November 15th, 2007
10:39 PM ET
10 years ago

Richardson: 'Stop demonizing immigrants'

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson favors more border enforcement and comprehensive immigration reform.

(CNN) - New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson came to the defense of immigrants and criticized the proposal to build a fence along the border with Mexico during a CNN debate Thursday night.

"Two years ago, I was the first governor to declare a border emergency because the federal government wasn't doing its job in stopping the flow of drugs and people," Richardson said. "You know what, we should stop demonizing immigrants, we should stop doing that."

Richardson said he would create a path to legalization, punish employers that hire illegal workers, strengthen the presence of the National Guard along the border and improve diplomacy with Mexico. He slammed Congress for failing to pass immigration reform, saying it's less popular than "Dick Cheney and HMOs."

- CNN Associate Producer Lauren Kornreich

Filed under: Bill Richardson
soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. Joe, Indianapolis, Indiana

    Mexico tries to tell America what to do with their citizens. Mexico needs the cash because the country is a failed State. So respecting America's laws is not a priority for Mexico. They will stop at nothing to see amnesty done. Mexico though deports all their illegal aliens and issues NO drivers licenses. Hipocracy at its best!

    November 16, 2007 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  2. A Vet, Florida

    Why are we so afraid of a fence and policy to permit legal entry into this country? Is it better for political reasons to pander to illegal votes than to protect a huge gap into America that permits not only illegal's with criminal records and diseases to enter the US and pose pressure on social programs but also to permit terrorists to simply walk in and possibly destroy an entire city? It seems that protecting airlines while having an open border and ports is a futile attempt to protecting the country.

    November 16, 2007 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  3. Kate, Aurora CO

    Gov. Richardson needs to remember that as an American public official he took an oath to uphold the constitution and laws of this land. Those laws include immigration laws and if you do not follow the immigration laws and sneak into this country, then by our own definition you are in fact an illegal immigrant. To constantly turn a blind eye and then give amnesty every 20 years or so is an atrocity. This argument that Americans are demonizing immigrants or labeling someone a "racist" because they oppose illegal immigration is ridiculous. The majority of Americans (who do not profit from the cheap labor of illegal immigration) have spoken time and time again against illegal immigration. This is not aboue race but an appeal to our lawmakers, who gain their positions by American citizen votes not illegal immigrants, to uphold the same laws American citizens must follow.

    November 16, 2007 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  4. JC Topeka, KS

    Once again the goonys are out. Richardson is saying not all immigrants are illegal. They are not and there is nothing wrong with being an immigrant, I wager that the vast majority of the people reading this are related to a immigrant, expecially since even the native American Indians Immigranted to this continent over the land bridge from Asia.

    Now what Richardson is saying is what I have been saying, punish those that employ "Illegals", get it illegals, that means they have broken the law coming here. Guess what, if people stop hiring illegals, illegals will not have an incentive to enter the US illegally. We might be a great country to live, but only if you have work. Cut out the hiring of illegals, you reduce the number of illegals, you might increase the number of legal immigrants but you decrease the number of illegals.

    Once we stop the flow of illegals across our Southern border, then we can look at an expanded guest worker program for bringing in seasonal workers, something I do belive we actually had in the 50s and 60s.

    Close the border down yes, with natioanl guard helping, that is of course if you can find any that are not deployed and still have some equipment that they can use. I will agree that we need a way to help those that wish to come to the US legally do so, if we have employment for them. We do not need to be punishing those that were brought here as children by their parents that have grown up in America, and know only America, but in the same regard we do not need to grant citizenship to every Tom, Dick and Harry that came illegally across our border.

    November 16, 2007 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  5. Eric, from THE Republic of Texas

    Governor, no one is bashing immigrants.

    We are however, bashing law breakers, people who engage in "breaking and entering" and trespass where they are not allowed... oh, and we're also bashing those who conveniently look the other way or even aid them in their illegal endeavors, all in the name of political expediency and/or political correctness (see George W. Bush and ALL Democrats).

    What part of jumping the fence to break into my country is different from jumping the fence to break into my home? Both are illegal.

    No one is bashing immigrants. This is a nation of immigrants and that diversity of people and ideas is exactly what has landed America atop the food chain, head and shoulders above nearly every other nation on the planet.

    What we're asking is for our elected officials to at least PRETEND they intend to enforce the laws, not outwardly DEFY them and thumb their noses at the prospect of doing the job they were hired to do.

    November 16, 2007 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  6. Dave, kansas KS

    It's all the federal govt fault, lets sit back and let the feds do everything. Isnt local govt part of the fed govt? Cant he make steps on his own. Blame others, and lie out your ass aint cutting it.

    November 16, 2007 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  7. realplanman

    How about..., hidden fences along the borders, you know, like the one you bury along your property line to keep your dog in. Only we can use it to keep illegals out. Anyone caught in the US illegally will have a micoscopic chip implanted in their spine and then returned to their country of origin. Should they try to re-cross the border, a contiunously increasing shock will be applied as they approach the border.

    Legal entries could have their chips rendered nutural for a specfic time period, after which it would automactically restart.

    And Waala, no more illegals crossing the borders.

    November 16, 2007 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  8. HH, Pittsburgh, PA

    Richardson, you are an idiot. DON'T try to confuse the issue of immigation with the issue of ILLEGAL immigration. If the pols and their fat-cat friends weren't benefiting from illegal immigration, this wouldn't be an issue. The pols have no problem with snooping on Americans. We have a War on Terrorism, remember? However, when it comes to ANYBODY sneaking inside our borders, all of a sudden, the War on Terrorism doesn't matter.

    What really galls me is the contempt that illegals have for the US. I watched them fly their Mexican flag and wear their "I'm Illegal - So what!" T-shirts during their rally. I see how they don't want to assimulate or learn our language, but instead insist that we accommodate them. I have a better idea: You like the Mexican flag so much? GO HOME TO MEXICO THEN! MOST of us don't want you here! Let your Banana-Republic government address its problems instead of sending them here.

    November 16, 2007 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  9. John Karsten, VA Beach, VA

    A fence around our country is not the awanser. Russia tried that in east germany, which did not turn out well. Russia was trying to keep poeple in where as we are trying to keep people out. I heard once that fences keep honest people honest. If someone wants to get here, I don't think a fence will stop them. I really don't care who comes to my country, my family is not native here either, but I ask that if you come here, do it the LEGAL and right way.

    November 16, 2007 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  10. Steve in SC

    Is it just me or does it seem these guys have no grasp of the meaning of "ILLEGAL"? Undocumented workers? Nope sorry! They are ILLEGAL!

    November 16, 2007 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  11. AJ; Montpelier, VT

    Who is demonizing immigrants? What most people are against are illegal (criminal) immigrants. Richardson should know the difference.

    November 16, 2007 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  12. Laura - Tulsa OK

    As long as they pay their share of payrolls taxes, Im support any President who will work with these people to properly process them and update their immigration status.

    November 16, 2007 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  13. Ms. L, Albany, NY

    "You don't like the fence, Bill? Do you have a fence around your yard? Do you have walls in your office? If so, why? When you answer that, you'll start to understand why we want you idiots to get that fence built."

    Mike, Atlanta, GA, you are a genius. I'd vote for YOU. I was thinking about Richardson, but not any more... Remember, "illegal" means that a law is being broken. Lawbreakers need to be punished, not rewarded.

    November 16, 2007 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  14. thevoter

    Bill doesn't want to be included in on all those, "wish I could take back that vote" Senators, but like them, he clearly doesn't understand that the majority of American's do not want open borders or immunity for those who broke our laws to get here..

    November 16, 2007 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  15. James, Phoenix AZ

    THIS ISSUE: Illegal Aliens and Immigration Reform is going to sink the democratic party.

    As much as everyone is up-in-arms about Iraq, the economy, etc.. THIS issue (illegal immigrants) crosses party lines and will cause voters to go towards a conservative candidate who WILL do something.

    Think about it:

    Gay Marriage – Dems & Republicans agree
    Iraq – Dems (no real promise to exit before 2013) and Republicans agree
    Economy – both parties want to improve the economy

    When Dems take a hardline supporting a variation of amnesty... and Americans get a sense of how this will impact Social Security, Healthcare, the unfairness to LEGAL immigrants waiting for citizenship, etc.... Dems will lose.

    November 16, 2007 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  16. Raymond, El Paso TX

    "THIS ISSUE: Illegal Aliens and Immigration Reform is going to sink the democratic party."

    I don't know why this issue would sink the Democrats any more than the Republicans because they're not addressing the real issue either. It's also not mentioned in most of the posts here.

    The problem isn't stopping the flow of illegal immigrants, that's the easy part and some solutions were mentioned last night. The moral and true issues are the processes and logistics of coping with those that are already here.

    Realistically, what are the options? We can deport them if they commit a serious crime and are caught...DUH! If we have no compassion for human beings we can break up or uproot entire families and deny them critical services. If we're willing to give up more civil rights, well then that certainly opens up even more options.

    The only other options are a guest worker program or a path to citizenship allowing them to fully contribute to the benefit of America. Of course both options must have stipulations.

    However, no matter what options we chose, it's going to go a long way in defining how Americans have evolved as a society and Leader of the Free World.

    November 16, 2007 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  17. Maria, New York, New York

    Janet states that Bill "needs to go home or be deported." Bill is an American citizen- this is his home, and ICE cannot deport him! The fact that he is running for president should have been a hint, because all American presidents must be native-born citizens. Furthermore, favoring a solution to the illegal immigration problem (i.e. border security and a immigration reform) does not make you un-American. Finally, you should address the issue. You obviously disagree with Bill, but do not explain your reasoning. Instead of reverting to ad hominem arguments (he is "un-American"), you should address the real issue at hand.

    November 16, 2007 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  18. Ben

    Finally. One thing I can agree with Gov. Richardson about.

    We are a country of immigrants. Why do some feel they are better than others simply because they had the good fortune to be born here? You didn't earn anything; it was the luck of the draw.

    America needs to get over it's arrogance.

    November 16, 2007 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  19. Bill W, Coatesville, PA

    Another candidate pandering to the hispanic population. Hey, Bill – illegal means illegal. What part of illegal don't you get?

    November 16, 2007 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  20. Steven in Charleston

    Demonize: "To represent as evil or demonic."

    Personally, I think the word perfectly describes the attitude many of my fellow Americans have towards Mexican immigrants.

    Gov. Richardson is not suggesting that we don't have and enforce rules on immigration. What he IS suggesting is that we have a little bit of respect for the people we are talking about.

    The "anti" crowd makes a lot of the fact that there are supposedly half a million "criminals" that are in this country illegally. Without a doubt, that is a lot.

    Now, I don't know how many undocumented immigrants there are in this country, but a number that we see used frequently is 12 million. So if 500,000 are, for lack of a better term, "evil" that means that 11.5 million aren't.

    Now, I agree that we need to have control of our borders. AND I agree that we need to enforce the laws and make everyone play by the same rules. But let's acknowledge a basic fact about humanity - people take care of their families. If YOU lived in a poverty-stricken country, and if YOUR children lacked food, education, and health care, then wouldn't you do whatever you needed to do to provide for them? And if the only thing standing between you and giving your children what they needed was a national border that you technically weren't allowed to cross, would you really let that stop you?

    Yes, we need to address the influx of undocumented aliens, but let's at least start by agreeing that these people aren't evil - they are just trying to take care of their families. If we start from a place of respect, we might actaully be able to find a solution that works for us all.

    November 17, 2007 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  21. a,d,sutton CLAREMONT, CA

    "Teeming masses" means wage slaves whose horrifically huge numbers of hungry kids made them take dangerous, low-pay jobs. Mexico lacks Roe v Wade, so tithe-dependent church employees help keep a few rich families there in control of Mexico by crimnalizing birth control. Seminal vesicles and ovaries belong to bodies of their bearers, but reproductive organs are under control of religiocapitalist fanatics in every nation exporting illegal immigrants to other taxpayer pools, to mercilessly drain them. Impeach Gov.,Bush, and VP.

    November 17, 2007 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  22. Virginia Goettelman Indian Wells, CA


    November 17, 2007 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  23. Real Man

    Look, Gov. Richardson, I hoped you would not side with illegals based upon ethnic lines and am disappointed in you. Anyone running for president should represent all Americans, and not Americans and illegals who fit your ethnic alignment.

    November 18, 2007 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  24. Brandon, Tampa, FL

    And just then, Lou Dobbs came out of the audience and fought Bill Richardson in an epic duel to the death.

    November 19, 2007 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  25. Richard Cadena - Mexico City, Mexico

    Today's average American has no idea what immigration of any sort is about. No one says anything about immigration to the US up to 1921. The key point is that people who immigrated to the US, including my 4 grandparents from Mexico, arrived to a country that had no formal immigration laws, requirements, regulations, etc. This changed between 1921 and 1929. This is when quotas were introduced for the different nationalities. The land of my birth has created it own mess and it should have the internal fortitude to deal with it. No one has mentioned that NAFTA has devastated the Mexican countryside and the number of people immigrating from that country has risen sharply. Duties have been eliminated on corn, a basic staple of Mexican food and culture. Effective January 1, 2008, duties on imports of beans into Mexico will be eliminated pursuant to NAFTA. Americans, ask your government to stop creating its own messes and stop crying in your beer about immigrants without papers. Immigrants have to learn how to speak English to be able to function in US society, but do not demand that they leave Spanish and their cultural values and lifetime experiences when they cross the border. I personally know the emotions involved in immigrating. It is no easy task to leave the country where one was born and raised and immigrate to another. BTW, I happen to be a legal lifetime immigrant to Mexico of American nationality. A simple thing like "push 'em back, push 'em back, waaaaaaay back" when I attended my high school's football games does not get tossed in the cultural/linguistic trash can every time I return to Mexico after vacationing in the US. It is a very fundamental staple of who I am. This whole issue goes way beyond "supposedly" breaking the law.

    November 26, 2007 02:39 am at 2:39 am |
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