Better Politics and Policy on Immigration
GARRICK UTLEY: (In progress) -- continue with the dessert, and we begin our program with Governor Richardson underway this morning. I'm Garrick Utley and I'm happy to be moderator, the questioner, and the listener along with the rest of us, for this session on "Better Politics and Policy on Immigration," with Governor Richardson. We all know him. It's good to have him back in New York City, if briefly.
You have his bio. I won't go into great detail except to say that he is a man of many parts: A long-time member of the U.S. Congress, Cabinet member here, closer to home; and ambassador to the United Nations, international traveler and negotiator; and governor of New Mexico.
GOVERNOR BILL RICHARDSON: Two terms.
UTLEY: And your margin in the last election was?
RICHARDSON: Seventy percent. (Laughter.)
UTLEY: This is how you like to start off a conversation.
First of all, a couple of just the usual notes: This is part of the Latin America Program's Western Hemisphere Transnational Series. We are on the record today, and global, as this is being broadcast over the web, so we will have people listening across the nation and around the world.
Please turn off all your cell phones or other noisemakers, or potential noisemakers that you have. And we will go in for about 25 minutes or so in our conversation on a number of issue relating to immigration, and then throw it open to the, to the audience here today.
So, Bill -- I may as well call you Bill, welcome again. It's a great pleasure to have you here. What we're going to do is really approach this issue -- it's almost like the Northeast looks at the Southwest. This is really transcontinental, if I may put it that way. We know of the problems; we know of the immigration reform struggles in Congress and Washington at the federal level, but we want to hear what's really happening in your state and your region.
Though as we talk about immigration and migration -- (inaudible) -- I cannot, as former journalist, ignore the question in everybody's mind: Come November, there'll be emigration from Washington. There will be immigration to Washington. In this great swath of -- I'm giving you time to come up with the answer, you know -- of migration, if called upon to serve as a running mate for a certain candidate -- (laughter) -- and migrate to Washington, would this be in the realm of your possibilities?
RICHARDSON: (Laughs.) Look, how can anybody turn down an honor like that, obviously? But, I want you to know I see a lot of friends here. I loved being U.N. ambassador, secretary of Energy. I love being a governor because you can actually manage and make a difference. And I deal with this immigration issue every day.
But, you know, of course, how can you turn something down, but I do think that right now this is an issue that needs immediate attention, because it's not just the border. The racial tensions, the economic tensions caused by not addressing this issue.
And what I see the candidate -- and I know this is not a political event --
RICHARDSON: -- I see what is most needed in dealing with this issue is bipartisanship. You can't pass immigration reform, or sensible national security legislation like a withdrawal from Iraq, or any issue relating to energy today -- probably the biggest domestic-international issue is the failure of have an energy policy -- without bipartisanship.
And I believe what my candidate, Senator Obama, can bring is the ability to heal, and bring people together and develop coalitions. And I am optimistic that a Republican candidate -- Senator McCain, who also has a good record on immigration, although because of conservative pressures is moving in the wrong direction; that immigration reform could be an issue that is effectively dealt with, comprehensive immigration reform, securing borders, a legalization plan, a stronger relationship with Mexico, because most of these problems are economic; finding ways to -- those that knowingly hire illegal workers be punished, and many other ways to deal with the need for seasoned and educated workers that needs a reform in the legal immigration area. I think we can do it.
UTLEY: Let's get specific before we go to more general policy questions. Give us a snapshot of your state -- Texas, Arizona, California, all in the Southwest bordering with Mexico. And it's not just Mexico, it's Central America, but dealing with that aspect of the situation, what is this -- how is this helping your state? What is it costing your state? How do you deal with it and balance this equation?
RICHARDSON: Well, I have to basically state that we have dealt with the immigration issue in New Mexico different than our three border states. Our attitude is that immigration is a reality, and the best thing to do with the undocumented workers that come into New Mexico -- and we're talking about 400,000 that come in through the whole border, and maybe only a small fraction, 60-70,000 coming into my state, about 400,000 coming in every year -- our view is that by integrating them in the society, by bringing them out of the shadows, that's more effective.
However, we have had enormous tension on our border because when you have illegal immigration, that has produced crime, drug lords, our border today -- the entire Mexican border, the 2,000 miles, is fraught with narcotraffickers bringing drugs in; a president of Mexico that has cracked down on border traffickers, but those border traffickers are reacting and killing Mexican federal police that the president has assigned to deal with the problem; and enormous deaths and violence throughout the whole Mexican border.
But our position has been, is you integrate them; you secure the border -- I was the first governor to declare a border emergency because of the federal failure to have enough Border Patrol agents, technology. I think the National Guard should stay longer at the border. I would be against the permanent fence. I think that fences and walls don't work. I feel very strongly if you build a 12-foot wall pretty soon you'll have 13-foot ladders -- (laughter) -- because of the enormous economic strain of many of these individuals living with their families.
You had this controversy here in New York on the driver's licenses. In New Mexico, I did this five years ago. You know what? It works. You can keep track of them. You can reduce insurance costs. You increase traffic safety. It's a way of integrating. We also give undocumented workers, the children of immigrants, opportunities to get in-state tuition. More educated work force. "Integrated," I believe, is better for society.
So, my dealing with this issue is an aberration to other, I think, stronger measures that other states on the border have dealt with.
UTLEY: Specifically -- we'll talk a bit more about the security situation, but the economic impact. Does your state benefit or lose because of this illegal immigration -- if you'd draw up an economic balance sheet on this?
RICHARDSON: We benefit. And, actually, Garrick, the whole country benefits. In our particular case we need agricultural workers, construction workers. Our economy is growing in New Mexico. More jobs, more housing, mainly because of the economic stewardship of the governor -- no, just kidding -- (laughter).
But what I, what I'm saying is that specifically in our state we need agricultural workers for chile and onion crops that are very important to our state. We need them for construction of many affordable homes that are needed. We're building a space board in our state -- commercial space with Richard Branson (sp). We're building commuter rail. Many new homes that are being built in the state as part of a growing Southwest that is changing, with more Hispanics moving into the region.
Our state is 43 percent Hispanic but most of these are descendants from Spain, and our undocumented worker population is not as vast as -- from Mexico, as other border states. But, for us, we see the presence of immigrants as a plus. Now there are tensions -- health care costs; as I mentioned, border violence; drug trafficking is a problem. But I believe if the country deals with this as it should, on a national comprehensive basis instead of piecemeal, states like mine, and border states, and your state, would benefit.
So what I think you need is comprehensive immigration; more Border Patrol agents, more technology; keep the National Guard there but really have a significant security presence.
Secondly, find ways to enforce the law. Those that knowingly hire illegal workers should be punished and fined. It doesn't happen. It's a joke.
Third, find ways to work with Mexico. This young lady here, Shannon O'Neil (sp), who writes excellent work for you on the U.S.-Latin America policy that you publish, if we find ways to work with Mexico and create job -- NAFTA was supposed to do this, but work in the central part of Mexico with the Mexican government to create jobs, that's where most of the influx comes from, Central Mexico, not "Mexico."
And then lastly, again, deal with the legal side of immigration. There's a great bottleneck of legal immigrants that cannot get in. And they're not just coming from Mexico, they're coming from Central America; they're coming from Ireland; they're coming from Israel -- workers, HB-1 workers that we need for technology and high-tech jobs. And deal with this comprehensively.
One of the problems that I think Senator McCain is getting into is he is now saying that first you've got to secure the border, then you have to deal with the 12 million that are here. Well, you can't do that. You've got to do it simultaneously. You've got to do it at the same time to deal with the push-and-pull of immigration.
UTLEY: Which brings us back to the Immigration Reform bill, and we all know what happens there, which brings us to the issue of politics and immigration. There is no clear, obviously, federal level or national policy on immigration. Governors in states are doing this.
What do you see -- and I won't even ask you what your feelings were about what happened to the Immigration Reform, do you see an afterlife, a future life in a new administration? Will the politics, after November, permit this? Or is this something that's going to remain on an ad hoc, state-level basis?
RICHARDSON: If the next president says in the first 100 days, here are my three top issues, and immigration is one of them -- I think the other two should be ending the war and a sensible energy policy, then it can get done.
Why? One, I believe that Senator Obama would have the numbers in the U.S. Congress to pass an immigration reform bill. It's going to be a Democratic year. We could hit 60 votes in the Senate. We could hit 60 Democratic senators. The House will get maybe 10 or more Democrats.
But, regardless, I believe you have to be bipartisan. And Senator McCain -- you know the best legislation in this country is always bipartisan. The best legal immigration position was drafted by Ted Kennedy and John McCain. This was to say that the 12 million that are here -- what are you going to do, deport them? How are you going to do that? Twelve million people!
So, give them legal status if they register and they satisfy the following conditions: Pay back-taxes; learn English; embrace American values; pay a fine for having come here illegally. Practical steps that -- yeah, is it more bureaucracy? Yes. Is it going to be tough to implement? Yes. Is somebody going to find a way to screw it up? Probably. (Laughter.)
But, you know, what's the alternative? Deport 12 million people? Who's going to do it? Where do you send them to? The New York State Police? I mean, what we have now is the worst of all worlds. We have state officials, local officials enforcing federal immigration laws. So you have these raids; you have these illegal detentions; you have this enormous tension about who handles this problem; and you have political scapegoating.
You know, this is an issue that you don't get votes on the immigration. I've always found that. Try to do the right thing because if you try to capitalize politically you lose -- either way.
UTLEY: Interesting contradiction. You don't get votes on immigration issues -- (inaudible) -- immigration is what this whole nation, as we know, has been built on. I mean, that is the essence, the foundation.
Let me come back to your statement about -- okay, it's a Democratic year. Even if Obama were to win, even if the Democrats do much better in the Senate, is that enough to get a meaningful immigration bill through? Or does it come back to what you said earlier, you have to get the Republicans on board, and can you, from your political calculation, or crystal ball, even do that?
RICHARDSON: Well, you need Republicans. You can't just do it with Democrats. You recall in the Clinton years we had Democratic president; we had a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House. What happened two years later? We lost the Congress and we couldn't get anything done. So, you need bipartisanship.
All I can tell you is that anybody that tries to get votes by demonizing immigrants loses. The record shows that in California years ago, Proposition 187 lost the Republican Party a number of votes -- Hispanic votes in that state. Two Republican Congressman in Arizona scapegoated the immigration issue two years ago. They lost. You don't win on this issue.
But there's a very determined, nativist, right wing -- on both sides -- it's not just in the Republican Party, it's too much of, much of their platform officially, but you need, you need to reach out and really look at it on a comprehensive basis.
However, if the approach is, let's do security first, let's see if that works; and then do -- deal with the 12 million, you're still going to have this tension and it will be ineffectively dealt with.
UTLEY: You know that there's not a national or federal-level policy on this. You're doing in New Mexico as the other states are. Give us a regional overview or snapshot -- California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. You indicated the other states are behaving a little bit differently. Is there communication amongst your -- these states, and what are the differences as you see them?
RICHARDSON: Two weeks ago the four border governors -- the governor of New Mexico, myself; Janet Napolitano of Arizona, and we were the first two, as Democrats, to declare border emergencies, which alienated a lot of Hispanic organizations and groups because they thought this was a very tough measure. Rick Perry of Texas and the governor of California -- (uses thick Austro-German accent) -- (laughter) -- who's, who has a very positive position on this -- we're united on this.
I mean, I think those governors recognize the problem. It's their legislatures and electorate that have posed, put forth referendums to take away health care from Hispanic -- from undocumented workers. There's referendum in Arizona that passed, that mandates measures to punish employers, that has caused enormous strain.
But, generally, we work together. We work well with our states. But we have been forced as governors, and as border-state governors with the Mexican border governors -- my state is Chihuahua, that borders New Mexico, without federal resources, without federal leadership.
So we're kind of alone in the hinterlands trying to deal with this issue, desperately wanting -- and we're all united in having both our federal governments, the Mexican and the U.S., to give us resources, give us border security, give us economic initiatives to stop the flow -- but both federal governments have been literally inept.
UTLEY: Well, let's follow up on the question of leadership. I think we can remember that when George W. Bush took office, Mexico was high in his rhetoric and high on his agenda. As a governor of Texas, he felt comfortable dealing with Mexico; felt he knew the state -- until 9/11. And then Mexico simply dropped off the Bush radar screen.
Your comments on that. Was it just because of 9/11? Is that your interpretation? The cost of that; and what needs to be done under a new president coming in, or a new administration.
RICHARDSON: Well, I was hopeful when George Bush came in that he would deal with the immigration issue effectively. George Bush has had the right position on immigration. He just doesn't have the clout with his own party to get it passed. And so he proposed a plan that was comprehensive but he backed off, and now I think has capitulated to the right wing that is adamantly wanting a fence, and deportations, and raids. So, I was hopeful.
Now, 9/11 did cause -- and there are some legitimate security concerns, one of the big challenges in American foreign policy is fissionable material, enriched uranium illegally crossing the border, brought in by a terrorist. I mean, this is why we need detection equipment. And it's not just the Mexican border, it's the Canadian border too -- I mean, more pronounced than Mexico. So what we need is the best detection equipment.
We need more Border Patrol agents. You know, the 9/11 Commission recommended 15,000 Border Patrol agents. And there's only half there because the rest are being trained. We are caught in our own web of enormous bureaucracy that doesn't train and produce these Border Patrol agents even though the money is there.
And so if we take those steps: Increase the border presence, the human presence; securing the border, rather than thinking of this fence -- you know, fences have not worked. Look what happened in -- I remember Ronald Reagan when he said, Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall. I was proud of the old guy. I never voted with him much, but -- (laughter) -- you know, I thought he -- The Great Wall of China, it didn't work. They don't work.
Borders between -- walls between countries, I believe, are ineffective. So, you need those human measures that are tangible, that the federal government and the Congress have just failed to produce.
UTLEY: Just a little historic perspective on this. We were discussing this at the lunch table. If you look at the U.S.-Mexican relationships, and at that border, 2,000-some miles, with no troops on it to speak of; that here are two nations, in the 19th century, fought a war -- the United States took a big chunk of what was then Mexico, including Texas, and I guess New Mexico too, that's where the name comes from -- and yet different backgrounds. One basically Northern Protestant origin -- the United States; of Catholic, of Southern Europe -- Mexico.
Every reason exists, theoretically, for a confrontational flashpoint relationship. It hasn't happened. The Mexicans did a lot of good things. They kept the army in the barracks. They under -- both sides understood this necessary relationship. So as -- (inaudible) -- said, the most important treaty that was never negotiated by the U.S., never signed by the U.S., and never ratified by the U.S. Senate, is the non-existant, non-signed, non-ratified treaty between the U.S. and Mexico.
It's a remarkable story that we have this relationship, which means we have this -- which is flexible, which means we have the potential. Give us a comment. Given this on-going relationship, which isn't easy to manage but we have managed on the whole, what you think the next administration could to, not just from who is going to be in the White House, but what's happening in Mexico City and along the states along your border? What's the leadership on the Mexican side looking for? And what should we be asking them to produce?
RICHARDSON: Well, the first thing, from our side, is the United States should pay attention to Latin America and Mexico. We don't. You know, it's like secondary. It's geographically near us but, strategically, decisions are made. And it happens with every president. Every president says, oh, we're going to pay attention to Africa, and to Asia, and to Latin America -- the third world. Never happens, especially in our own hemisphere.
And so what we need to do is -- I think you're absolutely right, Garrick, the Mexico relationship is vital, just as Canada is vital. Somehow we neglect our own hemisphere at our own peril. What we need to ask the Mexican president to do -- and it's called foreign policy, it's called negotiation, it's called dialogue, it's called, you know, having a -- you know how those summit meetings happen, the two presidents get up there, and the flags are in back of you, and the two presidents said, we've had a very productive meeting.
You know, by the way, you all know this since you're pros, whenever presidents say that, it means the meeting did not go well. (Laughter.) And my point there is that with Mexico, I think you talk to them frankly about immigration. I think the Mexican president has responded on the drug issue. He went after drug lords. He's the first president, he's paying the consequences. A lot of his police are being killed.
On the immigration issue, if we said to the president of Mexico, you know, Mr. President, you should do something about your poor people. And we'll work with you to do it -- some joint economic initiatives, joint enterprises, microlending, renewable energy, job creation. NAFTA was supposed to do this, but it hasn't happened because we neglected what are called "the side agreements" of NAFTA -- not the treaty itself, the side agreements that dealt with job creation, environmental quality, border infrastructure building. And it didn't happen.
So, I think we're frank, and say to the -- Look, it shouldn't be U.S. -- it shouldn't be Mexico's policy to, basically, use the United States as a safety valve for all your workers that need help that are poor. You need to address this on your own, and we'll help you do this. Let's find a way to do it. Maybe, you know, the Council should have a think-tank on how we do this, because I think it is doable.
UTLEY: You raised NAFTA. On balance, how do you view the success or lack of success of NAFTA, from your state and region's perspective, and from the national perspective?
RICHARDSON: NAFTA's a plus, a slight plus, because it has created -- at least from my state, it has created jobs on our border. It has created, I think, along the entire border, more jobs. But there have been some displacements in the Mid-West that are related, I believe, to movement of our companies, although I am not one. I'm -- I'm a free-trade Democrat. I'm also an endangered species in the Democratic Party.
But I do think that, on whole, it's been -- but the most negative side, Garrick, is to get the votes to pass NAFTA. And there's some here in the room that remember this, Maurice (sp), and others. We pass side agreements that say: We will improve air quality on the border. We will have wage parity at best, as best we can. We will have job protections. We will -- if you've been to the border it's, it's a mess. I mean, there's huge sewage and water quality and treatment that is needed.
And we were supposed, in the side agreements, deal with this and improve it. And the side agreements have been a joke. And we need to focus on those side agreements. I think it'll -- it'll help the situation enormously on the entire border.
UTLEY: We're going to go to questions in a second, but to follow up, again, on a point you just made. You were talking about the globalization issues -- and here we can move beyond New Mexico. There's so many people like you in political, public life who are -- believe in free trade, believe in the dynamics of globalization. They cannot be avoided, obviously. And yet you are elected officials. And you have to worry about being elected -- keeping that 69 or 70 percent margin -- (laughter) -- mandate.
What of Democratic politicians? What is Obama going to say in this coming campaign, or the one that's already underway, on the globalization issues? He has -- members of his constituency, the unions, complain on who he's hiring as economic advisers because they've been working with Bob Rubin (sp).
RICHARDSON: Well, I may not be the best person to ask here because, as you recall, I was in the presidential race, not very long, and --
UTLEY: You're probably the best person to ask, then.
RICHARDSON: Well, I had two problems in the presidential race -- not enough votes and not enough money. Other than that, I did well.
But I think -- you know, I think what you need to look at is -- if you look at Senator Obama, I think he's -- you know, you have to look at the way he's, he's voted. He voted for the Peru Free Trade Agreement. I'm not -- by the way, I don't represent him. I'm not speaking for him. You know, so if some of his people start going wild at what I'm saying, it's Bill Richardson speaking.
I think you've got to be realistic that we've got to deal with globalization. And free trade is good, but I think what we need to do when it comes to future free trade agreements is emphasize the other aspects besides the commercial -- environmental quality; wage disparity; job protections; look at the international labor standards; make other countries abide by them. And I'll give credit to the Bush administration, on a couple of trade agreements that I've read, they've actually done this.
And so I think if you have the commercial, but also focus on the human side, the human development side -- the air quality side. You know, the fact that there's these enormous wage disparities, you can't mandate that but maybe have triggers that make that happen -- job protections, workers that are exploited. I think there are a lot of good sides, good reforms we can make to future trade agreements that will allow us to continue the globalization of free trade but also protect human beings, protect citizens.
You know one of the problems in the American people is they basically -- the middle class in this country today, I found in the campaign, there's a dramatic anxiety. They feel that they're losing jobs across the board. And immigration is what they feel is one of the -- it's not the case, but they feel somehow the immigration influx into this country, the 400,000 that come every year affect job.
The other is free trade, that somehow -- the problem with our policies is it's not free trade it's a lack of competitiveness on our side, a lack of better schools, a lack of the fact that America today is absent when it comes in science and math leadership, that China and India are graduating hundreds more engineers than we are, that we're not competing in this global economy with our educational system which needs to be upgraded, which needs to be brought more into competitiveness.
That's the problem.
UTLEY: Just a footnote on that, about how globalization works, recently I was -- since the institute I'm building here with my colleagues is part of the state university system, we meet with people from upstate. And, of course, upstate has been hurting economically -- Buffalo, a great industrial city, obviously on much harder times.
And I was asking somebody from Buffalo what's the situation there? And he says, we're starting to get some, you know, glimmerings of economic activity -- vibrance. Oh, that's very good, I said, what's causing it? He says, Canadian companies in Ontario are now outsourcing to Buffalo -- (laughter) -- offshoring, because of the dollar discrepancy and the, and the proximity. So what goes around comes around. And if you stay long enough, we keep working at it.
Question time: Hand up, please identify yourself. Remember it's on the record. People are watching and listening. There's a microphone here and a microphone there. We'll start right here.
QUESTIONER: Wow! I'm first! Laurie Garrett from the Council on Foreign Relations.
Governor, I'm a fellow westerner -- a fifth generation Los Angelino. I think that if I were in the West right now, the big question looming on the horizon as the most divisive issue between the states and Mexico would be water.
And as people watch the snowmelt disappear from the Rockies and Sierras, the Colorado River disappearing completely by the time it gets to Mexico -- the Rio Grande -- can you imagine any kind of water policy that gets united response from the various western states and Mexico?
RICHARDSON: Well, you know, I got in trouble in the campaign when I said that nationally America doesn't have a water policy, that it's not just a western problem. That, you know, water scarcity and other types of water problems that we have are very serious. And this is one of the next world problems, I believe, and I know the council has got a water task force policy.
What we need in this country is a federal water policy that protects water rights, that decreases water conservation, desalination. You know, there's an enormous water shortage that we have in the West. It's going to take looking at some of these treaties that we've had with Mexico. These inter-water treaties that we have out West.
It means talking. And the way I got in trouble is when I said we need a federal water policy, the people in Wisconsin and Michigan thought I was advocating taking some of their water, which I wasn't! But you know, the story went out and I had to deal with it for two days.
But we need to have a department. In the Interior Department, who handles water? The Bureau of Reclamation. They're about as low as they come in terms of a bureaucracy. And we need, you know, we need to start -- besides energy and global climate change and water, education -- we need to find new ways to deal with future problems.
We've got to be a nation that looks at the future. And somehow, all we seem to do -- like immigration and Iraq and economic issues -- we're just putting out fires and dealing with short term solutions.
UTLEY: Yes, sir. Back there. There's a microphone right behind you.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Steven Cazz (sp).
Vicente Fox, when he was president of Mexico, did propose a very specific worker program, which has not been implemented, for Mexican workers to go back and forth on a regular basis. And I wonder whether you think that kind of program could be part of a future immigration bill and program?
RICHARDSON: Yes. I think that is a sensible policy. The problem with President Fox is he was -- he was a good president when it came to proposing things, but he couldn't get them through his congress. And you know, when it came to dealing with the United States -- great speeches, great presence, wish I'd worn boots to be like Fox.
You know, and this is the thing that I see in this president of Mexico, who's not as glamorous as Fox. You know, he's kind of a technocrat. I knew him when we were both energy secretaries. And he is looking at problems in a systematic way. He has a long way to go to deal with the biggest problems like the poverty issue in his own country. He's trying to get the energy sector in Mexico right now open to investment. And it's probably going to be tough for him to do it.
And I'm going to say this again, because here in the northeast, you don't see this, but in the U.S.-Mexico border there's enormous violence. Killings -- drug lords fighting each other, but drug lords fighting the Mexican president's efforts to control them and put them in jail by killing -- by killing their police officers. And it's been hundreds and hundreds across the border to the point where the American ambassador to Mexico has issued a travel advisory to Americans not to go to the border.
So the fact that Calderon's dealing with this gives me hope that on the bigger issues affecting the relationship. He'll be prepared to act, but we've got to help him. We've got to work with him. We can't say, you know, it's all Iraq, Iraq, Iraq. That's all we do! I mean, I come here. It's all 9/11, Iraq -- 9/11, that's important. But you know, there are other issues affecting this country and they're on the border, they're in Africa.
You know, there are five or six wars going on today. Why can't we do anything about Darfur or Zimbabwe? These are issues that, you know, require our taking action. Myanmar -- the right to protect. Their own government is keeping humanitarian aid from coming in. You know, where is American leadership?
And I'll finish -- I just got back last night from the Middle East and Europe. You know what? Europeans and Middle Eastern leaders and people, population -- they want us to act. They want us to be leaders. They are excited about this election and they see this as a turning point in American foreign policy. They want us to lead again and somehow -- they're waiting.
UTLEY: We have a question from one of our national -- we have lots of questions. We're going to go around the quickly as we can, but there are people logged on.
From our national members, Gustav Ranis, of Yale University: Talk about the raids on the businesses that you alluded to. We've had some big raids in Iowa and the Middle West. Is this to ferret out undocumented immigrants? Is it part of a larger strategy to induce many of these 12 million to leave voluntarily -- the implication here -- or is it just public relations act? Is it just to show that something's being done?
RICHARDSON: I think it's an effort by the federal government, by the Bush administration, to show their rightwing that they're doing something.
And they go into these meatpacking plants in Iowa and other parts of the country and arrest people and put them in detention and, you know, use our habeas corpus non-policy.
In other words, we don't use habeas corpus anymore. I mean, that's one the first things we should return to our legal process. And so I think it's a -- it's domestic politics. The second thing we should do the first day: Close Guantanamo, stop torture, join the International Criminal Court, say we're joining the Geneva Conventions again. You know, just little elemental steps that we might consider. (Laughter.)
UTLEY: Okay. Person right here. And then we'll go over there.
QUESTIONER: Jeff Laurenti at the Century Foundation.
Governor/Ambassador: Arguably, part of the push on immigration has been Latin America's relatively slow economic growth rates over the past two decades, with or without Washington consensus, orthodoxy and such. And we've seen in a number of Latin American countries the immergence of far left governments through Democratic means. Twenty, 30, 40 years ago, a far left government would have triggered panic in Washington -- another Cuba. And evidentially, the Bush administration has been bewildered, because seeing everything through the optic of Cuba, they've been anxious. But you know, fomenting a coup is now so passe.
What do you see as the challenge to American business interests or the challenge to American political and security interests of the election of far left governments in Latin America? Or is it not really a problem? Is this something that we can live with?
RICHARDSON: Latin American policy -- and I hope you read the council's report on Latin America. It's very good.
This is what I believe we need to do: One: Comprehensive immigration. It's not just Mexico. It's Central American and countries want to see this; it's Haiti, Caribbean. That would be a major step forward.
Secondly, Cuba policy. Our policy makes no sense. This embargo is -- divides the hemisphere, makes the Cuban regime of Castro stronger. Open it up. Get something in return though. Get some democratic reforms, release some prisoners, but at least engage.
Third, you know, we are bewildered by governments like Kirchner in Argentina and Lula in Brazil -- who, by the way, is energy self-sufficient with ethanol -- and Michelle Bachelet of Chile and Bolivia. You know, we should -- we should embrace these governments in the sense that -- say: Okay, let's have a new relationship between the United States and what is called -- (inaudible) -- you know? Like, they're emerging for a reason.
Those leftists -- they're populist governments, not necessarily leftist. They're emerging because of crushing debt, of financial imbalances, because of the poverty within our own country. It's not all our fault. I mean, Latin American leaders have to own up themselves. But we could use a helping hand. We could put a helping hand.
You know what I'm for? I'm for a new alliance for progress with Latin America. I don't mind copying it, because people still remember it very well. One that focuses on human needs -- on nutrition, on micro lending, on renewable energy technology. It's not the old aid programs. But I think those are the steps we need to -- and I think the key relationships are Mexico and Brazil.
Another step I would take: In my U.N. days I proposed this policy -- the Clinton administration, we supported it, but everybody forgot it -- was expand the U.N. Security Council. You know, today there are five permanent members. I'd add one from Latin America -- let the Latin's decide, maybe Mexico or Brazil; one from Africa, you know, Nigeria, South Africa; one from Asia -- probably have to have India; you probably have to have Germany and Japan. That doesn't mean you have to give them veto power.
We have to expand our existing institutions -- like the IMF, like the World Bank, like the United Nations -- that were formed after the Cold War and give them relevance to today.
UTLEY: And the G7-G8.
Actually, we'll let you go to the U.N. and negotiate on the expansion of the Security Council. That'll keep you in New York for a long time.
Question right down here.
QUESTIONER: Hi. Evelyn Leopold -- covered the U.N. for 98,000 years, including --
RICHARDSON: She was great!
QUESTIONER: I wanted to ask you about the right -- no, the responsibility to protect that you mentioned before.
How do you see that occurring in either Burma or Zimbabwe? Is it genocide by neglect and what is the next step, because as you know from your days in the Security Council, Russia and China aren't about to approve this -- (inaudible) -- at all.
And secondly -- a more journalistic question -- if you -- if you were selected as Mr. Obama's running mate, what attributes do you think you bring to balance the ticket -- aside from your wit and your fantastic Spanish? (Laughter.)
RICHARDSON: Well, on the responsibility to protect, yeah. I think it is genocide by absence. And I support the Kouchner's -- the French foreign minister's effort to bring what is called a Responsibility to Protect Clause, which basically says that the international community should respond to countries -- like Sudan, like Myanmar -- who deny humanitarian aid for their own citizens when there are disasters and genocides and floods.
You know, we were all silent, but I think you need some clauses. It doesn't mean automatic military intervention. But there's something else that has been missing in our foreign policy. It's called diplomacy. It's called in Burma, you know, going to China. Going to Thailand and saying, you know, you're getting all these timber contracts. Maybe that's why you're not doing much. For God's sakes countries, the old CITKO (sp) coalition, pressure Myanmar, and I think Myanmar would respond.
But when these countries don't pressure anybody and we pressure them for a day to pressure and then say, okay, throw up our hands -- the same with Darfur, with Sudan. Do you know who has the most leverage in the Sudan? The surrounding Arab countries and China! China buys Sudan's oil. What are they doing? Nothing!
You know, when I was in the presidential debate I said, we'll use these levers, you know, to get China to do more and maybe, you know, talk about the Olympics. I didn't say boycott them, but you thought I had. There should be a moral fiber behind our foreign policy.
And I'm not saying bring back the entire Jimmy Carter policy, but I do think it should be a principled foreign policy ethically based, internationally, legally based. And these are the new problems that are cropping up -- the Myanmars, the Sudans that deny responsibility to their own citizens.
UTLEY: I think I recall somebody writing about this in Foreign Affairs early this year.
RICHARDSON: What was the second one?
UTLEY: Your politics. What do you bring to the ticket?
RICHARDSON: Look, you know, this is a decision that Senator Obama needs to make. And you don't want to make it now. Otherwise, what are we going to do at the Democratic convention in August? (Laughter.)
First, it shouldn't be rushed. I think somebody on the ticket, the first thing -- people forget this -- is that person qualified to be president? Because there could be a tragedy. That should be number one.
Then other issues like regional balance. Can you bring votes? That would help, especially in the Democratic Party. And I believe -- and this is not a case -- it's going to sound like I'm making a case for someone -- but you know, I think the Democratic Party our traditional base has been the northeast and the West Coast and let's pick a few states in-between in the Midwest. And we've ignored the Southwest. We've ignored the Southwest Hispanic vote.
If John Kerry -- and his sister Peggy's here, who I had the best fortune and she was the best refugee coordinator at the United Nations -- if John Kerry had won New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado, states that were lost by 2 or 3 percent, he'd be president today.
UTLEY: Since we're on the topic of the campaign, I think there's something that you can give some insight here.
In regards to Obama: We've seen in the primaries and we've heard from commentators and pollsters he does not pull votes strongly in Hispanic communities.
Give us your insights on that.
RICHARDSON: Well, look, Senator Clinton was enormously strong with Hispanic voters because of her stance and President Clinton's stance. It was a two-to-one vote generally. But I think another reason was Hispanic voters didn't know Senator Obama. I mean, he's new on the scene. Most voters didn't.
And so I think as more voters get to know him, get to see that he's about reconciliation, get to see that he is a minority himself with an internationalist background -- let me tell you, in this trip to the Middle East, to Africa and to -- well, Egypt and Norway and Israel and France and Spain -- Obama would get 90 percent of the vote around the world, even among conservatives!
I was just talking to Marie-Josee -- some of the people who attended the Bilderberg Conference. The most conservative bankers --
they're all for Obama! I mean, I don't know -- and I think you're seeing this nationally.
You know, my prediction is it's going to be a decisive victory.
UTLEY: Right up here.
QUESTIONER: Yes. Jim Ziron, Governor. And thank you for your remarks today.
I wondered, since we are on the subject of politics, has there been any climate change in your relationship with the Clintons? (Laughter.)
RICHARDSON: You know, when I made my decision to endorse Senator Obama, I got more attention than when I announced and got out of the race. (Laughter.) And you know, I always had the highest regard for the Clintons. I still do!
You know, I served two Cabinet positions. We had a friendship. I felt, though, that my loyalty was to the country. And you know, just past loyalties -- nobody seems to remember, but I was in the race. I ran against Senator Clinton so I was trying to offer something different too.
And with Obama, it was interesting: I saw something in the guy early on. We were in Iowa at one of those chicken dinners -- not as good as this chicken here -- but all the candidates had spoken. You know, it was one of those Jefferson-Jackson dinners. They go on and on and everybody wants to leave and it's 11:00. And Obama got up, after all seven of us had spoken, and he talked about healing the country and bringing the country together and a higher calling. Do you know what? I almost got up and said I was going to vote for him myself! And I noticed something special about the guy that was very, very appealing.
And I'll close with this story, I know you -- we were at one of these -- you all saw the debates, right? They're horrendously boring debates generally. And for somebody like me and others -- you know, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd -- we were trying to get recognized, period. So we'd go like that, you know, back and forth.
Finally, we get to this debate -- I think it was about the sixth debate -- and Obama and I had developed like a little bit of a relationship where if somebody, another candidate said something outrageous, we'd go Oh, my God, did you hear that? And we were kind of doing that when all of a sudden, the moderator asked me a question on housing. So I gave her my three-point program on housing. And I go back to Obama and I said, geez, I can't believe it. I got recognized! And the moderator then says, and Governor Richardson, as a follow up, what do you think of that?
Well, you know what? I wasn't listening, because I was talking to Obama. (Laughter.) And then I almost said, you know, could you please repeat the question and, you know, lose thousands of votes. (Laughter.) And all of the sudden, I hear from Obama, he says Katrina, Katrina, Katrina. (Laughter.) And I say my three-point plan on Katrina -- (laughter). You know, he could've thrown me under the bus, but he didn't. (Laughter.) And so there was this good thing about him, you know.
UTLEY: We have time for one more question. Right here first. Yes. The microphone's coming right over your shoulder there. And we'll get you out on time.
QUESTIONER: Thank you, Bill. You gave us a good time as well as informing us.
What worries me most aside from energy is the dichotomy between Republicans and Democrats. It's got to stop. If you think of Jack Kennedy's campaign, where he had in his cabinet a couple of Republicans, he said I want to pick the best people. And I think that's the most important thing we face with a new president. Who is going to staff this office and aren't we going to stop being he's a Republican, she's a Democrat. I'm a Democrat, but I respect all Americans and I would hope we would get out of this business that we've succumbed to. When you say traveling in Europe, everybody says well they're for Obama, it's because they hate Bush. And this is ridiculous, and it's got to end. I don't know how it ends, but I leave it to you to say how do we get people to a place where we all work together?
RICHARDSON: Well, you know, Robin one of the things that I suggested in my campaign which I would suggest to Senator Obama -- I doubt if he'd do this -- is I said that I would announce my cabinet before the election if I were the nominee and it would be a cabinet of Independents, Republicans and Democrats. I wouldn't overdo the Republicans, but I have plenty -- (laughter) -- but I'd have plenty.
For instance, I think national security. You know, I think you start out with those and have a bipartisan national security cabinet because this is your business here. Politics should stop at the water's edge, and it hasn't. It's even worse. I mean, you know, both -- on both sides and with the president criticizing Obama in Israel, you know, in the Knesset, he said shouldn't be talking -- making an allusion about talking to Iran. Here's an American -- we shouldn't do that.
And so I just believe we have to take some of these unusual steps and govern in a different way. You know what else I would do? I would -- if I had beat President Obama, the first week in office, I'd get the Republican leadership, the Demo -- and I'd say here's three issues that we should do on a bipartisan basis, not take shots at each other for a whole year. Let's see if we can deal with them.
One would be the deficit. How do we get out of this $9 trillion debt? Let's find an eight, nine year plan to get out of it. Secondly, would be the war. The American people voted presumably for Obama, let's find a safe and orderly withdrawal and reengage America around the world. Third would be energy. Let's find a way to -- the president wants to drill offshore now, you know, the shore of California. All he wants to do is drill and drill. I mean, we need conservation and fuel efficiency and renewable energy and, you know, having the American people sacrifice a little bit in our way we live just a little bit everybody contributing. But instead, you know we're -- when I -- on my trip in the Middle East, the CEO of Gazprom -- I know Maurice Templesman knows a lot about energy -- said that oil's going to go to $250 per barrel -- 250! And he predicts it will happen within a year. I mean, what's going to happen to this country unless we develop a comprehensive bipartisan energy policy. And I was Energy Secretary, we'd tried to do things but both parties have failed. And this has got foreign policy implications. The money that goes perhaps to fund jihadist from oil revenues and what we pay, to the planet -- global climate change which we need desperately. The planet is today agonizing and we can't even go to the -- can't even sign a Kyoto treaty. So we've got a lot of things we've got to do.
UTLEY: There's a final question back there.
QUESTIONER: Since you mentioned the debate Governor --
UTLEY: Please identify yourself.
QUESTIONER: David Greenburg, Rutgers University -- your anecdote from the debate put me in a mind of a comment you made earlier about the driver's licenses working in your state. And I was wondering why you didn't mention that in the debate in October when everyone was jumping on Senator Clinton, and if you could talk more about the success you've had with that.
RICHARDSON: Well, the reason I didn't mention it was they wouldn't call on me. (Laughter.) But I did at a couple of other debates.
Look, you know it's controversial, but sometimes leaders have to act -- I felt what was most important was the safety, the driving safety of my own citizens because if you have undocumented workers with licenses -- without licenses, you don't know whether they know how to drive or they drive safely or they're law abiding. And when we said we are going to allow illegal immigrants to have driver's licenses, they have to have ID, they have to have ID from their own country, and Social Security and other IDs, so that you are getting individuals that have some kind of law abiding record. And my law enforcement people, my state police chief said you ought to sign this, Governor. It passed a legislature because we're worried about, you know, who is driving in New Mexico. And we reduced our insurance -- our uninsured was 33 percent of all drivers, and we implemented this law, after five years, it's 10.5 (percent). Traffic safety has improved. And if you want to be nefarious, it's a way to keep track of them, you know where they are. And at the same time, those drivers that drive legally -- you here have a certain protection because you know that those that -- undocumented workers driving in New Mexico have some kind of record where they've been integrated.
See, the big problem we have today is the 12 million undocumented workers. They don't have protections, they pay Social Security and Medicare, by the way, so some are arguing that Social Security and Medicare have a real strong infusion from these workers that get no worker's compensation, get no other benefits that the average American gets. And so you have these 12 million people that many of them I think just want to improve the lot of their families, the American economy needs them in construction, in housing, in agriculture, many other areas. I mean, go to a restaurant here, I bet you all restaurants would close if you deport -- or a number of agricultural enterprises in the country. That doesn't mean you reward somebody for having come here illegally. What you do is make them register, make them go through a legal procedure, if they refuse to do both, you deport them. But if they pay back taxes, if they learn English, if they pay a fine for having come here illegally, they embrace American values, you set up these standards that are going to be messy, and you don't let those that are trying to get here illegally ahead of those that are coming legally. First, you do the ones that are coming here legally.
But there you have to improve our bureaucracy that deals with legal immigrants, the technology -- you have to find ways to eliminate these huge bureaucratic snafus that prevent legal immigrants from legitimately coming and reuniting families.
UTLEY: But if we're ending up now where we began with -- and appropriately so -- on the immigration/migration question, and you yourself brought it back to New York City and we're all pretty much aware of in the large format so to speak the dependence we have here on labor coming from other countries, whether it's manual labor, whether it's high end.
And just one footnote. A few years ago, in my journalistic days I was out in Queens on Main Street. And if you take the Number 7 line out to the last stop on Main Street, walk down the street there there's a branch of public library, Queens Public Library, which is the highest circulating public library in the United States. You walk three blocks away to the Home Depot, it's the highest turnover per square foot Home Depot do it yourself in the United States. End of commentary on the benefits, you know, of immigration. And all the other talent that is coming from countries all over the world. So this energy is perhaps -- this human capital is something of great importance and we agree with you and support you in your efforts to really further this agenda and carry it out, in whatever office you happen to be occupying.
We want to thank you, we want to thank the audience -- (applause).
RICHARDSON: Thank you.
UTLEY: And particular thanks to our audience, national members online today. Some of your questions you sent in were covered as you know in the course of our discussion. Thank you very much.
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