in the political process and they are interested in everything. Education, for example, was always a major issue with us. As well was foreign policy and national defense. I will say that it is since 9-11 that we have taken up this issue of border security and I think it has become the top issue at the grassroots level. So we are where the action is.
GIACHINO: Can you help me and the listeners better understand the issue of immigration? I think there are so many sides to this – in fact almost as many as there are immigrants in our country. There is the amnesty part of it, the guest worker program, and so many other facets. Can you help us better understand how this all breaks down?
SCHLAFLY: Well we pride ourselves on being a nation of laws and what has happened is that our government has not enforced our laws. They have allowed the southern border to be wide open for people to come across and approximately 4 million have come across illegally since George Bush became president. Now this causes lots of problems. Just for one issue, there is a matter of the drugs. Most of the illegal drugs come across the southern border. And they are very arrogant about it. They come in with armored vehicles and with machines guns on the outside. Some of them are escorted by the corrupt Mexican police and our government is doing nothing to stop it.
There is a kind of drug war going on at the border where drug gangs fight each other for territory. Our government discovered a house in Texas a few weeks ago which had a couple of bombs, things for making more bombs, 1,000 pounds of ammunition and AK-47s and other weapons and I think we have to pay attention to this.
I debated somebody on this subject recently and she said that 90% of the people who come across the border like this are good people who are just looking for jobs. Well even if you accept her figure, what about the 10%? Last year our government apprehended 155,000 people they call OTMs – which means "Other Than Mexicans." They are coming from all over the world. They are coming from Asia and the Middle East and all over Latin America and they are paying a significant price to a coyote to bring them over. I can assure you that somebody who is paying $25,000 to a smuggler to bring them over the border from the Middle East is not coming here to pick strawberries.
GIACHINO: What do you say to those, including the president, who say, well, we can't send 12 million illegals home?
SCHLAFLY: It is not what we are recommending. What we are recommending is that they close the border and build a fence. We have 40,000 people stationed on the North Korean border to protect that border. We need 40,000 people on the Mexican border to stop these people from coming in. It makes no sense. They have made no effort to stop this. And since President Bush has been talking like this, the numbers have greatly increased on people trying to get in before the curtain falls.
GIACHINO: Do we need these workers to do jobs Americans won't do?
SCHLAFLY: No, that's the biggest lie of all. I live in an area where we don't have these illegal aliens and Americans do all of these jobs. Our hamburgers get flipped, our sheets get washed in our hotels, our dishes get washed in our restaurants, our taxis get driven, our roofs get replaced, our construction work gets done, our produce gets picked, our lawns get mowed and our shrubs get trimmed. This is all work done by Americans where I live and Americans do 95% of all that work.
GIACHINO: And I think you make that point in an article that you recently authored called "U.S. Workers and Taxpayers Pay Heavy Price for Illegal Immigration." Do you think then that a massive boycott will have any effect?
SCHLAFLY: I think it is counterproductive. I think they are already getting queasy about it since I wrote that article. They announced weeks ago that May 1 – and you know May 1 is a very unfortunate day that they picked because May 1 is known as a day of communist protest, but at any rate, they picked May 1 and wanted everybody who sympathizes with them to stay off their jobs and they wanted to keep the kids out of school and they wanted people not to buy anything in the stores. Well, I don't think that will help them and I think they are already getting second thoughts about it.
GIACHINO: Right now Capitol Hill is debating the Kennedy-McCain-Bush guest worker plan. What are your thoughts on that?
SCHLAFLY: Well it is a terrible plan. The guest worker is two parts. It is amnesty for the 10-20 million people who are already here. That is to forgive their crimes and put them on the track to citizenship. That is amnesty.
Then the guest worker plan is to bring in another 450,000 a year, plus their relatives, and supposedly consider them temporary workers. We don't need all those extra workers.
GIACHINO: How do the guest workers fit in with our tax system? We know how the illegal immigrants fit in – the low paying immigrants obviously pay very little taxes.
SCHLAFLY: That's right. A great many of them are in the underground economy and they don't pay taxes and their employers don't pay the employer taxes. But then if they come in and it is all legal, you can bet that most of them will be working very low paying jobs and so you can bet they are coming in for social benefits that the taxpayers are paying – such as emergency health care, there is a good chance they will put them all on Medicaid, this will be a tremendous burden to the taxpayer, they put their children in our schools which costs $10,000 per child per year, and then they can come in for housing subsidies, for the earned income tax credit and it's a tremendous burden to the taxpayer. The employer gets the benefit of the low-paying worker but the taxpayer picks up the bill.
GIACHINO: You also recently authored another article titled "Bush is Out of Touch With GOP Regarding Illegal Immigration." In that article, you write that Senator John McCain, who we just referenced under the McCain-Kennedy-Bush guest worker plan, that he has forfeited any chance that he might have had to be the 2008 presidential nominee. I don't think you would have wrote that if you didn't believe it is true. Am I right?
SCHLAFLY: Of course that is right. And what forfeited it was attaching his name to Ted Kennedy who has got to be the most unpopular man with Republican voters. And the bill in Congress is known as the Kennedy-McCain bill.
GIACHINO: So why aren't they paying attention? A Time Magazine poll in January found that 50% of Americans are in support of sending home illegal immigrants. I know that number has gone up and I think you cite a Pew Research poll that shows the number even higher now. Why is Congress not listening?
SCHLAFLY: Well I think that as far as the Republicans go it is the contributions – and I'm sorry to say this, but I think that corporate America is pouring in its political contributions and they want the cheap labor.
GIACHINO: So they are listening to corporate America on this. Obviously those of us who are listening who are interested in this and are trying to push the agenda in another direction, we should all be writing and calling our legislators in Congress. What else can and should we be doing? Obviously we don't have the same financial resources that corporate America has.
SCHLAFLY: No but we have the telephone and I think the telephone is the best way. And I suggest that your listeners call both the Washington, D.C. offices and the offices in the state. Every senator has four or five offices in the state and when the calls get too heavy in Washington it is important that you call the local district offices.
GIACHINO: You mentioned that corporate America may be behind some of this. I want to touch back on some of this. Is it true that under current federal law there is no penalty on employers who replace U.S. citizens with illegal immigrants?
SCHLAFLY: No there has not been any penalty. Now the Bush Administration did a well-publicized raid on one employer who had 1,000 illegal aliens employed the other day. Now the figures on how many there are in this country range from 10-20 million and so they arrested 1,000 and it was much publicized. But for most of them there is no penalty at all.
GIACHINO: I don't know how likely it is with the few weeks that we have in Congress – it seems things move so slowly, that we will get any relief there. We are, however, beginning to see some states, such as Georgia, which are getting tough on illegal immigrants. Do you believe that strong state action, like that in Georgia, can exert pressure on Congress to act?
SCHLAFLY: Yes I do. And I think the bill that Georgia passed is extremely important and it could be a model for other states around the country. It is interesting that these illegal aliens have congregated in a number of states. It is not just California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Georgia, North and South Carolina, New York, Illinois, Iowa and Kansas are areas where they have really congregated. And this is a tremendous issue in those states and the Georgia law is very good.
Of course it is true that immigration and border security are federal issues but where the feds are falling down on the job we need enforcement by the states also.
GIACHINO: Just so that I don't forget. If you would please give the listeners an opportunity to know how they can learn more about Eagle Forum. Could you give them your website address?
SCHLAFLY: It is www.eagleforum.org. And it is a wonderful website and I invite all of your listeners to go on it. It has many articles on the immigration/border security issue. You can go to quick topics and find out about that subject as well as a lot of other subjects that you care about.
GIACHINO: The issue of immigration reform is not just an issue between America and Mexico, although I think a lot of folks are trying to couch it that way. Nonetheless I do have some Mexican-specific questions that I want to throw out there.
For example, Article 33 of the Mexican Constitution states that "the Federal Executive shall have the exclusive power to compel any foreigner whose remaining he may deem inexpedient to abandon the national territory immediately and without the necessity of previous legal action." Basically, this is done without due process. How do you think the extreme left and the media would respond if President Bush and our Attorney General acted on such blanket authority here in the United States?
SCHLAFLY: America is the land of freedom and that is why people want to come here. They want to get away from those corrupt countries. Mexico is a very rich country and they have lots of oil. But it's an economic system that operates on bribery and the government and a few families own all of the riches and the rest of the people are very poor. And what they are trying to do is export their poverty to our country, get the remittances from the people who have jobs in this country and that's become their main source of income.
Of course, no you don't have any kind of freedom in Mexico like you do in the United States.
GIACHINO: Tell me what it's like in other nations, then. Isn't it true that most nations around the world, including Mexico, have no problem with tough, no-nonsense immigration policy?
SCHLAFLY: That is right. The United States has the most generous immigration policy of any country in the whole world. We let enormous numbers of people in – we let in about a million each year, coming from all over the world. We even have a lottery system and they can win the opportunity to come to this country. And we are entitled to set the standards the way we want it – after all it is our country. And we welcome people who want to be Americans, who respect our Constitution and our laws, who speak our language, who adapt to our ways. We do not want people who do not assimilate. We do not want people who keep their loyalty to the country they came from.
GIACHINO: I know the President was just in Mexico and it seemed that relations at that time were civil, if not better. How will this issue affect our relations, particularly economic, with Mexico?
SCHLAFLY: We certainly have a lot of trade with Mexico. A lot of people thought that NAFTA was going to do great things for Mexico but it did nothing to get Mexico out of poverty because they have such a dreadful economic system. Our problem now, at least a lot of it, is with the police. The police are absolutely corrupt. The police guard the smugglers and the drug people who are bringing their drugs into our country. They are very tough on people who are coming in their southern border. They will not let people sneak into their country.
GIACHINO: Speaking of sneaking in, you referenced this very briefly at the beginning of this program – please tell me more about building a fence at the border. I know we are talking about a high security fence. Do you think we have any chance of seeing something like that pass in Congress before the end of the session?
SCHLAFLY: The House did pass a good bill. It is not perfect but it does call for building 700 miles of a fence in the worst part of Arizona and the Senate ought to go along with that. Do you know that even Hillary Clinton came out for a fence the other day? It is really shocking if George Bush lets Hillary Clinton get to the right of him on this issue.
But the fence is an obvious way to keep people out. They can have sensors on it so that they can keep people from building tunnels. It should be a double fence and then of course it needs manpower to guard it. The pitiful 12,000 border guards we have down there is no where near enough. New York City has about 45,000 policemen. We ought to have as many policemen on the border as we have in New York City.
GIACHINO: Do you think it helps or hurts the situation as the American public learns more about this issue? For example, the L.A. protest with the American flag being held upside down. Does that help or hurt the cause?
SCHLAFLY: That was shocking and I think it did a lot of damage to the cause for the people who are trying to promote amnesty and guest worker. I think Americans were shocked by that. Americans are very affectionate for our flag. There was another video on the Internet which shows George Bush waving a Mexican flag. The posters that they carried which showed that they believed that the southwestern United States belongs to Mexico. This shows that they are not assimilating. The people in office in Mexico are trying to teach the Mexicans who have come to this country to think Mexico first. And you should look at the oath that you have to take to become a naturalized citizen in this country. It not only requires you to swear your allegiance to our Constitution and our laws, but it requires you to renounce any loyalty that you may have had to any prior country, dictator, king or anything else.
GIACHINO: Mrs. Schlafly, that's all the time we have this afternoon. Thank you for joining us.
SCHLAFLY: Thank you.May 4, 2006
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