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Illegal Immigrants Frightened by Raid Rumors; George Bush: "The Decider"; "Happy Slapping" Craze Sweeps the Internet

Aired May 2, 2006 - 10:30   ET



DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: A myth leads to real fear. Coming up, immigrants try to separate rumor from fact. You're watching LIVE TODAY.


KAGAN: It is back to work and school today for illegal immigrants and their supporters, and there's already some evidence of the impact of Monday's boycott. In the Los Angeles area, a lot of restaurants and markets were closed on Monday, and truck traffic at two ports was off 90 percent. More than half the workers at construction sites in Miami-Dade County, Florida, didn't show up, hotels in Indianapolis weren't fully staffed, and there were also widespread absences in the nursery and landscaping businesses.

Well, rumors are sweeping through immigrant neighborhoods. They may have started after a raid at a single company. Now rumors have some illegal immigrants afraid to leave their own homes.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has a story that first aired on "PAULA ZAHN NOW."


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This creature is called "El Chupacabra," the mystical character of a popular Spanish urban legend. El Chupacabra is said to mysteriously kill goats. Some are convinced it exists. But no one has ever seen it. It's like the Bigfoot of Latino culture.

El Chupacabra also symbolizes the fear of something that doesn't exist. So, when illegal immigrants talk these days of widespread raids across the country, the Chupacabra effect is in full force. Illegal immigrants are convinced they're randomly being rounded up by immigration officers.

DOMINGO GARCIA, IMMIGRANT RIGHTS ACTIVIST: They have people that are in the shadows. And they're afraid, if they come out of the shadows, that something can be -- they can be separated from their families. Children could lose their parents overnight, come home from school, and their parents are gone. And that's a really big fear.

All right. Let's get up. Let's move everybody here.

LAVANDERA: Domingo Garcia is a longtime immigrant rights activist in Dallas. He says, illegal immigrants are so scared of being deported, they're hiding, just like this couple we met making a quick trip to a grocery store. They have lived here illegally for six years. He works as a roofer. She takes care of their 2-year-old daughter. Lately, they have spent weekend in their home.

(on camera): (SPEAKING SPANISH). You have seen that people change the way they're living because of this?



She says that people are scared to kind of go out and live their lives the way they normally do, that people on TV are saying that this crackdown on the immigration isn't true, but it is true, the way -- the way she sees it.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Immigration and Custom Enforcement Officials say they do not perform random sweeps of illegal immigrants. But the rumors persist. It seems like everyone has a story of a friend of a friend who was deported.

So, 20-year-old Diana doesn't take any chances. She has lived in the United States illegally for 11 years. She asked that we not show her face on television.

DIANA, ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT: But now it's like, OK, we're not going to go to this certain place at a certain time or this certain area. We are not going to drive around all that much, because of the fact that, you know, you don't know what's out there.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Immigration fears really spiked on April 19. That's when Immigration and Customs Enforcement launched a highly publicized raid on a company called IFCO Systems. They specialize in distributing wooden pallets. On that day, almost 1,200 people were arrested on job sites like this in 26 states.

(voice-over): After the raid, Homeland Security officials announced a new plan to strategically target employers hiring illegal immigrants. This raised fears even more.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: And, so, we have also got to focus on those who have made it into the country and now are finding a place to live and trying to find someplace to work.

LAVANDERA: That makes Diana nervous. The U.S. is home. She graduated from a public high school with honors, served on the student council, is studying political science in college, and works. So, she must take steps to make sure she's not caught.

(on camera): I mean, do you ever think that: This could be the last day that I live here? DIANA: Yes. And, actually, I don't drive to work for that reason anymore. What I do is, my friend lives close to me, so we carpool, and we come in her car to work.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The U.S. government says, flat out, random immigration raids are not happening. But, for some, living with the perception can be suffocating.

So, for illegal immigrants, the thought of running into an immigration officer is just as scary as the Chupacabra.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.


KAGAN: You can see more stories like Ed's on CNN's "PAULA ZAHN NOW." Watch weeknights at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 Pacific.

Markets have been open about an hour and 10 minutes. And you can see the Dow has some movement to it. It is up 42 points. The Nasdaq, it's just inching a tiny bit. It is up two points.

All right, I'm going to tell you right now, it is not the most appetizing story. A wrong slice in a restaurant kitchen, a disturbing discovery at the table. We'll tell you what happened ahead on CNN.

And he's the mangler. President Bush has a way with words. His latest adventure with words is just ahead. Stay tuned, and you can be the decider.


KAGAN: The buck stops here. That's one president's motto. President Bush is using a snappy line of his own, and critics won't let him forget it.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has the story from "THE SITUATION ROOM."


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To his critics, he has become the decider-in-chief ever since these fateful words escaped his lips.

BUSH: But I'm the decider and I decide what is best and what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain.

MOOS: But what also remained with was that quote.



MOOS: It made it onto blogs. It made it onto T-shirts. You could be the decider or undecider. Robin Williams chose decisively. ROBIN WILLIAMS, ACTOR: The decider just seems to be a progression. You just kind of go -- every time he stands next to Tony Blair, I just want to put a telethon number.

MOOS: "The Daily Show" turned the quote into a comic strip.

STEWART: It's time for another exciting installment of "The Decider."

MOOS: It shows W. as a superhero with a "D" on his chest and his cape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, he's also wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he sure is decisive.

MOOS: Big-named columnists like Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich chimed in, as did regular folks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But when somebody calls themselves the decider, it's more parental or omniscient or god-like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It reminded me the kind of language games my 6-year-old plays.

MOOS: A little like the kid's rant in the film "Gloria."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am the man. Do you hear me? I am the man, I am the man.

MOOS: But before you circle it as wrong.

(on camera): We report, you decider. Is it a real word?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I think it's a made-up word.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sure in his world, it is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well I suppose you could use it -- decider, yes, it's a real word.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, it is not, no.

MOOS: Yes.


ERIN MCKEAN, OXFORD'S AMERICAN DICTIONARIES: The decider is a perfectly fine, perfectly acceptable word.

MOOS (voice-over): It's listed in dictionary as a noun, though dictionary editor Erin McKean says...

MCKEAN: The word usually used is decision maker.

MOOS: If the president had said decision maker, the trackers wouldn't have the deciders to derive.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


KAGAN: And you'll see more of Jeanne Moos's reporting when you join Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. The live primetime edition at 7:00 Eastern.

Reading, writing and reeling. High gas prices open eyes and shut schools in one Tennessee county.

CNN LIVE TODAY is back after this.


KAGAN: Well, finger sandwiches are one thing, but a finger in your burger? Not how you like it, I would think. We're going to tell you this story just ahead.


KAGAN: Well, here's something that could certainly curb your appetite. A restaurant customer in Bloomington, Indiana, apparently found an unappetizing addition to his burger -- a piece of a human finger.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Employees, maybe the manager, was cutting some product, and apparently sliced his finger, or at least part of it, and didn't realize that it had gotten into the food.


KAGAN: Well, if you're eating a breakfast on the West Coast, we apologize. Managers at T.G.I. Friday's are apologizing. They say that the work accidentally cut himself, but in the rush to help, no one noticed he had lost part of his finger. A spokeswoman says they've been in contact with the customer who found the finger. As far as they know, he has not retained a lawyer. Oh, boy.

You thought that was weird. What about this next one? A new Internet craze, violence as entertainment. And get this, it's called happy slapping. That's ahead on LIVE TODAY.


KAGAN: An outrageous Internet phenomenon is getting a lot of new attention. It is called happy slapping, but victims aren't smiling.

CNN's Paula Newton has the story. Her report from "PAULA ZAHN NOW."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's violent, voyeuristic video, and incredibly they call this chilling craze happy slapping. Just watch what happens. One person holds the camera phone and gets the schoolboy's attention. Then there it is. Out of nowhere, he's whacked. It's brutality that passes for entertainment. E-mailed to friends, posted on the Internet, and even rated for its gotcha value. Look closely as this man is hit twice. He staggers away. His attacker so bold tells the victim to go home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go home now. You're bleeding.

NEWTON: Police in Britain say these are sadistic crimes.

ELLIE O'CONNOR, BRITISH POLICE INVESTIGATOR: These assaults are far from happy. They are vicious, unprovoked attacks on persons ranging from 12 years well into their 30s and 40s.

NEWTON: Attacks that can kill. Tristan Christmas died when he was smacked to a cement floor and the camera just kept on rolling.

SIOBHAN CHRISTMAS, TRISTAN'S MOTHER: Makes me ill. It makes me ill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel it's a dream. It's not real. How can people do that? It's sick, absolutely sick.

NEWTON: The attacker is now behind bars. To cope with their grief, Tristan's family has issued blunt appeals especially to teenagers.

CHRISTMAS: This isn't a joke. This is not funny. Someone died. A young, young, young man with his whole life ahead of him.

NEWTON: There is no denying the cult status of happy slapping. Again and again, thousands of people click and get millions of hits, outrageous video to be downloaded for its shock value.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to go happy slapping.

NEWTON (on camera): It used to be that some just craved their 15 minutes of fame. Now it's 15 megs of fame and it's really easy to get. You shoot just a few seconds of video and within hours, you're a star all over the Internet.

(voice-over): What some seem to forget is this is assault, a crime, but one that goes largely unreported. That makes attackers bold enough to broadcast the slapping, just for kicks.

DR. GRAHAM BARNFIELD, UNIVERSITY OF EAST LONDON: If you were a career criminal, the point is to make the evidence disappear. If you're a happy slapper, you're manufacturing evidence against yourself. It's that use of humiliation as entertainment that makes it so disturbing.

NEWTON: Disturbing and so outrageous some of the video has captivated millions. Take this footage, it may have been staged, but even so it got the whole country talking. Watch as this happy slap victim turns the tables.

Just the thought that one brave soul slapped that happy slapper back consoled many. They called him the have-a-go-hero and it speaks to how fed up and fearful many now are about a prank that sounds innocent and is anything but.

Paula Newton, CNN, London.


KAGAN: And this reminder. Stories like that one on "PAULA ZAHN NOW," weeknights at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 Pacific right here on CNN.


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