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Transcripts of Bob Edgar's appearance January 25
on CNN's Lou Dobbs and MSNBC's Rita Cosby

Transcript of CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight, January 25, 2006, featuring NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar on U.S. immigrations policy reform. (Courtesy of CNN)

DOBBS: Just ahead, another look at e-mails, including your continued outrage at the government's failure to secure our borders and to make any sense on a host of areas.  . . . And God and politics, Reverend Bob Edgar joins me. He is the head of the National Council of Churches representing just about 40 million churchgoers in this country. He's our guest. We will be talking about immigration policy and religion. Stay with us.

DOBBS: Tonight, we continue our look at the debate over God and politics. The role churches and religious organizations are playing in politics and in case our border security emergency and our illegal immigration cries. Joining me now, Reverend Bob Edgar, General Secretary the National Council of Churches. His organization made up of some hundred thousand congregations of roughly 45 million worshipers and you've taken a position against tough border security legislation.

REV. BOB EDGAR, GEN. SEC. NAT'L COUNCIL OF CHURCHES: Well, Lou, we have taken a position for a comprehensive immigration law. We think that it ought to be fair. It ought to be bipartisan and we think that Congress of the United States has to address the issues of our borders, but do it in a compassionate way. We take that from our biblical commitment to care.

DOBBS: Let me ask you, what's not compassionate about building a 2000 mile long fence and stopping illegal immigration altogether and securing our borders against the crossing of terrorists at our border.

EDGAR: Two things, one it will not stop all the illegal immigrants that want to get into the country, and secondly, we already have examples along the De Galles where we have put up a fence. It simply forced them to go around, forcing more people out into the desert. And more people are dying because of that ...

DOBBS: Dying because of the fence or dying because of the conditions in Mexico, which the churches, the Catholic Church primarily has not seen fit to deal with, the corruption, the incompetence of the Mexican government in serving their own people, which is a greater cost?

EDGAR: Well, we think that the church ought to be compassionate on the Mexican side and on the U.S. side. We don't think that people ought to come across the border illegally. But if they do come across illegally, we need to be compassionate.  I went to the border country between De Galles and Tucson and I saw all of the efforts being made to save lives. More than 400 people died in the last year.

DOBBS: My hearts go out to them.

EDGAR: Dying in the desert.

DOBBS: And I think the Mexican government should be held directly responsible for failing those people and putting those lives in jeopardy, don't you?  Don't you think there should be an accounting by Vicente Fox and the corrupt fools in that government who will not take care of their own people.

EDGAR: I'm surprised that George Bush hasn't spent more time with Vicente Fox.

DOBBS: You're scaring me to death. Because Vicente Fox has been running him like a dog.

EDGAR: I think that the president has really overlooked an opportunity to talk about putting fair and equitable policies on the border. We think that the McCain-Kennedy Bill is a bipartisan effort. We think the Congress ought to be challenged to do this on a bipartisan way.

DOBBS: What about the Cornyn-Kyl legislation? Border security first, so that you can actually control whatever reforms you would make on immigration. I'm as interested as you are in humane solutions and reasonable solutions. What would be wrong with that?

EDGAR: Well, there's nothing wrong with that to be put into the mix. Maybe 400 bills that are dealing with immigration issues. What we need is a government, not a government of just one political party. But a government that listens to the compassionate voices of the religious community as well as a government that works in a bipartisan way to be able to address this very complicated issue.  It's not as simple as just simply one piece of legislation.

DOBBS: It is not as simple as that, as you correctly state. But the thing that makes it more complicated is the role of the church in all of this -- the Catholic Church, your organization, the Jewish committee, a broad number of groups.  Why isn't there concern -- why is it, if I may, concern for the security? The well-being of 300 million Americans who have about four percent of the goods being inspected at our ports. Our borders are wide open. Why would that not be your priority?

EDGAR: Well, it is a priority. But also as a faith community, Catholic, Jews, Protestants, care for the least of these of our brothers and sisters.  We have a sister organization, Church World Service, that provides help for Haitians and Cubans and other who flee their country and come to this country and we need to build some bridges and some healing and Church World Service and the National Council of Churches is committed. I believe in the separation of church and state but not the separation of people of faith and institutions of government.

DOBBS: And you have lived that serving in Congress. And I want to ask if I may, Dr. Bob, that you come back here and we'll talk some more.

EDGAR: Look forward to it.

DOBBS: Appreciate you being here. Still ahead, the results of our poll. We'll have some more of your thoughts on our illegal immigration crises, our border security crisis, including one viewer who argues for open borders as something of a misnomer. Should we change the language? Stay with us.

Transcript of MSNBC’s Live&Direct with Rita Cosby, January 25, 2006, featuring NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar on U.S. immigrations policy reform. (Courtesy of MSNBC).

COSBY: Joining me now is publisher of the Church Report, Jason Christie.  And right here with me in the studio is Bob Edgar.  He‘s the general secretary of the National Council of Churches. 

Jason, let me start with you.  You‘ve got the map with you.  Hold it up and describe—you don‘t have the map, I understand, but describe for us what is in this map? 

JASON CHRISTIE, CHURCH REPORT:  Well, essentially, the map shows water stations, places where, if the immigrants are in trouble, they can call in to a cell phone-type situation that‘s been set up solar-powered in the desert.  It‘s essentially outrageous.


COSBY:  How long—and we‘re looking at it.  And we‘re looking at it. 

How long has this been going on and how widely distributed, Jason? 

CHRISTIE:  It started being distributed next week.  Ironically, Humane Borders, the organization responsible for the map and the printing thereof, held a press conference and sent a presser out yesterday expounding the virtues of doing this. 

COSBY:  And what do you think about it, Jason? 

CHRISTIE:  I think it‘s outrageous.  You know, it begs to differ who actually is coming through the border.  Out of curiosity, I called the local sheriff‘s department in Pima County, which is where Humane Borders is located, and the sheriff down there this morning told me they had 200 illegal immigrants in jail this morning. 

That‘s just one of the many components to the problem, when you essentially publish a map that says, “Here‘s the freeway.  If you‘re an illegal immigrant, come this way.  Here‘s the phone.  Here‘s the water.” 

The challenge that I offered to Humane Borders is, what‘s next, a free shuttle bus or light rail? 

COSBY:  Bob Edgar, what do you think about it? 

BOB EDGAR, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES:  Well, I think that he‘s gone too far in his comments, because what this really is the coalition in the border area that‘s trying to help save lives of more than 400 people who lost their life last year by showing people where the water stations are.  Smugglers don‘t need these maps.  The smugglers know more than our agents do in the area. 

COSBY:  Yes, as we just heard, unfortunately. 

EDGAR:  Right.  The National Council of Churches, joined by the Roman Catholics and the Jewish community, have spent a great deal of time looking at ways in which we can develop constructive immigration legislation to both protect the lives of people that are being injured and killed crossing the border but also rationalize the job situation both on the Mexican side and the U.S. side. 

COSBY:  And I do believe a lot of it comes down to economics. 

EDGAR:  Absolutely. 

COSBY:  But why not say, look, put the onus on the Mexican government.  Get them jobs.  Take good care of these people as opposed to saying, look, we‘ll help you get across the border. 

EDGAR:  That‘s a good point.  What I‘d like to see is I‘d like to see George Bush and the president of Mexico sit down together.  I‘d like to see Democrats and Republicans on this side of the border and the legislature on that side of the border map out a bipartisan effort to find ways to address the issues, increase the economic advantage in Mexico...

COSBY:  But in the meantime, should things like this, like this map we‘re talking about, be banned, because isn‘t it pushing illegal activity? 

EDGAR:  I don‘t think it‘s pushing illegal activity, as much as being suggested, because I think—I went there on August 29th with the American Jewish Committee.  And we were down there with a group called Border Links (ph), who are trying to educate people on both sides of the border as to the issues and be the good Samaritan, be the person that really cares. 

You know, if Moses had a map, it wouldn‘t have taken him as long to get from Egypt to Israel.  It took 40 years.  These persons are out there in the desert...

CHRISTIE:  Bob, I don‘t think, in fairness, Bob...

EDGAR:  One thing.  Let me just finish this one point.  The Clinton administration built a wall.  And I went down to see the wall.  And what the wall does in Nogales (ph) is it forces the immigrants out around, and it takes four days to walk across the desert.  And one individual can‘t carry enough water in four days.  Our position is...

COSBY:  But shouldn‘t we say then, then don‘t do it? 

EDGAR:  That‘s exactly right.  That‘s the first thing.  Don‘t do it, because it‘s so dangerous and it‘s not the way to immigrate to the United States.  But if they, in fact...

COSBY:  Bob, let me get Jason a turn. 

EDGAR:  ... do it, they ought to be at least provided an opportunity to get clean water. 

COSBY:  Jason, go ahead. 

CHRISTIE:  Yes, thank you.  First of all, Bob‘s compassion agenda is nice, but it has no teeth.  We‘ve got people coming across our border committing crime.  We had $31 million in Arizona last year alone in health care bills to illegal immigrants.  We have a national security problem with people coming across our border. 

It takes more than one idea.  It takes more than one wall.  There are economic ideas.  There are security issues.  The idea of a guest-worker program, which historically has never worked anywhere in the world, where six million people with guest-worker programs in Saudi Arabia that essentially have developed a caste system there.  You‘ve seen the riots recently in France. 

Those are the children of immigrants into France that are unhappy with the ghetto situations living there.  We need to stop...

EDGAR:  Jason, the guest-worker program has, in fact, worked in the United States.  We were involved in the Mt. Olive Pickle (ph) issue where the growers, the farmers, and Mt. Olive Pickle (ph) came together and provided a humane opportunity for H-2 and H-4 workers to actually come to the United States, pick pickles, pick cucumbers for the pickles, and then return on a regular basis.  So it does, in fact, work.

COSBY:  But the case—what he‘s saying is it‘s spawning off a generation of the illegal workers.  Fair enough point on both sides. 

CHRISTIE:  You‘re creating a caste system at that point.

COSBY:  Absolutely.  I understand what you‘re saying.  Both of you, thank you very much.  And thank you very much, Bob.

EDGAR:  Good to be with you.

COSBY:  Still ahead, everybody, we‘re going to talk more about the map down the road.  But still ahead, a couple vanishes during a joy ride on the Great Lakes.  For the first time tonight, I‘ll ask their friend if he believes it was an accident or a crime. 

And later, he won a million bucks for surviving a reality TV show. 

Tonight, find out why that money could send him to prison for a long time. 



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