Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Encore Presentation: CNN Presents: Immigrant Nation
Aired April 28, 2006 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So right straight south, those right at the bottom. God dang (ph), there's about 30 of them too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think, in fact, illegal aliens are ruining Georgia and I think they're ruining the United States of America.
DONALD ARTHUR KING: A Green Card?
MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): How many people just from this little part of the town have gone to the United States?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Her husband, the son of the lady that lives over there, three sons of one of the ladies that lives in the houses over there, her husband, the son of the lady that lives over there with his wife and child.
JIMMY HERCHEK (ph): I'm afraid that America could become a third world country.
GABE (through translator): I don't think the government cares much about our legal situation because we are serving this country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As long as they're doing right by us, they've got a job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't let them in here. They want to work, I've got work.
KING: This is my country! You are criminals!
HINOJOSA: Ten years ago when I first came to Georgia, I asked people if there was a Latino neighborhood, or barrio. I got a lot of strange looks.
Now I'm here in the heart of just one of the many Latino barrios in Georgia. I can get some of the best tacos outside of Mexico right here 24 hours a day. The home of Martin Luther King, the state that gave us the civil rights movement, is now home to half a million Latinos, a 300 percent increase in a decade.
But this change is dividing communities, this new wave of immigration, especially illegal immigration into America's south is changing the face of towns and cities far from the border.
Tonight, we meet four families on the frontlines of this new immigration. They're all fighting for their piece of the American dream. But sometimes that means fighting each other.
(voice-over): Donald Arthur King is furious.
KING: Come help us! Come on!
What do you think about illegal immigration, tell me the truth?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It ain't right.
KING: It ain't right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
KING: It's going to get worse.
HINOJOSA: Illegal aliens, as he calls them, have flooded his state of Georgia, and no one is doing anything about it.
KING: How will we know when we have enough illegal aliens in our country, and how will we stop them then?
HINOJOSA: For D.A., as he calls himself, life as he knew it has ended. He used to be an insurance agent, who dreamed of an early retirement with his wife. Now he's consumed with battling the changes he sees firsthand in his town.
KING: This is the house directly across the street from our home. A family of six moved in and I found out that they were from Mexico, and I was very excited because I'm a foodie and I wanted to go trade recipes. And I had great expectations of trading food with these people, but it turned out that they didn't want to socialize with anybody. They filled their house full of people. At one time there were 18 people living in this home.
I can remember my neighbors would call the police because of the parties. I never did, but I would look out of my window when the police arrived and I would see people jumping out of the windows and going over the fences and running for the woods.
I called the INS, fully expecting someone to come screeching up in front of this house an hour later, apprehend the illegals and deport them. That was about six years ago. I called them several times that year. I have never gotten through to a person, and I've never gotten a return phone call.
HINOJOSA: So D.A. stopped just calling immigration officials and started fighting, going all the way from Georgia to the Arizona border, to where he believes the problems begin -- the seemingly impossible to control U.S. border with Mexico. D.A. scopes out the scene with the ranchers who live there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm seeing a bus stopped on the highway, turning people loose. At some point we'll probably see anywhere from 20 to 50 people.
KING: When I come to Arizona, I see ground zero of what is happening, the invasion and the colonization of my country and my state and my city. I see the origin of the trouble that's coming.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're right straight south of us, right in the bottom. There's about 30 of them, too.
HINOJOSA: Estimates vary, but somewhere between 7 and 20 million people are living in this country illegally, one of the largest populations of undocumented immigrants in the world. Most of them come across this border. According to the U.S. government, over 1 million were caught last year alone.
This latest wave of immigrants has spread far beyond the southwest and the West Coast. Latino immigrant communities are now fixtures across the nation, especially in the south, in places like Gwinnett County, Georgia.
KING: Do you have a passport?
I think, in fact, illegal aliens are ruining Georgia and I think they're ruining the United States of America.
KING: A Green Card?
HINOJOSA (on camera): D.A. is a man on a mission trying to stop what he calls a veritable modern day invasion. But look around, and anyone can tell him, it's a losing battle.
Georgia has one of the fastest growing Latino populations in the country. And despite some resistance, these people have found a place for themselves. An average of 90 immigrants arrive here every day.
(voice-over): Undocumented immigrants like Rosa, 28 years old and a single mother. She spends every waking moment, working to bring her children across.
ROSA, UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT (through translator): My kids, the goal for me, to bring my kids from Mexico.
HINOJOSA: Rosa first came to Georgia two years ago, all alone.
Last year, unable to bear the separation any longer, Rosa paid a smuggler $5,000 to wade her children across the river at night, but they were caught at a checkpoint and immediately deported. Rosa faced a difficult decision.
ROSA (through translator): I told my daughter, you have two options. I either stay in Mexico with you, or I will leave for the States for another year in preparation to bring the two of you. Then my daughter told me to return to the States so I could bring them eventually.
HINOJOSA: Back in Mexico, in Via Juanita de la Cruz, her children wait for her. More than half of the town has left for el Norte, the north. Rosa's sister takes stock of her abandoned town.
(on camera): How many people just from this little part of the town have gone to the United States? . UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Her husband, the son of the lady that lives over there, 3 sons of one of the ladies that lives in the houses over there, her husband, the son of the lady that lives over there with his wife and child, and a block down, the husband of the woman that lives there also left.
HINOJOSA: And what about people who are thinking about going?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Oh, the ones who are thinking of leaving? There are many. Well, me.
HINOJOSA: Rosa is convinced Via Juanita is a dead end for her 11-year-old son, Junior; and 12-year-old daughter, Rosita. Like any mother, she wants her children to have the best education, a promising future. For now, they live with their abuelita, or grandma. Frustrated and lonely, all they can do is wait for their mother to send for them.
JUNIOR, ROSA'S SON (through translator): She sends us a lot of things, but I don't want her to send us more things. I just want to be with my mother.
ROSA (through translator): I told my daughter, if you want me to go back, I will. She said no, mom. We want to study there. I said to her, then be patient and wait just a little bit longer.
HINOJOSA: Rosa calculates it will take her several months to save enough to try the dangerous crossing again. Every day she's able to work and make a few dollars is a day closer to a reunion with her children. Hers is a hard, lonely struggle, and her presence is stirring a debate.
Do immigrant workers who come to this country illegally help or hurt the U.S. economy?
GABE (through translator): I don't think the government cares much about our legal situation because we are serving this country. We are helping to the growth of this country.
HINOJOSA: July 4, in northern Georgia, in the cradle of the Blue Ridge Mountains, these Southerners are taking in the good life, and feeling patriotic.
But the ones who make this party possible are people like Gabe, who asked us not to use his last name.
GABE (through translator): It's hard work today. There's no independence day for us, just for the American people.
HINOJOSA: Gabe got here four years ago.
GABE (through translator): Only I know Georgia for Atlanta, the Olympic games. Maybe this city is more rich. People is rich.
HINOJOSA: This is the new South where even here in the tiniest towns of Georgia, there are growing numbers of Mexicans and other Latino immigrants.
This 100-year-old restaurant and chalet, a down home Southern institution, has served the likes of Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Walt Disney. The owner, a Southern institution himself, welcomes immigrant workers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to see people who have worked here for a year and want to be here, I'd like to see them become much more easier for them to be United States citizens.
HERCHEK: Lots of people have balloons today.
HINOJOSA: Just one hour south in Gwinnett County, Georgia, Jimmy Herchek, another proud Southerner, is also feeling patriotic, passing down his traditions to his daughters, Alice and Beatrice.
HERCHEK: Thank you. Hold out some food, Beatrice.
HINOJOSA: Some Latinos watch the celebrations from a distance. Jimmy Herchek thinks they're still too close.
HERCHEK: I see what's happening here in our county. It reminds me of what they call the barrios, you know, the poor neighborhoods in southern California.
HINOJOSA (on camera): What's happening now?
HERCHEK: Somebody's coming to pick up workers.
HINOJOSA (voice-over): Herchek is living in a Georgia transformed. Some 100,000 Latinos have settled in his county, more than in any other county in Georgia.
HERCHEK: Several dozen men out here looking for jobs, and there's just two or three jobs that they can get at one time.
HINOJOSA: About half of those Latinos are illegal. Herchek says they're destroying his neighborhood. A year ago, he sold his house and moved.
HERCHEK: It brings back a lot of memories. It was pretty much your middle class family neighborhood. And now, you look around, it's maybe half small families and the other half have become pretty much boarding houses.
HINOJOSA: In the surrounding areas, there was a rise in gang crime and then there was a murder in his neighborhood.
HERCHEK: The police did acknowledge that it was a gang related murder.
HINOJOSA (on camera): But it was a Mexican gang? It was immigrants? HERCHEK: Well, we don't know.
HINOJOSA (voice-over): There is a lot Herchek and his neighbors don't know about each other, even though they live so close together. Many Latino immigrants live nearly invisible lives -- like Gabe's family.
HINOJOSA: Gabe, his wife, and son came here with a legal Visa to visit Disneyland. They just never left. They were just getting by in Mexico, but they risked losing everything for a chance at something better.
GABE (through translator): In Mexico, we had less time to be together as a family. Here we have more time to share together. Our economic situation is much better.
HINOJOSA: Four years ago, Gabe Jr. only knew how to say cat in English. Now, he's graduating fifth in his class with academic awards in English and Algebra and with a scholarship to a local college.
GABE JR.: I have a medal over here. It was in 10 grade or 11 grade. It was for basic reading and writing. That's where my English skills were getting better and better.
HINOJOSA: Gabe loves America, and the Southern girls love him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, you look nice, Gabriel.
GABE JR.: Thanks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like your shirt. That's neat.
GABE JR.: Thanks.
HINOJOSA: Gabe's family broke immigration laws to get here. But now they live their lives as legally as they can.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I feel like an illegal immigrant. But as a criminal I have never felt.
HINOJOSA: But to Jimmy Herchek, the situation is clear. Gabe's family is breaking the law and should go back to Mexico.
HERCHEK: I think they've disqualified themselves by entering the country illegally.
HINOJOSA (on camera): So these people who are living in this country illegally now should never have an opportunity to legalize their situation?
HERCHEK: They should have the opportunity to do it legally. But to do it legally, they have to go home and they have to apply just like every other legal immigrant.
Come here, sweetheart.
HINOJOSA (voice-over): But it's not just that so many of the recent arrivals got here illegally that bothers Herchek, it's that he believes their overwhelming numbers are changing what he calls American culture.
HERCHEK: In Georgia, we're starting to have Spanish language voting for the first time in -- I think that's a terrible thing to do.
HINOJOSA: The cultural debate may divide communities even more than the legal one.
KING: You are criminals!
HINOJOSA: Harvard Historian Samuel Huntington, has weighed with a controversial new book, charging that the sheer number of Latino immigrants has created a minority with little incentive to assimilate.
SAMUEL HUNTINGTON, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: I think changes are taking place which could lead America to become a country with essentially two languages and two cultures. In the past, it has always been immigration with assimilation. And the issue now with respect to Hispanic, and particularly Mexican immigration, is that whether assimilation is going to continue in the way it has in the past.
HINOJOSA: So far there's little data to support or disprove Huntington's fears. There are many people who reject his argument.
HERCHEK: The same thing was said about African- Americans. The same thing was said about the Irish. It's the same old song. And over time, it's proved to be a bunch of bologna. I believe these people are just like any other newcomers to this country. They can integrate in and they're doing a great job here. And why should they be any different?
HINOJOSA: Jimmy Herchek says he's got nothing against immigrants. He married one. His wife Uhn (ph) came from Korea legally 14 years ago. They send their daughters to a private summer school to learn Korean.
Uhn says her husband's constant preoccupation with undocumented immigrants has come between them, even threatening their marriage.
HERCHEK: If you're completely fed up like me, contact every public official possible.
HINOJOSA (on camera): Has it been hard for you to see what your husband is doing?
UHN, JIMMY HERCHEK'S WIFE: Yes, because I'm fairly liberal and open and more likely for immigration anyway.
HINOJOSA (voice-over): Despite the stress on his family, Jimmy Herchek thinks this is a battle he's got to fight.
HERCHEK: I'm afraid that America could become a third world country. We're importing poverty by millions every year.
HINOJOSA: They're breaking the law, but American employers still want them.
(on camera): If you found out that any of the people here were here in this country without proper documentation, what would you do? Would you fire them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As long as they're doing right by us, they've got a job.
KING: I picked the name The American Resistance on purpose. A lot of people tell me it sounds militant. Good. We are trying to resist the takeover of our nation.
HINOJOSA (voice-over): The wave of immigration into places like Gwinnett County, Georgia, has made amateur activists out of ordinary citizens.
KING: I have to decide which language I want to speak here in Georgia. I'm less than pleased about that.
HINOJOSA: Citizens like D.A. King and Jimmy Herchek...
HERCHEK: Hi, how are you? Nice to see you too.
HINOJOSA: ... who makes a living in real estate.
HERCHEK: The ceiling fan in the living room, that's standard. That's standard.
HINOJOSA: But even here, he can't escape illegal immigrants. He also can't escape the contradiction.
(on camera): You're selling homes that for all intents and purposes, there's a good chance that a lot of these homes are being built by the illegal immigrants that you don't want in your community.
HERCHEK: I have kids and a family, so I've got to make my livelihood.
HINOJOSA: Why do you come here to look for workers?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because this is the only place I know to go to get help. Because nobody else won't help.
HINOJOSA: And you're not taking advantage of them, because you're paying them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, no.
HINOJOSA: You're paying them a good wage?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what I think. HINOJOSA: But not what he would pay a legal worker, if he's like most American employers.
HERCHEK: He's not paying Social Security. He's not paying workman's compensation. He's not paying his own insurance overhead. It's much easier just to pay somebody -- and maybe $10 an hour sounds good, but I know that if I'm employing somebody legally at $10 an hour, it's actually costing me $15 an hour.
HINOJOSA: Economists debate the pros and cons of this wave of illegal labor, but there are some losers.
DR. GEORGE BORJAS, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: What we do know is if you look at the wage of those workers who are competing in those kinds of jobs, that wage is definitely lower a few years after the immigrants come in.
HINOJOSA: But there are some who say these immigrants actually help the U.S. economy to grow.
WAYNE CORNELIUS, CENTER FOR COMPARATIVE IMMIGRATION: There are major benefits to both employers and consumers. In other words, all of us. To the extent that this supply of labor makes it possible to produce certain goods and services more cheaply, all consumers benefit from that. So there are literally hundreds of thousands of employers in this country that have a major stake in continued access to this kind of labor.
HINOJOSA: There might be some people who say, you know what, you giving them jobs is encouraging illegal aliens to come into this area.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't let them in here. I didn't let them in here. If they want to work, I got work.
HINOJOSA: That's the heart of the argument here in Gwinnett County. Undocumented workers are hard for employers to resist. They work hard for less money and fewer benefits, and they don't complain.
Ask Gabe about hard work. 39 years old, he works 14 to 16 hours a day, six days a week.
GABE: I work 6:00 in the morning to 10:00, 11:00 all day. But for me, it's normal. In my time that I work here, I don't see American people in the kitchen. The American people stay for the better jobs. Maybe they say, "I don't like to earn $7 per hour, $8 per hour." The American people say, "Oh no, I like for me $15, $18, $20." But the Mexican people, it's $6, $7, $8 per hour.
HINOJOSA: After four and a half years, Gabe now supervises 20 other waiters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's an example of someone who started out as a busboy, I believe, and now he's basically or assistant food and beverage manager. So he's a very valuable asset to our company.
HINOJOSA: Valuable as he is, his working here is not legal. Neither is the way he got his job.
HINOJOSA (on camera): Did you have to buy a Social Security card and a Green Card?
HINOJOSA: How much did it cost?
GABE: Maybe $120 per each.
HINOJOSA: Now, if you found out that any of the people here were here in this country without proper documentation, what would you do? Would you fire them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I'd wait for someone to come get them. If they want to come get them, come get them, but as long as they're doing right by us, you know, they've got a job.
HINOJOSA (voice-over): Not only do employers look the other way here, but so do immigration enforcement agents. Agent Mike Higgins says they're too busy chasing terrorists to worry about undocumented day laborers.
MIKE AGENTS, IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT AGENT: Those people don't pose a threat to national security. Although this may be a problem, the public has to understand we're not the office of patrol where come out and just pick up people off the street.
HERCHEK: The system is completely broken down. Now, some people like it that way. Some people profit from chaos.
HINOJOSA (on camera): How true is it when an American employer or an employer in Georgia says I cannot find local, native-born workers to do this job?
BORJAS: That American employer, that Georgia employer is leaving out a key part of that phrase. He just told you, I cannot find legal or native-born workers to do this job. What he forgot to add was at the going wage or the wage I'm willing to pay.
HINOJOSA (voice-over): At a local Mexican restaurant, Rosa was willing to work for $5 an hour. She's the mother trying to bring her young children here. But without warning, she was fired. And because she's working illegally, she can't question why. For now, plans to get her children here are halted.
ROSA (through translator): The separation is the hardest part. I tried to talk to them every day. I'm the kind of mother that is always checking on the children. If they loose a tooth, I buy them a cake. Then suddenly, you are out of their lives.
HINOJOSA: There is another hurdle. If Rosa does find another job, getting to it is a problem. Her Mexican driver's license isn't legal.
ROSA (through translator): Sometimes I do get scared that maybe they won't accept it, take me to jail. My worst fear is going to jail.
HINOJOSA: Back in Mexico, her children still wait.
ROSA (through translator): My goal is to bring them with me, to send them to school. I have to make their dream come true.
HINOJOSA: Educating undocumented immigrants. It's free, but is it fair?
ROSA (through translator): I think that everyone has the right, especially children. We all have the right to learn.
HERCHEK: I would say to everyone who is here illegally, no. This isn't your country. No, these aren't your schools.
HINOJOSA: When Gabe Jr. came to the United States just four and a half years ago, he knew only one word in English. Now he's taking a college placement exam.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you're to take reading, English and math. OK? Three one. You're at this first computer right there.
GABE JR.: Thank you.
HINOJOSA: He was such an outstanding student that he won a scholarship.
GABE JR.: I felt a great, great joy -- happiness for them to give me the opportunity to study here.
HINOJOSA: Another contradiction -- a scholarship partially funded by U.S. taxpayers? Even though he has got no legal right to be in this country?
GABE JR.: When they say are you a U.S. citizen, I always check no. I think they don't really care about that and I think that if I do well in college and I'm a useful person, the government will help me.
HINOJOSA: Under federal law any child in the United States, whether or not he's here legally, has the right to an education at any age. Gabe is now starting his second semester of college with a 4.0 average.
HARRIET ALLISON, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE: We admit students based on their academic qualifications. I don't know what their status is. But they want to learn, and I want to teach them. A lot of my students are undocumented, and that's sort of like not an issue.
HINOJOSA: But for Jimmy Herchek it is an issue.
HERCHEK: We pay taxes to send our kids to school. But not only are we paying for our kids, we're paying for maybe 10 percent, maybe 20 percent of the kids that are here, you know, come from a foreign country.
HINOJOSA: Herchek's children would have gone to school here, but the influx of immigrants caused him to move to other districts.
HERCHEK: The teachers, they can't educate reading, writing and arithmetic. Their education focus has to be on just teaching kids how to speak English.
HINOJOSA (on camera): The numbers say it all. Ten years ago, these schools served very few Spanish-speaking students. In 2003, one out of 10 students listed Spanish as their primary language, $26 million will be spent in Gwinnett County in English language services.
CORNELIUS: It doesn't benefit anyone for children not to be attending school. These are investments in human capital that the country, the society as a whole, needs to make to ensure that these people are going to be productive workers and paying taxes to the limits of their capability in the future.
HINOJOSA (voice-over): The illegal aliens say, our kids got to get educated, so sorry, wake up and smell the coffee, but it's our school too. And you say to them?
HERCHEK: I would say to everyone who's here illegally, no, this isn't your country. No, these aren't your schools, and I would suggest that you find a way to get home because we don't want trouble, but it's like trouble is brewing.
HINOJOSA: The trouble is brewing in part because of contradictions in immigration policy. Take what we found on the streets of Gwinnett County.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're out here just checking, you know, checking people's tags and checking their seatbelts.
HINOJOSA: The police are out in force trying to keep the roads safe. But though many of these people are here without papers, the police are not checking for Green Cards.
HINOJOSA: Do you think that these women are in this country legally or not legally? What do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't tell you what I think. I think they're here illegal though.
HINOJOSA (on camera): Can you and them for their immigration status?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can ask them, but if we detain them and take them jail, you know, it's a lot of red tape. It's a losing battle for the police officer. I mean, like I said, there's a lot of red tape.
HINOJOSA (voice-over): Although most illegal immigrants slip through these spot checks, Rosa wasn't so lucky. Two weeks before, she was stopped by the police and arrested for not having a valid driver's license.
ROSA (through translator): And he grabbed my hands and immediately handcuffed me.
HINOJOSA: Rosa had to pay $600 in bail to get out of jail. Now she's terrified of the police.
ROSA (through translator): I get so nervous, I do this. I don't know what to do. I just came to work, and my kids are waiting for me. They have no idea of all the stuff that I'm going through. They don't know I don't have a job. I don't go and look for a job because I'm afraid of driving alone now. For me, jail is for criminals, and I'm not a criminal. My only crime is trying to improve the lives of my children.
HINOJOSA: With little government response, D.A. King takes matters into his own hands.
KING: How many guys have a green card? Nobody?
HINOJOSA: A medical emergency, the last thing Gabe's family needs.
IRMA, GABE JR.'S MOTHER (through translator): Gabe said to me, mom, I can't bear this pain any longer. So I told him we were going to the doctor. At that moment I thought, Lord, what can this be? I hope it's not cancer.
HINOJOSA: Not cancer, but an emergency appendectomy.
GABE JR.: I feel much, much better.
HINOJOSA: It's no wonder Irma fears cancer. At the heart of this family is a sadness. Two and a half years ago Irma developed ovarian cancer. She is dying.
IRMA (through translator): In our country I would have already been dead. Hospitals are filled to capacity with people. There are not enough doctors to go around.
HINOJOSA: Irma leaves Gabe Jr. on one hospital floor, and goes to another for her treatment. Her sixth month of chemotherapy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your blood counts look real good today.
GABE: Here everyday, we pray to the Lord for no more chemo, no more chemo!
IRMA (through translator): Look in my lash eye's come back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your eyelashes?
IRMA (through translator): Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, yes, they are.
GABE: Every time, is not to visit a doctor, it's to visit a friend.
IRMA: He help me much.
HINOJOSA: The medical bill for Irma now hovers around $80,000. Now on top of that, Gabe Jr.'s unexpected operation. Gabe Sr.'s annual salary at the restaurant is about $25,000. So for now...
GABE (through translator): With the help we get from the government, the amount that we pay is a lot less than the real costs of the treatment. This, thanks to Medicaid.
HINOJOSA: It's the American way.
DR. ANDREW AGWUNOBI, FORMER PRESIDENT AND CEO GRADY HEALTH SYSTEM: We're going to take care of them whether they have papers or not.
HINOJOSA: Federal law says people are entitled to emergency medical care, whether or not they're in this country legally. In one year Georgia paid $58 million in emergency Medicaid reimbursement for undocumented immigrants.
AGWUNOBI: With the healthcare system we have in America today, there will be people, whether they're immigrant, nonimmigrant, legal, illegal, there will be people that have healthcare crises that need to be taken care of.
HERCHEK: We keep paying and paying and paying, and as the numbers of illegal aliens keep growing, we're going to pay more and more and more.
HINOJOSA: But Gabe doesn't feel guilty. For four and a half years he's been paying his taxes.
GABE: The United States gives me many, many things. And I only give back taxes, a little.
HINOJOSA (on camera): You like to pay your taxes in this country?
GABE: Yes, yes, because this is my little contribution.
HINOJOSA: Believe it or not, people living in this country illegally can and do pay their taxes through something called the tax ID program. And you can apply for it at storefronts like this one. The program was set up by the federal government for other purposes, but if you are undocumented, all you have to do is fill out a form, and the government will send you a number. And you can pay your federal taxes. It's a mixed message. (voice-over): On the street, another mixed message. The police car is just standing there watching this.
Local police are barred by law from arresting workers simply because of their immigration status.
HERCHEK: Their hands are tied very much, because they have very limited space at the jail. They can't afford to arrest people.
HINOJOSA: That is the job of the UNS. But in reality, it's a low priority for the federal agency.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our job is not to necessarily patrol various areas in Atlanta that have what may appear to be illegal aliens loitering on the corner. Picking up the day laborer, that's not necessarily a priority here, but we do target the organizations that bring them here.
KING: The face of the invasion.
HINOJOSA: D.A.'s patience is wearing thin. Since the police won't act, he takes matters into his own hands.
KING: Anybody speak English today? No? Nobody? Where are you guys from? How many guys have a Green Card? Nobody?
HINOJOSA: He makes yet another phone call to federal offices in Atlanta.
KING: Right now I'm calling information to get the number for the Bureau of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, that's INS. I just saw 50 illegal aliens walking around my hometown, telling me very clearly they're making $25,000 a year tax-free sending half of it home, and that they have no fear of any apprehension or any punishment at all. I want to know where my homeland security is.
HINOJOSA: We put the question to the man who was in charge of border security, Asa Hutchinson, who at the time was undersecretary of Homeland Security.
ASA HUTCHINSON, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I would certainly agree with him that we have to enforce our law, and that's an important part of my responsibilities. But whenever you look at a family that's been here, that came in here for a job six years ago, they've had two children born to their family.
Do you jerk the parents up and send them back to their home country and leave the two children here that are U.S. citizens? Those are the problems that we're dealing with every day. Yes, we are certainly wanting to enforce the law, but we have to recognize we also are a compassionate country that deals with the real human side as well.
HINOJOSA: When we return one woman takes on the border for her children, but will they make it across? ROSA (through translator): I'm going to bring them. I will try. I don't know how. As long as they still have the will to come here with me, they're going to come. We will bring them. I want them with me.
KING: Good morning. How are you? Thank you for coming.
HINOJOSA: D.A. King and Jimmy Herchek are bringing their fight to the street. Not even the threat of a hurricane stops them in their battle against illegal immigration.
KING: They are demanding that we give them a driver's license to make life easier in this country. We're going to try and stop that.
HINOJOSA: Today Herchek and King are fighting hundreds of Latinos who are demanding Georgia driver's licenses, even if they are in the country illegally.
KING: This is my country! You are criminals! You cannot have my country! Viva la migra! Viva la migra!
HINOJOSA: So D.A. decides to call la migra, or immigration officials.
KING: Special Agent Smith, I would like to report directly to you, sir, that there are announced illegal aliens walking up and down Washington Street screaming at U.S. citizens.
I just got told by my government, we know what's going on and we're not coming. To whom does an American citizen turn when his government will not protect him from the third world? What do we do now?
Is there a group of people for which the law does not apply? And if so, who decides? If enough people commit a crime, should we then just call it not a crime?
HINOJOSA: You'll never give up?
KING: I'll never give up my country.
HINOJOSA: And neither will Jimmy Herchek, even if it means sacrificing his own marriage. Herchek's immigrant wife, Uhn, says his activism has come between them. She wants a separation.
UHN: He's not a minority. But I am one of the minority persons, and sometimes people do not understand if they don't experience that.
HINOJOSA: Another thing Herchek may not understand, people like Rosa are as determined to win their battle as he is his.
Rosa tried again to bring her children to the United States. Her mother and uncle drove the children more than 20 hours to the border town of Matamoras. They let a CNN crew film them as they waited for the smugglers and said their final good-byes. Then came a phone call. The smugglers were on their way. CNN did not aid the smugglers in any way, but such illegal crossings are happening every day.
They're central to the story, so we decided to watch and see what happened as Rosa's children were driven to the border by strangers and prepared to be smuggled by car. The smugglers will be paid almost $6,000 by Rosa if they were successful, would show border agents false papers for the children. They didn't make it.
Despite their fake papers, Junior and Rosita were detained. The smugglers were arrested. The children were returned to Mexico and reunited with their grandmother. Despite the set back, Rosa vows to try again.
ROSA (through translator): I will keep trying to bring them. The sooner the better. If in 15 days I find someone to bring them here, then we will try again with them.
HINOJOSA: As Rosa and her boyfriend leave Texas for Atlanta, Rosa still hopes for a happy ending eventually.
But Gabe's family is preparing for the worst. After two and a half years in treatment, Irma's (ph) cancer prognosis is bad. The cancer has spread to her liver and her lungs. She is dying.
IRMA (through translator): I have spoken with my family about being buried here if I died. I have told my relatives not to get upset if they can't take my body to Mexico. I have told my husband to bury me here, and that is it.
GABE (through translator): When you mention the possibility that she may pass away, that will be like losing half of me. I wouldn't know what to do, especially emotionally. After a little while, after one dies, the other one dies.
HINOJOSA: These are the faces of the new immigrant nation, four families propelled by hopes and dreams, four families that are part of the new American divide.
CORNELIUS: The reality is that the back door to undocumented immigration to the United States is essentially wide open. And it is likely to remain wide open unless something systematic and serious is done to reduce the demand for the labor.
HUTCHINSON: Whenever you look at the family that is being very productive, that has a great family life contributing to American society, but, in fact, they came here illegally, I don't think you can excuse the illegal behavior, but you also recognize they're not terrorists, they're contributing to our society. We understand the humanitarian reasons that brought them here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See you. God bless you. We love you.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com