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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Life on the Border; Is Sealing the U.S.-Mexico Border Really Possible?

Aired October 3, 2007 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Tens of thousands of e-mails, phone calls, and Web hits in the last couple of days on our coverage. This has been amazing. First, we did language, then jobs. Tonight, we're going to do the border, what some call the invasion. You're about to hear from a woman who says living there is hell.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Boiling mad over Mexican flag, he rips it down. This guy has had enough.

JIM BROSSARD, CUT DOWN MEXICAN FLAG: I want somebody to fight for this flag. They're not going to get it back.

SANCHEZ: Tonight, what every American should know about our border. Fence or no fence. Where? How tall? What's the answer? Or

is this the answer, rounding up illegal immigrants?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's been convicted of a number of crimes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what are you going to do with him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will be removed from the United States.

SANCHEZ: Do these guys deserve it? In on word, yes. We will explain.

CARLOS MENCIA, COMEDIAN: I tell people sometimes. People will come up to me and go, hey, man, you're really funny. Where were you born? And I'm like Honduras. And they literally just go, what part of Mexico is that?

SANCHEZ: Inside the mind of Mencia on why not everybody's a Mexican. There are differences. Did you know?

And he washes dishes for 11 years and saves $59,000. Make him pay a fine. Make him pay taxes. But don't take all his money away. It just doesn't seem right. All this OUT IN THE OPEN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Hello again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez.

Imagine having hundreds of people walking through your backyard every single day. Imagine what it's like to have to live like that. Why can't we keep them out? That's what we hear a lot of people asking these days. But then there's another argument. Ann Coulter made it to me today. She was sitting right here in this chair. And she said, well, we do need some of them in this country.

We have been hearing from so many of you over the last days about our immigration problem. Tens of thousands of people have been e- mailing us and writing us and calling us. There are at least 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States right now. If you ask my sparring partner, Lou Dobbs, he will tell you, no, it's about 20 million that are in the United States; 57 percent of those people it's important to know are from Mexico. So, how do you build a fence to stop something like that?

You know, I like to break this stuff down so people can really get it. Let's go to the big wall. Here it is. Here's the numbers. If you look at the wall going across part of the area between Mexico and the United States, there it is right there. It's about 1,952 miles. You got that, right? In 2005, Congress says ,you know what? We're going to build a fence, and it's going to be about 700 miles that we're going to be able to put across there. How much of that 700 miles have they done so far? About 145 miles so far. By the way this is important. They finished 70 of it this week.

And you're probably asking, well, if there's that many miles, Rick, why don't they have one long continuous fence that goes 1,952 miles? I will give you the answer to that question. Come over here. I have been talking to a lot of the immigration and ICE guys about this. And they have been coming up with a strategy.

And, essentially, here's their strategy. Over here you have got San Diego, right? Let's go in a little. That's a Google Earth map. Let's go in a little bit more. Now, let's suppose that they're building their fence all the way like that. But once in a while they have to stop it, right? And they stop it there. And then they pick it up again. And then they will stop it there, right? And then they will pick it up again.

So you have got these areas right in here, which is exactly what they want. The strategy is to funnel these people into these areas, because these are not populated areas. These are remote areas. So, you have got mountains over here. You have got desert over here. It's harder for them to get there. Those who do eventually usually are in smaller numbers. That was the idea. Not necessarily the way it's working.

By the way, two things to point out on this, because I have been talking to a lot of the people here as I fly into this area and talk to them and cover this story. On this side they're saying, well, that's not fair, because when you make these people go through a desert or a mountain area it's more dangerous and a lot more of them have died.

There's also this. People on this side, the coyotes, the people who are making money off of this, are saying, great, more money for us. They're getting little vans and literally, let me clear that up for you, and literally driving them to the border and then dropping them off and saying, OK, now you're on your own.

That's the story of what's going on, on the border. I really wanted to break that down for you.

Let's go to Thelma Gutierrez. She's in San Ysidro, California. She's at one of the nation's busiest border crossings to break this down for us with a firsthand view.

Thelma, pick it up for us.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rick, I can tell you, I'm here on the U.S. side of the border. Now, this fence, this 14-foot- tall fence that you see right behind me, was designed by Sandia Labs. They came up with the best idea that they could to create a foolproof fence.

Now, we're going to walk right through. And as we cross the road, about 75 feet away, there is Mexico. It's just a few feet away from this area. And up until five years ago, the only barrier that existed between the United States and Mexico was that corrugated fence right off in the distance.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): The fence. U.S. taxpayers are paying about $3 million a mile for this concrete and steel barrier, according to Homeland Security officials. And the U.S. government has laid out an ambitious goal, 370 miles of it along the U.S./Mexico border in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, all by the end of next year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is a very ambitious number to complete. And we will do our very best.

GUTIERREZ: One hundred and forty-five miles built so far, 225 miles and a lot of challenges to go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have got steep terrain, as you can see, all the way from the ocean to the deserts, high mountains, very treacherous, rocky terrain. And we need to prepare that.

GUTIERREZ: The fence is actually a series of separate fences. The section in San Diego is what Captain John Cobbs (ph) of the Army National Guard is tasked with completing. He says different parts of the fence are different heights and different materials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's commonly referred to as Ballard (ph) fencing.

GUTIERREZ: Sixteen-foot-tall concrete and steel posts narrowly spaced, designed to allow small animals to cross, not humans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a little difficult for a human to squeeze through this.

GUTIERREZ: But people have done it using car jacks, and it's very expensive to fix. Then there's the old metal barrier built in the '90s, made from surplus Vietnam-era aircraft landing mats. But they're not much of a deterrent. The barrier of preference is a see- through mesh fence on the border near San Diego. Cobb's team is trying to build 14 miles by the deadline and they're halfway there.

JAMES JACQUES, U.S. BORDER PATROL: Historically, this is the busiest area nationwide, 500,000 apprehensions annually just in this area. What used to take 30 to 40 agents to cover this five-mile stretch we can now do with five to 10 agents.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Thelma Gutierrez joins us now there from San Ysidro.

Let me ask you a question about this fence, because you're looking at the new one and the new technology that we saw in your report. How is that working or do we know yet compared to the older finances they were using?

GUTIERREZ: Rick, I can tell you just in the last hour that we were standing out here, three men, we saw three men actually cross over this fence and go off into the hills in the distance, trying to run away. One man was off limping. Obviously he was hurt as he tried to scale this 14-foot-tall fence.

But this fence, as all barriers, Border Patrol will tell you they are penetrable. People can get through. If there's a will, there is a way. And one of the Border Patrol agents told me just a short time ago, if you build a 14-tool-tall fence the people will build a 15- foot-tall ladder -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: That's an interesting perspective, getting it from there where you are. Thelma Gutierrez, thanks so much for that report.

So what's it like to actually live along the border? That's an important perspective. And you're going to talk to a woman -- or you're going to hear from a woman I should say in just a little bit who says, Rick, you know what it's like? It's like hell.

Can we really seal this thing off? Or will they keep finding ways to eventually sneak in?

Also, flying the Mexican flag above the U.S. flag. Uh-oh. It's enough to make one veteran boiling mad. Is this about respect, or ignorance, or both?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: All right. First, let me tell you what we have coming up.

He washed dishes. He saved his money for 11 years. That's why we have been all over this thing. And then the government took all his savings, $59,000, away. We are going to break it down for you tonight in terms of how much he really is supposed to owe the government, how much were they supposed to take away? We are going to have that for you.

All right.

What's it like to live next to the U.S.-Mexican border, especially if you live in the area where the fence like runs out. Now, remember what I drew on the board for you a little while ago. The area where the fence ends, that's where people are funneling through.

My next guest lives about eight miles from the border in Cochise County, Arizona. Cindy Kolb is joining us now.

Hey, Cindy, thanks for being with us.

Tell our audience what it's like for you on a daily basis to live there near the border.

CINDY KOLB, LIVES NEAR U.S.-MEXICO BORDER: Hi, Rick. Thank you for having me on the show.

Well, we live eight miles north of the border in Cochise County, Arizona. And dogs bark all night in our neighborhoods. The dogs are barking at illegal aliens. Residents are woken up and we wake up and we call Border Patrol. We live in an area and where the illegal aliens load up into the load vehicles. The cartels shove 20 people in a van and they head north.

SANCHEZ: And you see them? I mean, if you wake up in the middle of the night, can you actually see these folks going through the area?

KOLB: Well, if you put lights on outside, yes, you can see them. Or they wake the residents up and they ask us to give them a ride to Los Angeles or Phoenix.

SANCHEZ: That's amazing. And you say it's constant, right?

KOLB: It's constant. There's no end. We have lived here since 1999, and you can go out every day of the year and see illegal aliens, drug-runners, load vehicles.

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: I just heard you say you have lived there since 1999. And I'm trying to get a sense, because we were talking a little while ago about this new strategy. Has it gotten worse? Have you seen a change, ebbs and flows?

KOLB: I don't see a change, Rick. Illegal aliens cross the border 24/7, 365. And I have seen no change.

SANCHEZ: What do you think that our government needs to do to protect you as a citizen on your property from having to experience something like this every day?

KOLB: Well, Rick, you know, for one thing, President Bush could open his mouth and he could tell Mexico that it's illegal for their citizens to be crawling under the fence and coming into our border, our country illegally. I haven't heard that from President Bush. I have heard him making excuses for why people are coming here illegally. But I haven't heard him tell them to stop doing it and it is illegal.

SANCHEZ: But I'm sure you get the argument, though, there's people here, big-name people in big-time expensive suits who are going around saying, look, we need the work force. They're already here, and we can't do without them.

How do you answer to that?

KOLB: Well, there's American citizens that will do those jobs. There's legal immigrants that come to this country that ask to be invited in. And they do their paperwork and they come here legally. We do not need illegal aliens in the United States of America. Have you seen the photographs on desertvisions.us of the trash in our desert?

KOLB: Oh, I can only imagine.

And let me ask you this, because we're down to 20 seconds. But do you have any sympathy for some of these folks who are coming over here? Many of them really are desperate just for work, just to be able to feed their families.

KOLB: No. There's a lot of American citizens that are desperate for work and just to feed their families. We need to take care of Americans in America first. And Mexico needs to take care of their business with their citizens.

SANCHEZ: Cindy Kolb, good interview. Thanks so much for giving us your perspective on this.

And , boy, that's a tough situation that you're having to deal with there. We're going to keep tabs on this for you and we will have you back.

KOLB: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: And we always like to bring you the very best pictures of the day as well. And this just happens to deal with the argument over immigration that we have been highlighting all week long. It makes some people so angry that they could scream or actually go out and tear down a flag.

That's what they did yesterday in Reno, Nevada. Watch this. This is a Mexican flag. It was flying above the stars and stripes outside this restaurant. Now watch what happens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROSSARD: That is what happened right there. I'm Jim Brossard.

And I took this flag down in honor of my country with a flag -- with a knife from the United States Army. I'm a veteran. I'm not going to see this done to my country. If they want to fight us, then they need to be men. And they need to come and fight us. But I want somebody to fight me for this flag. They're not going to get it back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Boy, there's no question Mr. Brossard is upset about this. In case you're wondering, we checked on this. It's not against the law per se to fly another country's flag above the U.S. flag. But it is against federal flag guidelines. You're just not supposed to fly two national flags together on the same pole, did you know. And it's just downright disrespectful to put a foreign flag from on top of the flag of the country where you are.

The store owner -- we checked -- says he just didn't know. He's pleading ignorance. We're hoping to talk to both of these guys, including Mr. Brossard and the store owner, here tomorrow. We hope you join us for that.

You hear people say this. Seal off the entire border. Next, is it doable, affordable? Will it work?

Plus, this guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MENCIA: I was really, really personally -- just, it jarred me. It offended me. It hurt my feelings when Mexico played the United States, right, in soccer, at Soldier Field. And there were more people wearing Mexican green.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Yes, he was offended and he's going to explain. Coming up, we go inside the mind of Carlos Mencia, who everybody thinks is Mexican, by the way. But is he?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Tens of thousands of you have been e-mailing us, calling us, and answering our Web questions. And we appreciate that, huge numbers.

All right, ask what you should do about illegal immigration in this country, and one of the first things you hear is, you should seal the border. And then comes, round up the illegals and send them home.

Well, here's another picture that I want you to see. This is taking place today, rounding up illegal aliens, or illegal immigrants, I should say, in Southern California and in record numbers. They announced the results just today as a matter of fact. In the past two weeks the feds rounded up 1,300 illegals in the United States. And this is in the Los Angeles area -- 1,100 of them are from Mexico. Almost all of them already had criminal records.

Now, you would be hard-pressed to find anybody in this country, legal or illegal or Mexican or Asian or whatever, who wouldn't say, when it comes to criminals, this is the right thing to do. Now, as for sealing the border with Mexico, the U.S. has plans to build 700 miles of fence. But the border is about, what, 2,000 miles long in some places.

So, let's talk about whether sealing the border really is even possible.

Joining me now, "Washington Times" reporter Sara Carter. She's gone at this interestingly. She's been covering the border problem for two years now, actually gone there and watched it firsthand.

Sara, thanks for joining us.

I have heard you say that, from what you have seen, this looks like nothing more than a Band-Aid solution. Explain that to our viewers, if you would, Sara.

SARA A. CARTER, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": Well, it's difficult. I mean, we have two sides of the issue, those that want to see the fence go up, and those that believe it's a Band-Aid issue.

And the problem is this. It's, when you put up the fence, you kind of balloon the problem into another area. Many people I have talked to say you have got to crack down on the employers. The only way to stop this problem is to stop the supply and demand. If you have jobs available for illegal aliens, then they are going to come here; they're going to find a way; they're going to build the fence 15 feet -- a ladder 15 feet higher than the fence to get over.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

CARTER: So, we're looking at a very serious issue. It doesn't just deal with them. It deals with national security.

SANCHEZ: So, here's what I'm hearing you say. It's not about the fence; it's not about the border; it's not about stopping them there. It's about stopping or taking away the need for them to come here.

But, before we go to that argument, I talk to officials in this country, people who are part of both the government and the business enterprise, who say we need them here, Rick; without them we wouldn't have a flourishing economy.

How do you report that?

CARTER: But then they are violating the law, according to the sources. I mean, if you're hiring illegal aliens, you're in violation of the law. And this is what sources are saying.

And you're creating a problem that isn't going to stop, but it's only going to get worse. And, when you look at the border, I mean, the fencing is important in certain areas. It does stop the flow of traffic, which includes narco-traffickers, human smugglers. But you do see it balloon in other areas. And if you don't put a stop to the employers, these sources say, you're not going to see a stop to this problem. And the border is a very serious national security risk to many people.

SANCHEZ: By the way, that's a very important point you make that sometimes gets lost on a lot of us in this business. And that is that we're not just talking about people perhaps coming here illegally who want to help their families. There are people there who are real bad apples as well, including drug dealers and people smugglers who are hurting people more than they are helping them. That's important, Sara.

CARTER: That's absolutely right. I have been on both sides of the border, Rick. I have seen it for myself. I have seen the harm they have done to the people in Mexico. And I have seen the harm that they have done to the people here in the United States.

This is a very serious issue. It is an open border that has transient routes into the United States, where billions of dollars of drugs have moved their way in, human smugglers. And, you know, as other DEA intel has told me and others have told me who work both sides of the border, their main concern is terrorism and this border, the openness of the border.

SANCHEZ: Well, let's go back to the argument we were having a moment ago, because I think this is interesting. And I read on the editorial page in your particular paper some people who criticized it.

So, let's go back to the comprehensive immigration reform plan, which was going to try and say, hey, no more as of January of this past year, and we want everybody fingerprinted, and we want everybody documented. Wasn't that a good start? And why isn't anybody continuing to talk about that?

CARTER: Well, you know, the issue here is -- and I have talked to a lot of people about the comprehensive immigration reform package. It's really not going to stop.

What it's going to do, according to them, is open up jobs in the agricultural field. Yes, of course, we will be able to fingerprint those folks. But if there are still jobs available to illegal aliens and if people don't participate in this program, what we're still going to see is people crossing the border.

I think what people are more concerned about and the uproar over this is a post-9/11 world that we're living in and the dangers that the border poses. And you will hear that throughout Congress and the Senate.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

CARTER: Secure the border, and then we will pass an immigration reform package.

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: And you know what? We will have you back. And you're good. And I enjoy talking to you.

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: But then you have the argument that says, well, why are you doing it with the Mexicans then? Why aren't you stopping the Canadians? How come there's no wall there?

And my producer is yelling at me. And we can't get into this.

But, Sara Carter, great conversation.

CARTER: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: My thanks to you. We will certainly talk again.

CARTER: All right.

Eleven years he spent washing dishes. He saved $59,000. The government takes all of it away. Shouldn't he get some of it back, at least the part that wasn't taxed? You're sending tons of e-mails our way on this. We have been reading them. We will read some more.

Also, have you heard Hispanics aren't all the same? Really? Did you know some of the differences? We do. We will have a couple on. We will be having a conversation about this.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MENCIA: I tell people sometimes. People will come up to me and go, hey, man, you're really funny. Where were you born? And I'm like Honduras. And they literally just go, what part of Mexico is that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: That isn't what you would ask, is it?

Coming up, we go inside the mind of Carlos Mencia. This guy is funny, folks. I mean funny.

First, we're staying on top of the story of Pedro Zapeta, he's this Guatemalan dishwasher, right, who spent a decade working in Florida restaurants and doing some backbreaking labor, he managed to save $59,000 over that time. Money he intended to take home to his family. But he was here illegally, that's a fact. Then when he tried to leave the United States the government decided to seize the money -- all of it -- because he failed to fill out the proper declaration forms that said anytime you got more than $10,000 you're supposed to fill out some specific form.

We asked you last night whether you think Pedro should get his money back, or not. Here's what you told us: 61 percent of you, of the thousands that voted, say, yes, Pedro should get his money back. Thirty-nine percent of you said no, no way.

Many of you have been sending e-mails, as well.

Grace in Virginia says, look, "It's costing the U.S. government more money to impose this draconian treatment then to let him continue on his way. If they want to impose a fine, then OK. But this should certainly not cost him all his hard-earned savings."

And then we got Mary Margaret Stevenson, she's saying, "...if the U.S. government gives him back his money they should let all U.S. citizens go 10 years without paying taxes, any taxes, whatsoever."

And then Blankenkd, "He should go to prison and pay hefty fines and interest to the IRS. Then deport his illegal butt." See it right there? "Deport his illegal butt," says Stephen K.

All right, here's the point that we're really trying to make on this story. If a man works for 10 years and earns money, washing dishes, he should be entitled to that money. I mean, if he hasn't paid taxes, fine he should pay those taxes. But taking all of his money just seems wrong -- $59,000 because they thought that he was a drug dealer, which he wasn't and isn't. Let's try and break this down for you now.

Rolando Palacios is joining us. He's a director of tax services for the Center for Economic Progress, it's a nonprofit group, it's dedicated, by the way, to helping the poor, so he knows how to do math, which is better than most of us in this profession who aren't so good at it.

Rolando Palacios, thanks for being with us. He worked, I understand, for 10 years, right?

ROLANDO PALACIOS, CTR FOR ECONOMIC PROGRESS: That's correct, Rick.

SANCHEZ: Ten years, so he earned what over those 10 years? Obviously he earned more than the $59,000 he had saved, right?

PALACIOS: Right, I mean, just doing a very rough calculation, it was about $122,000 from what we can tell.

SANCHEZ: All right, so viewers at home, stay with this. Ten years he worked in the United States, $122,000 that he earned. That's yearly about what, about $12,000 that he was making, right?

PALACIOS: Something like that, yeah.

SANCHEZ: If he made $12,000, he needed at the end of each year to file taxes, right?

PALACIOS: Well, you have to subtract the standard deduction and his personal exemption and then there'd be some amount left over, that amount changes every year. But yeah he'd probably have to file if he was a single person. SANCHEZ: All right, and we gave you some of these numbers earlier, so on the $59,000 that the government took from him, by your calculations, how much money should he have or could he have owed the government in taxes?

PALACIOS: Well, just in taxes by itself, it came out to -- again, it's rough calculation because we're assuming that he's -- we averaged his income over all the year, about $8,100.

SANCHEZ: So, it's about $8,100. So, let's round it off to $8,000. Hey, go ahead Ellie, if you can, let's put the board up here. Just so the viewers know what we're talking about. So, he had $59,000 on him. Let's take $8,000 away from that, and we're left with $51,000. All right? So, that's how much money, right there, $51,000, after taxes, that he's allowed to keep. But there's probably more, right? Could there possibly have been some interest? Could there have been some fines accrued? After all, if you don't pay the government for a while they get mad and they start charging you a little more, right?

PALACIOS: Right. If he did owe for any of those years, it would be interest and penalties, first for not filing and then for paying late.

SANCHEZ: So, interest and penalties could probably be, what? What would you say?

PALACIOS: Well, again, the rough calculation we did, about $1,000 in penalties and another $4,500 in interest.

SANCHEZ: So, then we're probably looking at now $51,000, minus $5,500 if we add the $1,000 and the other we probably have about $45,000. So, there you go, $45,000 is how much money you as an accountant, as a guy who knows this kind of stuff, would say -- did I get that wrong? Is it 44? Would say that he probably owes the government. Somewhere between $44,000 to $45,000. Right?

PALACIOS: Yeah. I actually what I would encourage him to do is to file his income taxes so we can calculate it exactly. And he may have other deductions. You know, if he's married, for example, then he gets to claim his wife, that's an additional exemption and a higher standard deduction, so a lot of other factors to consider, too.

SANCHEZ: Well, that's interesting because the government's saying, no, we're going to keep all of it. But, you're a guy who understands this and you're saying, no, the government really shouldn't have all of it. It's up to a judge now to decide how much he gets. Rolando Palacios, thanks for breaking this down for us. We're going to stay on top of this story.

PALACIOS: Thanks.

SANCHEZ: Have you heard Latinos aren't all the same? Well, when Carlos Mencia's joking around about this, it makes a big difference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MENCIA: And in America, I need to know that, know what I mean? Because here, I'm a "Latino." So, in order to do my job well, you know, when I go to, let's say New York where the majority of people are Puerto Rican, I need to know that they mufungo and not menudo. You know what I mean? And then when I go to Miami I need toskonas (ph) and (speaking foreign language) and yucca instead of tortillas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: I'm going to translate all that for us. I know, it sounds a little crazy. Stay with us. He's good, folks. We're going inside the mind of Mencia when we come back. .

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Welcome back, I'm Rick Sanchez. Roughly 42 million people from Spanish speaking countries who are now living in the United States. Traditionally if you grew up in different places, you'd think that different people are from -- you're only used to seeing exactly what's there. In fact, let me break this down for you. Make it make a little sense.

Here's what I'm trying to say. Where you're from in the United States determines what you're used to or what you think what other Hispanics are. For example if you grew up in the New York area, you probably think most Hispanics are like Dominicans or Puerto Ricans, right?

If you happen to grow up in the Miami area, you think most people are always all tooted up drinking too much Cuban coffee, because most of the people there are Cuban. Around Texas and the southwest area you get a lot of Mexicans, obviously, traditionally and historically.

And then when you get into this area, you get a lot of -- in California, you get the Mexicans, you get the Salvadorans, you get the Hondurans, you get a lot of Central Americans who are now based in this area. But of course, this is all changing because the latest census is showing us the entire United States is filling up with people from Puerto Rico and from Cuba and the Dominican Republic and Honduras and Nicaragua and Panama, so really it's much, much more universal.

But the question when it comes to many of these different folks from different countries that have this ethnic makeup in the United States is, are they the same or are they differences? What nuances do they have?

We've got three people to talk about this, the first you're all going to know, actress and singer and activist, Maria Conchita Alonso.

Maria, looking beautiful, still so beautiful.

Raul Reyes as well, he's an attorney, he's an attorney and a member of "USA Today's" board of contributors. And Fernando Mateo, president of Hispanics Across America.

Maria Conchita Alonso, do you think there's a resentment among certain Hispanic groups in the United States?

MARIA CONCHITA ALONSO, ACTRESS/SINGER/ACTIVIST: Oh, there is resentment by many people, but not by all. And there's a resent meant by many by just being called Hispanics instead of Latinos. I do not have that resentment at all. You know? But we do have all different cultures, we all different educational and levels. You know? And...

SANCHEZ: You consider yourself Venezuelan, right?

ALONSO: Well, I was born in Cuba and I was raised in Venezuela. So I always said that I'm a Cuban Venezuelan. And now I'm a U.S. citizen since about a month and a half ago.

SANCHEZ: Congratulations.

ALONSO: Thank you, thank you. But my grandparents came from Spain. So it's really also has to do a lot with which is your background, where your grandparents come from.

SANCHEZ: Let me ask you, Fernando. You are Dominican?

FERNANDO MATEO, HISPANICS ACROSS AMERICA: Yes, I am.

SANCHEZ: So, as a Dominican, let me just throw out a couple of different countries. What do you think of the Cubans and the Argentineans?

MATEO: I think that they're wonderful.

SANCHEZ: You do?

MATEO: I think that they're wonderful people. If you're Hispanic, you're wonderful. There's one thing that we have and it's that we're warm people. We don't shake hands, we give hugs.

SANCHEZ: That's true.

ALONSO: Hot, hot.

MATEO: Exactly. We give love. You know, we're here and we're here to give a piece of our culture. And every Latin-American country has its own culture, but we all come together.

SANCHEZ: Does it bother you guys -- anybody just jump in -- does it bother you when everyone treats you like you're not from your specific country? They don't see that you're Puerto Rican or Cuban or Argentinean or Venezuelan, but they'll say, oh, you know, oh, so you're Mexican, how's your tacos -- Raul.

RAUL REYES, ATTORNEY: You know what, it doesn't bother me. For one thing, I feel like it's my chance, just like for all of us here tonight to, you know, to represent, to talk about where we're from, our family. I have never in my life met a Latino who did not love talking about his family, his background. So, to me it's a chance to educate people. SANCHEZ: But wait, here's the problem. Maria Conchita can probably talk to this, because she's an actress. The mainstream media tends to generalize us all as part of one group. Don't they?

ALONSO: Yes, it is true. And we are all very similar in many things. What, you know, they just said, you know, we're hot, and we're brought up with family values...

MATEO: Thank you for saying I'm hot! You're hot too, Maria. You're hot too!

(LAUGHTER)

SANCHEZ: We do the best we can.

ALONSO: Thank you. Thank you, thank you. But...

REYES: We have more in common than is different with us, so much of our culture in common.

ALONSO: Religion, you know, family values, we're all those things. But we're also different. I mean, we are blacks, we are whites, we are brown. There are, you know, Asian-looking. You know, looking-wise we're not all the same.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, but here's the point, and I think this is interesting, because sometimes there does grow some resentment among us. There are some among us who tend to think we have more European blood than some of the others: "my family came from Castile (ph)."

(CROSSTALK)

That happens.

MATEO: We call that. (speaking foreign language)

ALONSO: But it is true.

MATEO: But you know, the bottom line is we are all from different parts of Latin-America. The bottom line is that when we're amongst each other we party, we dance meringue, we dance salsa, we dance...

SANCHEZ: Right, the bottom line.

MATEO: We eat rice and beans. Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: More in common than different.

REYES: We have more in common.

SANCHEZ: But,, but, but Marie Conchita, you have heard the argument and you have seen those people, the (speaking foreign language) as we call them, that always had so much more than everybody else, and look down on some of the people who come from some of the Mayan ancestry, if you know what I mean. Let's call it what it is. ALONSO: I didn't get, sorry, I didn't hear you very well.

SANCHEZ: People who use the words like, (speaking foreign language) Indio, because he's not of European or colonial blood.

ALONSO: Excuse me, there's everything in every culture. There are bad people and there are nice people. There are racists and there are not racists in every culture, in the Latino world, in the Anglo world, in the European world. There's nothing we can do about that.

SANCHEZ: We could go all day. But my producer's yelling at me. We'll have to do this again. This is fascinating.

ALONSO: We didn't get into any fights here.

MATEO: What happen with the wall...

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: I tried. I tried to get you guys, but nobody would join the fight.

MATEO: What with (INAUDIBLE) issuing licenses to our people.

SANCHEZ: Thanks so much guys, great battle. LARRY KING LIVE is standing by, right now. Here's a guy who knows how to ruffle it up. Here's a guy who I love. Larry King standing by.

Larry, what do you think of these folks?

LARRY KING, LARRY KING LIVE: Hey Rick, I want to tell you something. You are having a wild week. This is one of the great weeks in broadcasting history. This will go down in the annals. This is going into the hall of fame.

SANCHEZ: Well, thanks. Thanks, Larry. You know what, I'm trying to follow your footsteps, buddy.

KING: Thank you, I'm honored.

Hey, coming up, get this, this is so exciting. We've got K-Fed in an eye patch, Britney's a no show and he keeps the kids. All the news from today's custody hearing.

Plus the lady who won Olympic gold at age 20, became America's sweetheart, and then battled depression, that made her even think about suicide. Dorothy Hamil will open up an emotional interview. She's got a great new book out, too. All at the top of the hour on LARRY KING LIVE -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: LARRY KING LIVE. God, I love that guy. Thanks Larry, look forward to it...

KING: Go get 'em, baby.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MENCIA: Anybody that doesn't stand immigration, legal or not, is just insensitive. I mean, first of all, poor people are trying to become rich people. That's all that's happening here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: That boils it down, doesn't it. Doesn't it? Huh? The next stop, the mind of Mencia. You can't miss this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: All right, this is what we've been looking forward to. One of the most popular Latin-American comedians in the United States is Carlos Mencia. My kids love him. He was born in Honduras, he was raised in L.A., 17th of 18 children. TV show "Mind of Mencia" is a hit on Comedy Central and no sign of Latino culture in this country escapes his humor including illegal immigration, jobs, and the language barriers.

Carlos Mencia has a movie that coming out this week, it's called, "The Heartbreak Kid." So, he came by, I talked to him, we spent some time talking about, well, the mind of Mencia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MENCIA: You know what, I don't know, I'm just honest, man. I think of things, I see the world from a prism that is unique in the sense that, you know, I was born in Honduras, but my mom's Mexican. I grew up in east L.A. where everybody's Mexican. But I kind of got treated like an insider and outsider at the same time. I'm an American, but I don't always get treated like one. And so I'm kind of able to see things from two angles, you know what I mean?

SANCHEZ: Everybody in the United States thinks that we're all Mexican anyway, right? I mean, whether you're Cuban or Argentinean or Honduran -- you're a Mexican.

MENCIA: You know, I tell people some times, People will come up to me and go, "hey, man, you're really funny, where were you born?" And I'm like, "Honduras." And they literally just go, "what part of Mexico is that?" And I don't even fight it. I don't even fight it now I just go, you know, "it's near Cancun." And they go, "oh, yeah, I think I've been there". I'm like, "great."

SANCHEZ: You know, I've gotten the same thing. I mean, I'm Cuban and I'll have people come up and say, so, I bet you guys make some really good tacos. I'm going, no, we don't eat tacos, it's a -- but you know, it's interesting, because there are differences between a guy from Argentina and a guy from Mexico and a guy from Honduras and a guy from Puerto Rico and a guy from Cuba, or a gal. right? Huge differences.

MENCIA: And in America, I need to know that. You know what I mean? Because here I'm a Latino, so in order to do my job well, you know, when I go to let's say New York where the majority of people are Puerto Rican, I need to know that they eat mufungo and not menudo. You know what I mean? And then when I got to Miami I need to know tostones (ph) and (speaking foreign language) and yucca instead of tortillas. So, I like got to know all of that in order to connect.

And then on top of that, I got to know like the difference between the north and south and euppers (ph) and west coast and east coast. I got like this array of things just to make people laugh.

SANCHEZ: A lot of people would argue that we're being unified by this antagonistic sense that's taking place in this country, right now. I mean, there really does seem to be an attitude in some people's minds, that the problem is -- and not all people, obviously, there are people who are saying, you know, we need to protect the border. They're not saying Hispanic immigrants are bad people. But, there are people saying, yeah, you know, some of the Hispanic immigrants are bad people. So, how do you deal with that?

MENCIA: I personally -- look, here's how I deal with that. Look, anybody that doesn't understand immigration, legal or not, is just insensitive. I mean, first of all, poor people are trying to become rich people. That's all that's happening here. There's nothing more. And you know, when people say, "well, I wish they respected the laws, and I wish that they..." -- you know, as far as I remember, the Mayflower didn't have any visas. None.

SANCHEZ: You're kind of an equal opportunity offender, aren't you? I mean, you do skits that are really -- I mean, you're screaming all the time. Do you write these things? Or do you just make them up as you go?

MENCIA: No, but it's like, look. I just -- I get fired up when people complicate simplicity. You know, when somebody says, that illegal alien took my job.

SANCHEZ: But, you know, that's part of the argument, now. And it's a good argument that some people are making, certainly one that's worth hearing, where they say, the reason some of these guys are getting the jobs is because people are willing to give them jobs because they know they're going to work real cheap and they're going to take advantage of them and they're not gong to give them all the benefits that we as American workers in this country have fought for for years. What do you say to that, Carlos Mencia?

MENCIA: And that is true. But then again, we can't blame immigrants for that. See, the truth is this. Had immigrants come to this country and nobody given them a job, they would have went back to Mexico or El Salvador a couple of years later and went, "no, we go, we ask and no workee" and that would have been it. But that's not what happens.

You were talking about this earlier. What happens is people come to this country and they start making decent money, for them, and they send money back to their families. And their families over there are going, "man, not only is he sending us pictures of all the great things, he has extra money to send to his family!" That's when they look at their family and go, "Ramon, go! The fence is still not electric, let's get out of here!" SANCHEZ: Carlos Mencia, you're wildly popular, wildly successful. And, you know, it's been a wonderful conversation. Thanks so much, man.

MENCIA: Hey, bro, listen. And you, by the way, are in the forefront of some of the change yourself by the fact that you call yourself Rick Sanchez, and not Ricardo Sanchez. You know? You are, seriously, I mean, remember 10 years ago when any Latino had a last name, they had to overenunciate it and make sure that -- you know -- you're basically saying, I speak Spanish in my telecast, I cross over, but on the other hand I'm an American.

SANCHEZ: Because I'm an American, I grew up in this country, and I'm American as apple pie. It just so happens that my parents came from Cuba and we've had that immigrant experience. But I agree with you, I always thought it was kind of phony when I heard reporters try to over-enunciate their names. Like, you know what? Here's an example for you, and I'll give it to you, Carlos, today there was a horrible situation, in Nicaragua!

(LAUGHTER)

Where? Where'd that come from? I don't talk like that. It's like, it's Nicaragua. Now, if was talking am Spanish I'd say it (speaking foreign language), but it's a whole different ball -- you're so right. Listen, I enjoy talking to you. Come on back, man.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: In a minute, LARRY KING LIVE and Britney's kids. Also, a special commentary. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: All right, so what have we been doing for you? For, three nights now we have brought you into the national argument over immigration. Monday we learn among other things that professors from Princeton to California have done a study that answers the age-old question, when will these damn people learn to speak English? Here's what they found out. First generation arrivals, just like your great- great-grandpa Luigi or Sven, will do what everybody else has done for generations, they're going to forget and they're going to speak only English in America. That study concludes "the English language has never been seriously threatened as the dominate language in America, nor is it under threat today."

Tuesday, we learned from our own government that the Hispanic workforce is so entrenched in this country, half of all construction workers and seamstresses in this country now are Hispanic immigrants. That's just the beginning.

"Kick 'em all out," you say -- or some say. Fine, but then experts we've talked to say it would lead to a huge economic collapse for our country. How'd you like them frijoles?

So, should we protect the jobs? Of course? And while we're at it, how about creating some new jobs in this country that don't involve asking what you want and if you want fries with that order?

Should we secure the border? Of course we should. And should we encourage people to embrace our language and our culture as Americans? Absolutely. But here's the point, you can't do it by being a jerk about it and thinking that everyone's out to get us. It's that xenophobic thinking that got us into the mess that we're now in around the world, many would argue. It's also the one that says French are wimps, Mexicans are inferior and corrupt and oh, the United Nations, the place where the entire world gathers, that's no good, either.

You know, it's here in the United States for a reason. It's because we're the big dogs. We're the ones the whole world admires. We're the ones that people all over look up to, including in the countries in Latin-America where I talk to people everyday.

I wasn't born in the country, but I've spent my entire life thanking God for bringing me here. Maybe it's time we stop looking down at people, as well. Or just stop looking down altogether and do what they do, look up at us. After all, you want inspiration? You want inspiration? Start looking up, be positive.

We're going to bring you more of these stories throughout the week. We're staying on this course, folks. Thanks so much for being with us. I'm Rick Sanchez.

LARRY KING LIVE is coming up next. Hasta manana.

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