Durbin on the Big Story

Dick Durbin was on the Big Story today to discuss the protests and immigration reform.

Gibson: Hundreds of thousands of protesters have put pressure on Congress over the issue of immigration reform. Bipartisan leaders in the Senate say they’ve made a huge breakthrough and are closing in on a legislative compromise. We asked some of you in a new Fox News / Opinion Dynamics poll, “Which party do you think would do a better job at handling immigration issues. The winner: the Democrats.

Illegal Immigration
Would Handle Issue Better
Democrats 34%
Republicans 24
Both   6
Neither 20
Don’t Know 15

Gibson: The Senate’s Democratic Whip joins us now, Dick Durbin of Illinois. Senator Durbin, next week there’s going to be another round of these immigration protests around the country. Sixty cities, there in Washington on the Mall, maybe as many as 100,000 people. Are these demonstrations putting pressure on you and your colleagues to go one way or another on immigration reform law?

Durbin: I wouldn’t say pressure but I will tell you that the group that gathered in Chicago a few weeks ago was the most amazing public gathering I’ve ever been in. Over 110,000 people packed into downtown Chicago, virtually no arrests. A peaceful group asking that they might have an opportunity to find legal status in this country. I think the fact that so many came forward was a reminder that they were a critical part of our economy in Chicago and they’re a critical part in many cities.

Gibson: Senator, you describe them as asking to be a part of our economy and our country. Some people are seeing these demonstrations as a demand that we make laws that they would approve of. Is that an unfair characterization?

Durbin: I think it is. I think is, was clear to me as they were chanting USA, USA that most of the people who gathered there just wanted the same chance that my mother had when she immigrated to this country. They were outraged, I’ll be honest with you, by the Sensenbrenner bill, the House Republican bill which branded them, not just as criminals, but as aggravated felons (ed: Wasn’t it the Democrats that insisted on that language Mr. Durbin? that’s a category crime that we reserve for rapists in America. The Sensenbrenner bill charged those not only who were in undocumented status, but those nurses and volunteers and people of faith who provided humanitarian assistance with the same crime.

Gibson: Senator, there’s been a few schools around the country that have been forced to ban flags, including the American flag over conflicts back and forth between one group waving Mexican flags and another group waving American flags. Do these demonstrators, are these demonstrations making a mistake in these open displays of the Mexican flag over the American flag?

Dubin: Which schools have banned the American flag?

Gibson: There’s one in particular in Oceanside California the home of the US Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton.

Durbin: Well, I’ve never heard of that. And I don’t know a single school in America that can’t display the American flag. I’d like to look into that story. That’s pretty {unbelievable}.

Gibson: Well please do check it out. We’ve been talking about it for a couple of days. It’s made a lot of people angry. Where are you on the compromise bill that’s come out of the Senate on immigration reform, and do you think that can pass the House?

Durbin: I think it’s a good bill. And I think it’s a bipartisan compromise and I want salute the Republican Senators who stepped up to make sure that it happened. I know Senator Frist had a press conference today announcing that he would support it. My understanding the White House is also in support. And the thing is, of course, it’s comprehensive immigration reform. Not only strong enforcement, more border agents, more efforts with technology, barriers and fences where appropriate to make sure we cut down on the flow of illegal immigration, more enforcement when it comes to employers, but also making certain that people can step out of the shadows with the understanding that it’s better for America’s security that we know who they are and where they live and where they work. So I think this bill is a move in the right direction, consistent with American values, and consistent with our goal to make America safer.

Gibson: As you know, some of your colleagues in the House have been, well, have opposed this. Do you think it can get through the House now in it’s compromise form coming out of the Senate?

Durbin: Well I can tell you there is a world of difference between the Sensenbrenner bill, the Tancredo bill which criminalized humanitarian workers and those who are here undocumented, a world of difference between that and the bipartisan approach in the Senate. I hope I’m a member of that conference committee, but I can tell you that if the idea is to go in and compromise with Mr. Sensenbrenner and decide that we won’t charge them with an aggravated felony, just a felony, then that’s unacceptable. We’re going to have a bill that consistent with American values or no bill at all.

Gibson: Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Senator, thanks very much.

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