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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Immigration Outrage; War over Iraq; Immigration Politics; CNN Heroes
Aired May 1, 2007 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ... didn't know what was going on, got caught in the middle of it. As the riot police moved in, they were firing these rubber bullets. And we were sort of caught in the middle of it as well. And there wasn't a lot of communication. It was move, and then they were firing.
We saw a couple families, a young daughter whose father was selling hot dogs was caught in the middle of it. A number of people were hit by the rubber bullets. We talked to one of those individuals a few hours ago.
Evidently we don't have that tape. But the individual had a welt on the side of his belly. Basically, lift up his shirt, and had a pretty big welt. This is what he was hit with, one of these rubber bullets. They're very soft, but they're coming out of a gun, obviously, and traveling at a high rate of speed.
We didn't see any serious injuries. We're still trying to get the story from the Los Angeles Police Department. We have been waiting in excess of an hour and a half for somebody to come out and tell us exactly what happened to spark this and then why they used that mentality to clear the park as soon as possible, firing so many bullets into what was still a very large crowd at the end of what was a very peaceful day of protests and marching, not only here in Los Angeles, but around the country.
COOPER: Ted, if you could just -- we cut away from it. If you could just hold up that bullet again, kind of show what it looks like, what it feels like? I had never seen one until you showed it to me earlier.
ROWLANDS: Yes, it's rubber and it's soft runner. So you can literally push it. It's hollowed out in the middle, so it doesn't look overly lethal, that's for sure. I mean, it isn't lethal.
But we do have some video -- I don't know if we still have that of an individual that was hit by it and he has quite a welt on him. They do hurt. They're coming out after gun. But they're not lethal force.
Clearly, the officers knew what they were doing. They were trying to clear this park as soon as they could. They were firing a number of these rubber bullets. They were also telling people to move on, using their batons to actually push people out of the way.
But as I said, the tension was -- it just seemed to escalate in an instant. And we're trying to get the entire story from the Los Angeles Police Department. They still haven't come forward to tell us what sparked all this, what really was the reason that they used these tactics to clear people so quickly, including a lot of families that were really here just peacefully getting together at the end of the march.
COOPER: Ted Rowlands, on the scene. Thanks very much, Ted.
Before the chaos, a march earlier today in Los Angeles was peaceful and it was the same in other cities as well. Take a look.
COOPER (voice-over): From Los Angeles to Chicago to New York, all across America. Hundreds of thousands marched for immigration reform.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's everyone's country. It's not just my country or a Mexican country or any country. It's everyone's.
COOPER: They want a so-called pathway to citizenship. Some way for the 12 million illegal immigrants in this country to become legal.
The rallies were massive, but turnout was smaller than last May's demonstrations.
One reason may be fear. Immigration officials say more than 220,000 undocumented workers were deported over the past year. A big increase from years past.
And along with the increase, the government is stepping up raids on undocumented workers. Raids that have in some cases taken parents away from their children.
This girl says her mom and dad are about to be deported.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will cost me to drop out of school, look for a job and take care of my brother, the only one I have right now. And it will be really difficult to -- well, to survive.
COOPER: One of the most vocal supporters of illegal immigrants is Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles.
That's made him a lightning rod for controversy. I spoke to him during today's march.
CARDINAL ROGER MAHONY, LOS ANGELES: We have been with the immigrants since day one -- this country since 1770s. We've always been there for every single wave of immigrants because we see in the immigrants the face of God. And as disciples of Jesus, he said open your arms, especially to the strangers. So, that's what we do.
And, we're here to try to find a just way for them to be recognized as individuals and to give them the opportunity to be out in the open making our country great.
COOPER: In Washington, President Bush continues to push for a temporary work visa program to give illegals a chance to work legally.
Some say it's just amnesty, others say it doesn't go far enough.
After failing last year, lawmakers now plan to take up immigration reform later this month.
Hundreds of thousands on the streets today say they will be watching.
Well, joining me now is D.A. King, a columnist for the "Marietta Daily Journal" in Georgia. He's also an activist who wants to see immigration laws tightened.
And on the other side of the issue, Gerson Borrero, who is a columnist for "El Diario," New York's largest Spanish newspaper. He supports finding a way to let illegal immigrants stay in the U.S.
Gentlemen, appreciate both of you being on the program.
Gerson, we know the demonstrations today were far smaller fraction of what they were a year ago. What do you make of that?
GERSON BORRERO, "EL DIARIO" COLUMNIST: It doesn't matter what the number were, whether they were greater or lesser. The fact is that there is a live community actually, with all intentions of keeping their issue alive, and that's what important. The numbers don't matter.
There wasn't a Sensenbrenner bill. There wasn't a direct threat to them. It's an ongoing problem. And they refuse to let it go back in the closet, which is the important thing here. And that's the message that came out today.
COOPER: D.A., when you see these rallies, these flags, what is the message you get?
D.A. KING, COLUMNIST, "MARIETTA DAILY JOURNAL": I don't regard them as immigration rallies, Anderson. I think they are very clearly open-border rallies.
The message is very clear from these people. We don't want enforcement raids, the borders are to be crossed whenever we say so. And enforcement is something that is un-American.
They are promising to repeat these rallies every year. And to bring their families into the United States, whether or not it is within the American law.
I believe they are demanding open borders. And I think it's funny that this year the numbers don't matter, but last year they did.
COOPER: Well, you know, D.A., I talked to a lot of people in crowd who said, look, you can have border security and what they call comprehensive immigration reform. True? KING: I don't believe so. Comprehensive immigration reform is code for amnesty again.
We have proven, Anderson, without any shadow of a doubt in 1986 that a path to legalization or a path to citizenship does not secure our borders. It does not stop illegal employment. And it certainly does not stop illegal immigration.
BORRERO: Well, finally something that makes sense, Anderson. It really doesn't matter. What matters is the fact that we are in fact are producing these people -- are provoking these people to come into our country undocumented or illegal, as is the term that is put upon the victims of this whole exploitation process.
What people that are trying to keep or close up the borders, what do they want to do? They want to put up an iron fence around the United States so we don't negotiate or deal with any country?
If we take care in a responsible manner of our foreign economic policy, not exploiting nations, we wouldn't have this influx of people that are dying.
They need to eat. It's an amazing thing. People like to eat.
COOPER: Why do you say we're responsible, though, for forcing people to come to the United States?
BORRERO: I'll give you an example. NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was supposed to put up to par Mexico, our neighbor to the south, and they're looking at the north, both United States and Canada. We were supposed to better the condition alike. Bring up the wages, the daily wages of Mexicans there.
And just in the field, and farms of corn, they lost 1,700,000 jobs in 13 years since Bill Clinton enacted his famous NAFTA that was supposed to bring up people to parity with the United States.
They need to eat, Anderson, and they need to come over to the place where it has the money. This is what they perceive.
It's our fault for the kind of economic injustices that we impose on the world.
COOPER: D.A. -- D.A., is this is our fault?
KING: This is very much like some bizarre national rerun of the groundhog movie. We hear the same things over and over again. Somebody point me to wages going up in the U.S. because the president of the United States refuses to secure our borders.
There is no universal civil right to live and work in the United States. And labeling illegal aliens as immigrant is the ultimate immigrant bashing.
Immigrants, by definition, do not require legalization. They do not require amnesty. They do not require some new legislated path to citizenship. They enjoy all of those privileges because they have followed American law.
And I resent people marching in the streets, demanding American citizenship, demanding also to be labeled as an immigrant.
BORRERO: Well, it just so happens that I, as an American citizen as you are, feel that they have the right and should continue. Not on a yearly basis. They should do it every month, come out to the streets.
And I got to tell you what they got to do because this is an economic problem turned into a political problem by opportunists that like to wage this patriotic call, which is false.
The same thing that the Republicans and the Democrats and the White House is doing with an issue that is basically an economic issue. What we should do, the 10 million strong that are registered to vote, is not engage in voting in partisan elections. Vote as independents -- 10 million of us. Disenroll from both the Democratic and the Republican Party, and you'll see that the problem is resolved.
This is nonsense. This is all escapism. It's having somebody to put the finger at.
COOPER: I started with Gerson. D.A., let me give you the final thought.
KING: I agree this is not a partisan issue. It would be nice to see the criminal employers and the bankers who are allowed to flout this law have to march in the street to get away with what they are presently getting away with.
COOPER: Gentlemen, a passionate discussion, but a smart one. I appreciate it.
D.A. King, Gerson Borrero, always good to have you on the program.
We're going to have more on the immigration debate ahead this hour.
And tomorrow night, CNN's Lou Dobbs hosts a live primetime special, "Broken Borders." He'll be in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, a town taking a stand against illegal immigration. That's tomorrow night, 8:00 p.m., Eastern.
We want to turn to Iraq right now, however. Four years ago today, President Bush declared the major combat actions were over. They weren't, of course, and still aren't. And today President Bush did what he promised he would. He vetoed a war spending bill containing a time table for withdrawing U.S troops.
He invited congressional leaders to meet with him tomorrow to discuss a new bill. Here's what he said and how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The need to act is urgent. Without a war funding bill, the military has to take money from some other account, or training program, so the troops in combat have what they need.
Without a war funding bill, the Armed Forces will have to consider cutting back on buying new equipment or repairing existing equipment.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: The president wants a blank check. The Congress is not going to give it to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Then there was this. Reports that the Iraqi prime minister is operating a shadow government full of Shia extremists.
U.S. officials are concerned about the U.S. mission in Iraq.
Earlier, I spoke to CNN's Baghdad Correspondent Michael Ware and former Presidential Adviser David Gergen.
COOPER: And David, both sides say don't play politics with this. Both sides are playing politics with this. It's unfortunate. It is cynical, but it's true. So, politically, did either side emerge stronger after all this today?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: No, I don't think so.
And -- but I do think, Anderson, finally, finally, we see some signs now that a compromise can be reached which sounds very reasonable there. Very importantly, Anderson, there are Republicans who have been signaling that they are -- the president may be willing to go off a cliff, but they're not going to go with him. And they are willing to work with Democrats, potentially, on a new bill that would not set a date for withdrawal of troops, but would set what -- so- called benchmarks for the Maliki government in Iraq.
They would say, you must do the following things. And, if he doesn't meet the benchmarks, then we might begin reducing U.S. aid. It would be the beginning of the end of U.S. engagement.
So, that would be a -- that would be a very important compromise. It may be, Anderson, that Democrats will find it easier to negotiate with Republicans on Capitol Hill than they will with the White House.
COOPER: Well, Michael Ware, let's talk about those benchmarks. Both sides in this debate seem to agree on one thing, that there's no military solution to Iraq. They all say it requires a political solution.
The benchmarks, I guess, are to pressure Maliki. Has pressure worked on him in the past?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, never.
I mean, this is such an old scenario, Anderson. I mean, this word benchmark has been used over and over and over. And no matter what conditions have been set for Maliki to meet, he's never once lived up to them.
So, now Washington is trying to up the ante, increase the pressure upon him in what most likely will be the vain hope that he will deliver.
But, to be honest, it's not entirely in his interest to deliver. And, at the end of the day, he simply doesn't have the power. And the political solution in Iraq will not be brokered between Washington and Maliki. You must deal with the real power in Iraq. Essentially, America's going to have to start looking at cutting deals or find some accommodation -- and I hate to say it -- with Iran.
And we're already seeing them come to accommodations with the Baathists, with the Sunni insurgents. The political answer is going to come from how much America is prepared to give on those two fronts.
COOPER: David, what about that? Politically, does this administration have too many eggs in the Maliki basket, or are there other options out there?
GERGEN: Well, they've got a lot in the Maliki basket.
But I think the point is well taken that there may well have to be some private, secret negotiations, conversations with Iran and with others to arrange anything. And it's important, of course, that Condoleezza Rice may indeed be talking to the Iranians here in the next few days, when there's a conference on Iraq.
But I think the larger point is this. You know, we have been -- from an American point of view -- it may well be that a lot of things have to be worked out on the ground in Baghdad, but from an American point of view, we have been stuck.
You know, we couldn't -- we couldn't leave, but we couldn't stay. And the benchmarks begin to point to a path towards saying, OK, if the Maliki government is not going to do these things, if they decide -- if they don't follow through, and if they're -- you can't get the kind of arrangements, America then has more -- let's put it rationale.
And Republicans will find it easier to say, if this isn't going to work, we really should begin disengaging. So, I don't -- while the benchmarks may seem like a -- sort of a Washington game, in some ways, they're a very important prelude to the United States beginning to look for a way to disengage.
COOPER: Michael, CNN is reporting that al-Maliki is running an office within his government which is pushing a Shia agenda, carrying out the Baghdad security plan really along sectarian lines.
Is this notion of a unified democracy of Sunni and Shia, is there any real support for it within the Iraqi government?
WARE: No, no, none that I have seen, Anderson. And I have dealt a lot with all of the important factions within the Iraqi government.
It's simply in no one's interest whatsoever to pursue a true reconciliation. And what we're seeing, with the creation of this office of the commander in chief, this is one more step in the great game that is being played out behind the scenes.
What's at stake is the intelligence community landscape in Iraq. And that will be the -- you know, the steering wheel of true power in that country. We know that the Iraqi version of the CIA was set up by the Americans. Yet, it does not answer to the Iraqi government.
So, in the meantime, the Shia factions sponsored by Iran have set up their own parallel agencies. And they're attempting to bring it all under their umbrella, all under their power. The Americans there on the ground are trying to prevent that. The creation of this office is one more step in the Iranian-backed factions trying to consolidate their power.
COOPER: It's a complicated situation. I appreciate you trying to sort it out for us.
Michael Ware, David Gergen, guys, thanks very much.
COOPER: My next two guests have both served in Iraq. Paul Rieckhoff is a former Army lieutenant. He's executive director and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. He is also the author of "Chasing Ghosts: Failures and Facades in Iraq. A Soldier's Perspective."
Owen West is a Marine reservist and wrote an op-ed in today's "New York Times," explaining why Congress should embrace the troop increase in Iraq and stop talking about timetables.
Guys, thanks for being with us.
Paul, you served in the National Guard in Iraq. What do you think about the president's decision to veto the spending bill?
PAUL RIECKHOFF, IRAQ & AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Well, I think it's -- to be honest with you, Anderson, a disappointing statement about the state of Washington. It seems like the president and the Democrats continue to go back and forth in this poisoned partisan atmosphere. And in the meantime, we've got troops stuck in Iraq who are trying to figure out solutions to very difficult problems. And the Iraqi people are caught in the middle, as well.
So, as a veteran, I'm extremely disappointed to see that the politicians can't get along in the same way we did in the military.
And I think it also sends a disturbing statement to the Iraqi government. We tell them they've got to compromise, they've got to work together. And we look like hypocrites when we can't do it ourselves here in our own capital.
COOPER: Owen, the timetable that General Petraeus is talking about seems very different than -- which is a military timetable -- it seems very different than the political timetable being discussed in Washington.
At some point, those two time tables have to join somehow. Do you see that happening at all?
OWEN WEST, MARINE RESERVIST: Well, there has to be convergence, you're right.
On one hand, we have the majority of Americans who now say that Iraq is unwinnable. The majority of Americans want American troops to come home.
And on the other hand, you have a military that's now surging. Something has to give. The two sides need to come together.
And I think the surge is a great rallying point, ironically, because one way or another, this surge is going to happen. The Democrats, for their part, need to embrace it. And the Republicans and the administration on their side, need to recognize that this can't last forever and we need a plan for the future, starting about the fall of 2008.
COOPER: Why do you say that Democrats should embrace the surge?
WEST: Well, they can either cut off funding for July and accept the consequences. But it seems to me from everything I have heard since coming back, that they are going to fund it, they are going to fund the surge.
We're only halfway through the surge. The surge is going to be effective in about June or July and we'll know the effects in the fall.
The best thing to do is allow the surge to continue and then leverage that surge, both politically and militarily.
COOPER: Paul, though, just about everybody on this issue agrees that there is no ultimately military solution. It's got to be a political solution. Do you see any steps that the U.S. is taking -- or that the Republicans or Democrats are proposing that gets us closer to some sort of military solution -- I mean, excuse me, political solution?
RIECKHOFF: No, no. I think we just heard Michael Ware talk about it. I think that's the problem is that our troops have continued to perform well. And they've accomplished every military objective we've put before them.
But the challenge is beyond their scope. There's only so much our soldiers can do on the ground without the Maliki government standing up and the political situation starting to stabilize itself.
So in many ways, we're kind of setting our troops up for failure here. We're asking them to do something that they quite honestly haven't been trained to do. They can't get a new provisional government up. They can't get these sectarian groups to come together.
It's like asking your plumber to fix your television. He's going to get some of it right, but it's ultimately not what he's designed to do.
So, unless we see a serious surge on the political side, we're not going to see an overall comprehensive solution here that improves the situation on the ground.
COOPER: Owen, in order to make a surge work, don't you -- I mean, I think Michael Ware once said to me, you have to surge the entire country. And that's simply not possible, given the number of troops you're talking about.
WEST: Well, no, look. The surge can be used as leverage. I agree with what Paul said. But I would say that before there's a political solution, we need to have as much security as possible to allow that to occur.
That's always been the case in war. It's a clash of wills. Eventually, certain sides will yield and allow for this solution.
Secondly, al Qaeda in Iraq will never come to a political settlement. So, we will always be fighting them. It may be true that we created them. It may be true that we have brought them to Iraq like a magnet.
But that doesn't change the fact that they're there and we'll need to fight them for decades.
In terms of the surge, again, if we surge in American troops, give the Iraqis some breathing room, allow them to build up their army, we need to double or triple the size the of the Iraqi army. Then I think we can set the groundwork for the United States troops to begin moving back and integrating into those Iraqi units. Because ultimately, that's going to have to be the solution. And there is a military -- there is a military component to this. We shouldn't write everything off to the politics.
COOPER: And we're going to have to leave it there.
Owen West, Paul Rieckhoff, appreciate your guys' perspective.
WEST: Thank you, Anderson.
RIECKHOFF: Thank you.
COOPER: Up next, more on today's immigration rallies across America. Heated emotions, cries for change and well, some rubber bullets fired here in L.A. Tonight, all the angles.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (voice-over): Busted at a border crossing. Looked like the driver was alone, but the dogs sniffed out the truth. The battle at the border heats up.
Plus, inside the U.S. Border Patrol Academy. The training, intense, up close and personal.
After fighting in Iraq, he wants to fight in the battle against illegal immigration here on the home front, when 360 continues.
COOPER (on camera): More now on our breaking news.
A pretty chaotic scene. Police firing rubber bullets at an immigration rally here in Los Angeles. At least one person was hit. The crowd was gathered in support of immigration. They want laws changed. This was at the end of the rally. Police trying to clear the park, get demonstrators to move on.
Every day many people, of course, from Mexico sneak across the borders, trying to breach the security at one of the busiest border crossings on the planet.
CNN's David Mattingly takes a look.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When they see us out here, then they get nervous.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Officer Vana Recili (ph) is our guide through an endless sea of cars, trucks and vans, searching for smugglers.
At 150,000 people a day, San Ysidro could be the busiest land port in the world. With more officers, more sophisticated equipment and bigger, longer fences, security has never been more elaborate.
(on camera): As soon as a vehicle crosses this line, it's in the United States. And that means the drivers of every single one of these vehicles is subject to numerous layers of inspection.
(voice-over): Teams of inspection officers roam the 24 lanes of traffic, watching people for anything suspicious.
Specially trained dogs sniff around for drugs and people who might be hidden out of sight.
But while inspectors watch, they are being watched as well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're called spotters.
MATTINGLY: And what are they doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're watching us. They're looking to see when we're out here and when we're not out here.
MATTINGLY: Looking for ways, soft spots in the system they can exploit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Soft spots.
MATTINGLY: And smugglers keep getting more creative. Recent busts have found people rolled up into carpets.
Who could forget the man sewn into a seat cover or the child hidden in a piņata?
While we were in the port, officers spotted this pickup truck. At first glance, the driver looked alone. But watch this.
Further inspection found 12 people inside -- men and women stuffed in the backseat and hidden in the bed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If dog is alerting, it could be for either narcotics or possibly humans.
MATTINGLY: A little later, dogs alerted officers to this SUV, and a new search was underway.
(on camera): This vehicle has come just 30 yards inside the U.S. border, and the roving team picked it up quickly. The dogs found some kind of scent. Officers so far haven't been able to find anything. Let's see what happens next.
(voice-over): The vehicle was taken to a special area and searched. Nothing showed up right away, so an x-ray machine was brought in.
(on camera): So this white vehicle is just one big x-Ray machine?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's correct.
MATTINGLY: It's making a pass and it's looking at what's inside the suspect vehicle?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It's able to detect anomalies in the various parts of the vehicle.
MATTINGLY: Everything looked fine, except the spare tire. Just bounce it and you can hear something rumbling around inside.
I can feel it in there.
(voice-over): There's nothing left to do, but take a knife and cut it open.
(on camera): You can see the package is right in there.
(voice-over): Inside, inspectors say almost 24 pounds of marijuana.
And officers say these kinds of busts happen here every day. In fact, drug arrests are up at the port, as fences seal this part of the border, leaving smugglers with fewer choices.
And arrests for human smuggling are down, suggesting to port officials that fewer people are willing to test the security here.
COOPER: David, that guy who got arrested for trying to smuggle in the marijuana, will he -- if he's convicted, will he do time in the United States or would he just be deported back to Mexico?
MATTINGLY (on camera): Because he was caught in the United States, he will be turned over to authorities here and prosecuted here.
Now, if he were smuggling people across the border, he could be sent back to Mexico and prosecuted there.
Either way, both of that is a very big deterrent for smugglers who try to come in through here. And because of the fencing and everything else that they have on this section of the border, coming through here is probably their only option in this western area of the border.
So if smugglers do try to come in here, there is that deterrent of prosecution if they get caught.
COOPER: Amazing stuff you caught today.
David, thanks very much.
You can read more about the desperate attempts to get across the San Ysidro border crossing by logging onto our blog. Go to CNN.com/360blog.
While there are about 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, many can be found in only a handful of states. Here's the raw data.
California has the largest population of illegal immigrants, with up to 2.75 million. Next, is Texas, with roughly 1.6 million. Florida just under 1 million illegal immigrants. There are about 650,000 in New York. And just under half a million in Arizona.
In just a moment, we expect to hear from Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton about those rubber bullets that police fired at protesters tonight.
We've also got much more ahead on the rallies today.
And we'll look at those on the front lines. Border Patrol agents. They've got a tough job. And training for it is no piece of cake. An up close look when 360 continues.
COOPER: That was the scene in Los Angeles, around MacArthur Park, the end to what was a very peaceful day of immigration rallies, really across the United States, but also here in Los Angeles.
Police firing some rubber bullets into the crowd. We saw at least one protester who was hit, who got a welt on his stomach.
The bullets are soft, but of course fired from a gun. It is a -- can have a powerful impact. It is, of course, a non-lethal device.
The police saying they were intending to disperse the crowd. There seemed to have been some sort of communication problems. Some people, perhaps not getting the message.
We are anticipating a press conference from the Chief of Police of Los Angeles William Bratton any moment now. We're going to bring that to you as soon as it happens.
And really, around the country, thousands march for immigration reform today -- tens of thousands -- with no end in sight to the battle.
Training is underway for thousands of new border patrol agents that President Bush has called for to stem the tide of illegal aliens.
CNN's Dan Simon got close to the action at the school where the new agents are being trained.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): America's fight against illegal immigration starts right here at a place you probably never heard of.
Artesia, New Mexico, is home to the U.S. Border Patrol Academy. Anyone wearing the green uniform has trained here. But getting through the academy is no easy ride.
Only one out of 30 who apply will make it through the five-month training. And I saw first-hand how hard it can be.
Before I know it, I find myself in a simulated shootout.
(on camera): While becoming a proficient marksman is an important part of border patrol training, trainees also spend hundreds of hours in the classroom. The subjects ranging from the law to Spanish.
(voice-over): More than 200 hours of Spanish are required.
What's been the hardest thing for you in terms of your training?
DAVID CHAVEZ, BORDER PATROL TRAINEE: In terms of training? Believe it or not, it's been Spanish. I mean, I'm getting ribbed constantly because of my last name. But I'm not a native speaker.
SIMON: After fighting in Iraq, David Chavez says he wants to stay on the front lines, protecting his country here at home.
(on camera): Do you feel like you're going to be facing an uphill battle?
CHAVEZ: Not at all. I mean, I was in Iraq. I didn't feel it was an uphill battle. And this is the same thing. It's just one day at a time. Doing your job. And hopefully we can curb the problem of illegal immigration.
ANNOUNCER: We protect America. Are you up to the challenge?
SIMON (voice-over): Recruiting these days is a top priority. After the president's urgent call for 6,000 new agents by the end of 2008.
The academy let us on campus in hoes that showing the tough regimen would attract recruits.
And it is tough.
A former MP in the Air Force, Jorge Fernandez admits there's a bit of irony in his new job.
You're going to be on the frontlines, busting illegal immigrants, most of whom are of Hispanic origin. How do you feel about that?
JORGE FERNANDEZ, BORDER PATROL TRAINEE: You got to look at it as the job, sir. I mean, I really don't -- don't know how to answer that question. So it's going to be difficult at times, but you got to look at it as the job.
SIMON: Instructors try to recreate the conditions that new agents will encounter in the field. Sometimes, though, nature can be just as tough.
COOPER: Dan, obviously the president wants more agents to crack down on illegal immigrants. But in places like Arizona where you are, there's also increasingly relying on technology, correct? SIMON (on camera): That is correct, Anderson.
More illegals gain entry through Arizona than any other state. The Border Patrol simply cannot keep up. That's why they're turning to more forms of technology.
Just last week the Border Patrol announced the first phase completion of what they are calling a virtual wall. These are towers that have high-tech cameras radar that can give agents real-time information in the field so they can respond to where these illegal crossings are taking place. This is a $20 million plus project. Ultimately, these towers are going to go all along the Arizona border and eventually into other states as well -- Anderson.
Dan, appreciate the reporting.
For many people, of course, who do make it into the U.S. illegally, it is a better life, but it is also a life filled with fear. They're worried they'll be caught and sent back to Mexico. We'll have a look at that story, coming up.
Also tonight, this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (voice-over): Immigration outrage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want only legal citizens in my country.
COOPER: Are the candidates running for the White House listening? And do they have a workable plan?
Plus, he became homeless at the age of 14 and it got even worse.
JAMES BURGETT, FORMER DRUG ADDICT: I started pulling computers out of dumpsters, refurbishing them and then trying to sell them. The objective was to fund my drug habit.
COOPER: You won't believe what he's doing now. Meet this CNN hero, when 360 continues.
COOPER: We are anticipating a press conference very shortly from the chief of police in Los Angeles, explaining -- trying to explain what happened here. This video showing police firing some rubber bullets at protesters, trying to disperse the crowd at the end of what had been a very peaceful rally.
We anticipate that press conference and are going to bring it to you live as it happens.
And we've been watching a lot of video today of huge crowds in cities across America, marching for immigration reform, they say. But it is not pictures of crowds that tell the story, as much as individual families who they say are living in fear because they're living in the U.S. illegally.
Here's CNN's Soledad O'Brien.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The march was peaceful. Full of strollers, small children and music.
In a state with about 300,000 illegal immigrants, it seemed that many of them and their supporters took to the streets.
Including Arnulfo Alfaro, his wife, Cecelia (ph), and their 6- year-old son, Joel (ph). Alfaro (ph) is one of more than 1,000 illegals rounded up and arrested in a series of immigration raids on packaging company IFCO Systems in 26 states back in April of 2006.
It was terrifying, he says. I was afraid of being separated from my family and never seeing my son grow up.
Alfaro doesn't face immediate deportation. He'll appear before a judge next March. But Joel (ph) is an American citizen. The little boy loves soccer. He struggles in the public school he attends because of a learning disability.
My son has special education needs. He's doing well now, but if we were deported to Mexico, he'd have nothing, he says.
Twenty-nine-year-old Felicitas Valencia (ph) was marching too. She has a 5-month-old baby Joseline (ph) and a daughter Joanna (ph), who's in kindergarten. Both girls are American citizens.
And like kindergartners everywhere, Joanna (ph) is learning her numbers and letters. Felicitas (ph) says she worries what could happen to her girls if she's deported. It keeps her up at night.
(on camera): Worrying about your daughters?
(voice-over): Because there's no opportunity in Mexico, she says.
Yet, Felicitas (ph) and Arnulfo don't see themselves as taking unfair advantage of benefits offered in this country.
We're not criminals, he says. I've never been arrested in my life. I pay taxes. I own my own house. My only crime was crossing the border.
It's a message we heard often from the marchers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every human being, no matter what country you are, you deserve respect, with dignity -- to be treated with dignity and respect.
O'BRIEN: And so they march for hours, straight through downtown Chicago.
Yes, we can, they chant. Hoping their numbers will make a statement about their rights.
COOPER: Soledad, how were the numbers of protesters in Chicago this year compared to what they were last year. As you know, here in L.A., they were drastically reduced.
O'BRIEN (on camera): And the same thing here in Chicago, actually. Some people thought that maybe the raids that have been happening over the last year and even in the last couple of weeks may have put a -- it sort of clamped down on illegal immigrants wanting to come out and attend those marches.
The weather was good, though. Many people thought that might actually encourage some people to come out end of the day. It looks like those official numbers from the P.D. were somewhere around 150,000. You know, those numbers can always change. Last year, the Chicago P.D. was putting those numbers at 400,000. So down significantly this year.
COOPER: All right, Soledad, appreciate it. Thanks.
No doubt the immigration debate will play a factor in the race to the White House. How? We're not sure. We'll take a look at whether the candidates' messages are playing well with voters right now. Ahead on 360.
COOPER: Some images there from the immigration rallies across the country today. That last one -- that one -- sent in by Ariel Gamino (ph), a viewer in Chicago.
The immigration debate, a political hot potato, no doubt about it, driving a wedge between Republicans and Democrats alike.
For a look at how it's playing out on the campaign trail, here's CNN's Candy Crowley.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On any given day, it comes up on the campaign trail.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Immigration, I have found in a few town hall meetings here in this great state of Iowa, is a very important issue and a very emotional issue. And there's no doubt that our borders are broken and they are not secure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When is the Republican Party going to come out and say we've got to do what's right for the country, we got to do what the law says? CROWLEY: We are talking Iowa, more than 1,000 miles from the Mexican border. Iowa, home of the first contest of the presidential elections.
Recent polling suggests that immigration is one of those issues is not front burner for most Americans. But those who do see it as a priority are passionate about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) morning program, we're talking about immigration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These illegals are in here taking all the jobs and lowering the standard of living. That's why. Who wouldn't want them in here if you can pay low wages?
CROWLEY: Inviting listeners to talk illegal immigration, Conservative Talk Show Host Jan Michaelson gets an earful.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want only legal citizens in my country. I want illegal immigrants out of my country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think what we're doing is making ourselves alien to other countries by the way we treat immigrants. I mean, there's not one person here who is a natural American.
CROWLEY: In general, Michaelson says his callers are not impressed with the illegal immigration platforms of either party.
JAN MICHAELSON, CONSERVATIVE TALK SHOW HOST: Both Democrats and Republican people who are out in the grassroots areas want to put a stop to it. It's the party hierarchy that's -- both parties are out of sync with the reality out here in the real word.
CROWLEY: The real world is Perry, Iowa, where the immigrant population has exploded interrogation he past decade, drawn by jobs in the meat packing industry.
Nobody knows the ratio of legal immigrants to illegal, only that the city's resources, schools, emergency rooms, social services are stressed.
GLENN THEULEN, IOWA VOTER: We want to be welcoming, we want to be opening, but do we just allow everyone to come here and then expect the people that are here playing by the rules, doing things right, to have to pay for these people?
CROWLEY: Out there in the real world...
MICHAELSON: Is there a candidate that represents your view better than anybody else?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't answer that honestly.
MICHAELSON: OK. You're still shopping?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm still shopping, yes. CROWLEY: They're still searching for real answers.
Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Searching for answers.
Still ahead, an unlikely hero. Meet a man who used to fix computers to get money for drugs. You won't believe what he's doing now. His remarkable story. A true hero, when 360 continues.
COOPER: Every day people across the country work hard to make the world a better place, but often we don't hear about them.
Well, beginning this week and continuing through the rest of the year, CNN's going to be shining the spotlight on some very special people, each with a remarkable story. We call them "CNN Heroes."
We begin with James Burgett, a former drug addict who turned his life around to help others in a pretty unusual way. Take a look.
JAMES BURGETT, FORMER DRUG ADDICT: The corporate motto is obsolescence is a lack of imagination. If we don't reuse our waste now, it's all that future generations will have.
2 million tons of e-waste were produced in the U.S.
And e-waste represented 70 percent of toxicity in U.S. landfills.
BURGETT: My name is James Burgett. I've been collecting electronic waste and giving away computers for the last 13 years.
I hire people that are outside of the normal employment (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I teach them how to build the computers.
I have been pretty much on my own since the age of 14. I slept on people's floors. I slept in various places.
I started pulling computers out of dumpsters, refurbishing them and then trying to sell them. The objective was to fund my drug habits.
Every time I made any money, I immediately stuck it up my nose or in my arm.
I quit doing drugs because I found that giving away computers gave me a self image that made it so I didn't need to do so.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's very adamant to give them away for free. This is one of things that he wants to do and he can do and he will do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not going to ruin it. This is your computer. If you ruin it, we'll give you another one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hire convicts. We hire people with psychiatric histories. We hire people with drug histories.
BURGETT: All you really need to do is give them something that they can say, hey, I'm not a parasite today. These are the best feelings we've had since we did drugs.
James Burgett processes more than 200,000 pounds of California's e-waste monthly.
He has donated roughly 16,000 refurbished computers across the globe...for free.
BURGETT: Just checking in, Aaron (ph). You got anything I need to know?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all gravy.
BURGETT: It's all gravy. OK.
We take things that are considered broken and we then repurpose, refurbish.
This applies to me. This applies to my staff. This applies to every computer we give away.
Every single thing you see here, somebody somewhere decided it no longer had value. And they were wrong.
COOPER: Well, if you know someone like James Burgett who is equally dedicated to defending the planet, we encourage you to nominate him or her for a "CNN Hero" award. Just log onto CNN.com/heroes and we'll maybe tell their story.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: For the most news in the morning, be sure to catch "American Morning" tomorrow, starting at 6:00 a.m., Eastern Time.
Thanks for watching. We'll be back in New York tomorrow night. "LARRY KING" is next. His guest, Oprah.
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