From CNN transcript:
CUMMINGS: On immigration. The Republicans have had a pretty fierce debate over immigration. And it's now pretty clear that that's going to be an issue for you all, as well, not just in the general, but it's bubbled up in some of the primaries. And it's a divisive issue for you all, as it is for the Republicans. And that was pretty evident when we got a question through Politico.
This is from Kim Millman (ph) from Burnsville, Minnesota. And she says, "there's been no acknowledgement by any of the presidential candidates of the negative economic impact of immigration on the African-American community. How do you propose to address the high unemployment rates and the declining wages in the African-American community that are related to the flood of immigrant labor?"
Senator Obama, you want to go first on that? And it's for both of you.
OBAMA: Well, let me first of all say that I have worked on the streets of Chicago as an organizer with people who have been laid off from steel plants, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, and, you know, all of them are feeling economically insecure right now, and they have been for many years. Before the latest round of immigrants showed up, you had huge unemployment rates among African-American youth.
And, so, I think to suggest somehow that the problem that we're seeing in inner-city unemployment, for example, is attributable to immigrants, I think, is a case of scapegoating that I do not believe in, I do not subscribe to.
And this is where we do have a very real difference with the other party.
OBAMA: I believe that we can be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.
Now, there is no doubt that we have to get control of our borders. We can't have hundreds of thousands of people coming over to the United States without us having any idea who they are.
I also believe that we do have to crack down on those employers that are taking advantage of the situation, hiring folks who cannot complain about worker conditions, who aren't getting the minimum wage sometimes, or aren't getting overtime. We have to crack down on them. I also believe we have to give a pathway to citizenship after they have paid a fine and learned English, to those who are already here, because if we don't, they will continue to undermine U.S. wages.
But let's understand more broadly that the economic problems that African-Americans are experiencing, whites are experiences, blacks and Latinos are experiencing in this country are all rooted in the fact that we have had an economy out of balance. We've had tax cuts that went up instead of down. We have had a lack of investment in basic infrastructure in this country. Our education system is chronically underfunded.
And so, there are a whole host of reasons why we have not been generating the kinds of jobs that we are generating. We should not use immigration as a tactic to divide. Instead, we should pull the country together to get this economy back on track.
That's what I intend to do as president of the United States of America.
BLITZER: All right.
Senator Clinton, we're going to stay on this subject, but Doyle has a follow-up.
MCMANUS: Senator Clinton, Senator Obama has said that he favors allowing illegal immigrants to obtain drivers' licenses, and you oppose that idea.
CLINTON: Well, let me start with the original question from Kim, because I think it deserves an answer.
I believe that in many parts of our country, because of employers who exploit undocumented workers and drive down wages, there are job losses. And I think we should be honest about that.
There are people who have been pushed out of jobs and factories and meat processing plants, and all kinds of settings. And I meet them.
You know, I was in Atlanta last night, and an African-American man said to me, "I used to have a lot of construction jobs, and now it just seems like the only people who get them anymore are people who are here without documentation." So, I know that what we have to do is to bring our country together to have a comprehensive immigration reform solution.
That is the answer. And it is important that we make clear to Kim and people who are worried about this that that is actually in the best interests of those who are concerned about losing their jobs or already have.
Because if we can tighten our borders, if we can crack down on employer who exploit workers, both those who are undocumented and those who are here as citizens, or legal, if we can do more to help local communities cope with the cost that they often have to contend with, if we do more to help our friends to the south create more jobs for their own people, and if we take what we know to be the realities that we confront -- 12 to 14 million people here, what will we do with them?
Well, I hear the voices from the other side of the aisle. I hear voices on TV and radio. And they are living in some other universe, talking about deporting people, rounding them up.
I don't agree with that, and I don't think it's practical. And therefore, what we've got to do is to say, come out of the shadows. We will register everyone. We will check, because if you have committed a crime in this country or the country you came from, then you will not be able to stay, you will have to be deported.
But for the vast majority of people who are here, we will give you a path to legalization if you meet the following condition: pay a fine because you entered illegally, be willing to pay back taxes over time, try to learn English -- and we have to help you do that, because we've cut back on so many of those services -- and then you wait in line.
That not only is, I think, the best way to approach the problem of our 12 million to 14 million who are here, but that also says to Kim, Kim, this is the best answer, as well, because once we have those conditions met, and people agree, then, they will not be in a labor market that undercuts anybody else's wages.
CLINTON: And therefore, it's imperative we approach it this way, only after people have agreed to these conditions, Doyle, and that they have been willing to say, yes, they will meet those conditions, do I think we ought to talk about privileges like drives' licenses? Because otherwise, I think you will further undermine the labor market for people like the ones Kim is referring to.
CLINTON: We need to solve this problem, not exacerbate it. And that's what intend to do as president.
BLITZER: All right. All right, we have a follow-up.
Senator Obama, in an interview with CNN this week, you said this. You said, quote, "I stood up for a humane and intelligent immigration policy in a way that, frankly, none of my other opponents did." What did you mean by that?
OBAMA: Well, what I meant was that, when this issue came up -- not driver's licenses, but comprehensive immigration reform generally -- I worked with Ted Kennedy. I worked with Dick Durbin. I worked with John McCain, although he may not admit it now...
... to move this issue forward aggressively. And it's a hard political issue. Let's be honest. This is not an issue that polls well. But I think it is the right thing to do.
And I think we have to show leadership on the issue. And it is important for us, I believe, to recognize that the problems that workers are experiencing generally are not primarily caused by immigration. There is...
BLITZER: Are you suggesting that Senator Clinton's policy was not, in your words, "humane"?
OBAMA: That is -- what I said was that we have to stand up for these issues when it's tough, and that's what I've done.
I did it when I was in the state legislature, sponsoring the Illinois version of the DREAM Act, so that children who were brought here through no fault of their own are able to go to college, because we actually want well-educated kids in our country...
... who are able to -- who are able to succeed and become part of this economy and part of the American dream.
BLITZER: Was she lacking on that front?
OBAMA: Wolf, you keep on trying to push on this issue.
BLITZER: I'm just trying to find out what you mean.
OBAMA: There are those who were opposed to this issue, and there have been those who have flipped on the issue and have run away from the issue. This wasn't directed particularly at Senator Clinton. But the fact of the matter is I have stood up consistently on this issue.
On the driver's license issue, I don't actually want -- I don't believe that we're going to have to deal with this if we have comprehensive immigration reform, because, as I said before, people don't come here to drive. They come here to work.
And if we have signed up them -- if we have registered them, if they have paid a fine, if they are learning English, if they are going to the back of the line, if we fix our legal immigration system, then I believe we will not have this problem of undocumented workers in this country, because people will be able to actually go on a pathway to citizenship.
That, I think, is the right approach for African-Americans; I think it's the right approach for Latinos; I think it's a right approach for white workers here in the United States.
BLITZER: I want to let Senator Clinton respond. But were you missing in action when Senator Obama and Senator McCain and Senator Kennedy started formulating comprehensive immigration reform?
CLINTON: Well, actually, I co-sponsored comprehensive immigration reform in 2004 before Barack came to the Senate.
So I've been on record on behalf of this for quite some time.
And representing New York, the homeland with the Statue of Liberty, bringing all of our immigrants to our shores, has been not only an extraordinary privilege, but given me the opportunity to speak out on these issues.
When the House of Representatives passed the most mean-spirited provision that said, if you were to give any help whatsoever to someone here illegally, you would commit a crime, I stood up and said that would have criminalized the Good Samaritan and Jesus Christ himself.
I have been on record on this against this kind of demagoguery, this mean-spiritedness.
And, you know, it is something that I take very personally, because I have not only worked on behalf of immigrants; I have been working to make conditions better for many years.
I was so honored to get the farm workers endorsement last week, because for so many years I have stood with farm workers who do some of the hardest work there is anywhere in our country.
So we may be looking at the immigration reform issue as a political issue, and it certainly has been turned into one by those who I think are undermining the values of America.
It is a serious question. We have to fix this broken system. But let's do it in a practical, realistic approach. Let's bring people together. And I think, as president, I can.
You know, I've been going to town halls all over America, and I see the people out there, thousands of them who come to hear me, and they're nervous about immigration, and for the reasons that the economy isn't working for people.
The average American family has lost $1,000 in income. They're looking for some explanation as to why this is happening. And they edge or a real amount of anxiety in their voice.
And then I ask them, well, what would you do?
CLINTON: If you want to round up into four people, how many tens of thousands of federal law enforcement officials would that take?"
BLITZER: All right.
CLINTON: And how much authority would they have to be given to knock on every door of every business and every home? I don't think Americans would stand for that.
BLITZER: Senator, Senator...
CLINTON: So we have to get realistic and practical about this.
BLITZER: Very quickly, Senator, why not, then, if you're that passionate about it, let them get driver's licenses?
CLINTON: Well, we disagree on this. I do not think that it is either appropriate to give a driver's license to someone who is here undocumented, putting them, frankly, at risk, because that is clear evidence that they are not here legally, and I believe it is a diversion from what should be the focus at creating a political coalition with the courage to stand up and change the immigration system.
OBAMA: The only point I would make is Senator Clinton gave a number of different answers over the course of six weeks on this issue, and that did appear political.
Now, at this point, she's got a clearer position, but it took a whole and...
OBAMA: I'm just being -- just in fairness. Initially, in a debate, you said you were for it. Then you said you were against it. And the only reason I bring that up is to underscore the fact that this is a difficult political issue.
From my perspective, I agree with Bill Richardson that there is a public safety concern here and that we're better off, because I don't want a bunch of hit-and-run drivers, because they're worried about being deported and so they don't report an accident. That is a judgment all.
But I do think it is important to recognize that this can be tough and the question is who is going to tackle this problem and solve it.
Many of the solutions that Senator Clinton just talked about are solutions that I agree with, that I've been working on for many years, and my suspicion is whatever our differences, we're going to have big differences with the Republicans, but I think a practical, common sense solution to the problem is what the American people are looking for.
CLINTON: Well, I just have to correct the record for one second, because, obviously, we do agree about the need to have comprehensive immigration reform.
And if I recall, about a week after I said that I would try to support my governor, although I didn't agree with it personally, you
So this is a difficult issue and both of us have to recognize...
... that it is not something that we easily come to, because we share a lot of the same values.
OBAMA: I agree.
CLINTON: We want to -- we want to be fair to people. We want to respect the dignity of every human being, every person who is here. But we are trying to work our way through to get to where we need to be and that is to have a united Democratic Party, with fair-minded Republicans who will join us to fix this broken immigration system.