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Immigration Crackdowns Causing Panic in Texas and Oklahoma?; The High Cost of Running For President

Aired October 9, 2007 - 20:00   ET


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to start here, because we are getting some new information on a story that we have been following for you. In fact, this story is growing by leaps and bounds.
As we receive this newscast, we're getting new information, eye- opening information about the state of immigration enforcement in American cities. Some of you may be disheartened to learn what's going on in our country, while some of you will welcome this news.

Yesterday, we here at OUT IN THE OPEN told you of a growing panic in Irving, Texas, where the Mexican Consul is telling people to just stay away from that city. In fact, moments ago, Mexico's former president told me what's happening there is a violation of human rights. And now we're hearing that in Tulsa, Oklahoma, tens of thousands of Latinos are fleeing the city because they're afraid of a pending immigration crackdown.

These are just two of the places where federal and local officials are coming down hard on illegal immigrants.

Our Dan Simon is on the West Coast where he's been following the feds on some of their criminal sweeps. And our Keith Oppenheim is in Irving, Texas, to talk more about the immigrant fears that we have been reporting about there. That's where we're going to start with Keith.

Keith, city officials have been telling me here, as we have made phone calls to them throughout the day, that there's really nothing different or unusual about these arrests and what's going on there. Is that the perception of the people there that you have spoken to?

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, some, but it's very different in the Latino community.

First of all, Rick, keep in mind that Irving, Texas, is a city of about 200,000 people, and about 40 percent of that population is Latino. I have been having a lot of conversations with members of the Latino community, and they are saying the same thing pretty much, which is that there are a lot of undocumented workers here, who are increasingly worried and angry about a recent crackdown on illegal immigration.


OPPENHEIM (voice-over): We will call him Roberto. He's a door- to-door salesman, an undocumented Mexican in Irving, Texas, who at the age of 28 has his mother drive him around or:

"ROBERTO," UNDOCUMENTED RESIDENT OF IRVING, TEXAS: I do a lot of walking. I walk all day long.

OPPENHEIM: With no identity papers or a license, Roberto could be deported if he got caught behind the wheel, so he doesn't risk driving. But, while he refuses to live in fear, he says many Latinos in Irving are suddenly very frightened.

ROBERTO: And people, they don't want to open the door anymore. They see someone at their door that they don't know.

OPPENHEIM (on camera): They think talking to you could be a risk.

ROBERTO: Yes, exactly.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): The fear is a reaction to what's called the Criminal Alien Program. Since September of last year, Irving police started to refer anyone arrested in their city to federal authorities, who check their immigration status.

LARRY BOYD, IRVING, TEXAS, POLICE CHIEF: It's only for people who violate the Texas laws and are arrested and brought into the Irving jail.

OPPENHEIM: Referrals for deportations here have skyrocketed, up to 1,600, 40 times the number from the year before. Those referrals include anyone stopped for a traffic violation. Since many undocumented people here drive, the program has intensified fear.

(on camera): Did you think that I was from immigration?


(voice-over): This undocumented man told me, when he saw our TV crew, he thought I was a cop who would turn him in, that he doesn't trust anyone.

Immigrant advocates are protesting, accusing police of racial profiling, and today they met with the district attorney, calling for an investigation, charging the program is not really targeting dangerous felons.

CARLOS QUINTANILLA, PRESIDENT, ACCION AMERICA: We're going to see at the end, when they produce this data, that 99.9 percent of those individuals that were deported were for traffic-related offenses.

OPPENHEIM: Irving's mayor insists racial from profiling is not happening.

HERBERT GEARS, MAYOR OF IRVING, TEXAS: That people aren't being pulled over because of the color of their skin or that we don't have rogue police officers that don't understand their responsibilities and have a level of integrity. OPPENHEIM: But, despite reassurances, trust is breaking down in Irving. Latinos believe a program city officials are praising for efficiency has made them a target for deportation.


OPPENHEIM: Rick, Irving police officials do say that the primary reason behind the arrests in the criminal deportation program is traffic warrants, but many of those that are referred for deportation are referred because of more serious offenses and violent crimes.

And, lately, I should point out, the Latino community here isn't being quiet about any of this, and activists here are planning a rally and march to city hall on Saturday -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Keep Oppenheim following that story for us there -- thanks so much, Keith.

Mayors around the country that I have been talking to today are telling me they don't like doing this, but they feel, because of public pressure, and media pressure, and a failure of Congress to act, it's what they have to do.

In Irving, for example, the city's police chief is now left to explain how what he's doing is -- quote -- "not selective enforcement." He's being accused of racial profiling. He's being accused of targeting Hispanics. After calling there throughout the day, just before I went on the air here, I had a chance to talk to him.

Here now is Chief Larry Boyd.


SANCHEZ: Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd, thanks for being with us, sir.

BOYD: It's my pleasure.

SANCHEZ: You have been getting an awful lot of attention all over the country. We have been following this story for the last couple of days on this show, and the accusation is that you're targeting Hispanics and that there's racial profiling going on. How do you answer that?

BOYD: Well, I have answered this to several media outlets so far, and the thing that I have helped people understand is that the police department here in Irving, Texas, is virtually the same one that we had a year ago.

And you heard none of the allegations that you're hearing now. The thing that has changed in that period has been the focus now on the 24-7 Criminal Alien Program, and so that has been the difference that has brought a lot of attention on what's going on here.

SANCHEZ: All right, let's try and see if we can make the viewers understand what we're talking about here. The information that we're getting is that people in your community are being stopped for something as simple as a broken headlight. And then the officer will question them. And if they're not able to show, for example, a valid I.D. or obviously a driver's license, you take them into your police station and then you call ICE, or the feds, and eventually they get deported.

Is that true?

BOYD: Well, that's not altogether accurate.

If an officer stops someone for any traffic violation, obviously, the thing that the officer would like to see would be a driver's license, a valid driver's license. If that person can't fully identify themselves, if they don't have a driver's license, and if they don't have some other type of identification that the officer could back up with, for example, the car being registered to the person that's driving the car, something else that they can build their case with, that they have confidence that they can issue this person a citation and let them drive on down the road, if they don't have that, then a full custody arrest may occur.

That's not any different today than it was last year or the year before that.


SANCHEZ: But it just so happens that a lot of those folks that are being arrested are Hispanic, correct?

BOYD: It just so happens that that is the same, regardless of who they stop.

SANCHEZ: Well, let me ask you the question this way, then. I think this would be certainly illustrative for our viewers.

How many non-Hispanics have been stopped under these circumstances that you just explained and taken into custody?

BOYD: Well, I can tell you how many numbers of people that ICE have identified, but I don't have that information. I don't know how many non-Hispanics or Hispanics. What would I do with the information if I had it? I mean, it's not something I could out and tell the officers that you need to do more.


SANCHEZ: I would tell you what you could do. You could certainly allay the fears some of the people in the community, who seem to be saying that most of the people who are being stopped and questioned are people who are Hispanic, that you're actually working as proxies for immigration. That's why that would be an important number to have.

BOYD: Well, I would allay those fears by telling people what I have previously told you, is that this is the same department, it's the same officers, with the same rules that they operate in the street that they had a year ago, when none of these things were being brought up.

SANCHEZ: All right, thanks so much, Chief Larry Boyd there in Irving, Texas. Our thanks to you, sir, for taking the time to talk to us.

BOYD: Thank you.


SANCHEZ: So, here's what we're getting from many of the folks that we're talking to around the country. If nobody in this country is willing to decide who should stay and who should go, if there's no real filter, then police departments, like the police department we were just speaking to with the chief, feel like they're forced to put out a wide net and grab essentially whoever they can.

They may not be the best candidates for removal, the people that they seem to be arresting, but they're being removed nonetheless. And that is causing problems and it certainly is also causing fear, as we can document.

On the phone with us now is Santiago. He is a resident of Irving, has lived there quite some time. He's good enough to join us.

Santiago, we're going to try not to identify you. I know you're concerned about your status in the United States. How long have you lived in the United States?


SANCHEZ: You have been living here for 12 years. Are you fearful at this point living in Irving?

SANTIAGO: Well, yes. At some point, yes, I am.

SANCHEZ: What are you afraid of?

SANTIAGO: Well, you know, I have kids, and I have seen on the news many, many times that how many families are being separated. And I don't want my kids to have that fear to a department that's supposed to protect them.

SANCHEZ: No. But what I mean is, because you're there, you're living there, we're simply reporting it from over here, although I'm going to be going there on Thursday.

Tell me what it's like to live there, what you're hearing from people in the community that you're afraid could happen to you.

SANTIAGO: Well, first thing will be get arrested, and then get deported. And my family is going to be here, and I'm going to be down there, in a place that I haven't been in a long time and I really don't know. SANCHEZ: By the way, you have a valid driver's license, right?

SANTIAGO: Yes, I do.

SANCHEZ: And you pay insurance on your car?


SANCHEZ: So, your fear is that if you get pulled over or unfortunately be in an accident that's not of your doing or your fault, the police officers could come by. They could start asking you questions. One thing leads to another. They take you in and before you know it, you're in the custody of ICE, right?


SANCHEZ: Is there anything in the police or have you heard anything from city officials there that would in any way allay your fears, that would make you feel like, look, we're not doing this; it's just not happening? Or do you believe that they are?

SANTIAGO: Well, I believe they are, because, last week, I was talking to my wife that I was just driving on the streets, on -- (INAUDIBLE) is one of the main streets here in Irving.

And I saw a police car, yes, a patrol, and in the front seat, there were two police officers. In the back seat, there was two immigration officers. So that really gets me nervous, driving around with that fear of being pulled over.

SANCHEZ: So, you're kind of afraid. Does this make you less apt to trust the police department, to work with them?

SANTIAGO: Yes. Yes. honestly, I have (INAUDIBLE) of trying to help the department. And I did it in the past. But, right now, I don't think -- I don't feel it out of my heart to help them.

SANCHEZ: So, you don't feel like you want to help them now. That's unfortunate, because there are some bad guys out there and from time to time people like you need to call the police and say, look, there's a murderer, there's rapist, there's somebody over here who is really a bad guy. And now you're feeling like you can't make that phone call for fear that you are going to end up in trouble.

That's a problem. And police officers recognize that, by the way. I have been having a lot of conversations with them.

Santiago, thanks so much for your candor. We really appreciate that conversation.

For more than a month now, we have been calling on Congress and our nation's leaders to join in the immigration debate and honestly consider what really needs to be done so cities like this don't have to willy-nilly be dealing with this problem. But because there's an election around the corner it seems that they're doing nothing. So, frustrated local governments are doing what they can, some better than others, obviously. Listen to this editorial that was written today in "The Dallas Morning News." Here we go.

"We think it's pathetic that Irving schoolchildren are being kept home out of fear, but what's even more pathetic is the fear of voter reprisal that is preventing Congress from doing its job."

Keven Ann Willey is the vice president and editorial page editor of the paper "The Dallas Morning News," great newspaper, by the way.

I can't see, Keven, how this can be called anything but cowardice on the part of the federally elected public officials. Can you?


I think what all what you have been talking about points up is the real abdication of responsibility on the part of Congress. For some time now, we have been advocating as strongly and persuasively as we possibly can for some time urging Congress to deal with this whole problem, not to just slice off a sliver of it and try to do what is politically appealing, or what is a simplistic slogan-encoded effort to deal with the problem, but to really show some leadership, and deal with everything from illegal immigration at the border, to illegal immigrants who are here, to guest-worker programs, to provide jobs where they're needed, and to provide workplace crackdowns, to deal with everything comprehensively.

Short of that, you're just squeezing a water balloon in one place and the problem will bubble up in another.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Here's the problem. And I mentioned this just a little while ago. Police departments all over the country seem to be doing what they can, some better than others, but they can just put out this wide net and get whatever they can. There really are people in this country, by the way, who definitely should be deported.

And there are others who have been here for many years, have never broken any crimes, have lived peaceful lives, have children in schools who are good citizens and getting good grades, and they should be considered possibly people who should stay in this country.

So, by doing it this way, so willy-nilly, we really aren't coming up with the right screening processes, are we?

WILLEY: I agree.

I think there are two issues here that we need to consider. First of all, in Irving, school officials have discovered that some 90 schoolchildren have withdrawn just within the last couple of weeks, in large part as a result of this particular police policy.

These are children who should be in school. Whether they're citizens or not, I think it's in all of our interests to keep them in school learning, rather than on the street, either causing problems or learning to cause problems. So, that's kind of a byproduct that people overlook or forget that's very serious.

SANCHEZ: Well, we could also have a bunch of conversations about what happens with these immigrants. And if we lose all the immigrants in the United States economically, it's going to be a hardship for a while or maybe for a longer period of time, as a former Mexican president told me today.

But here's the other question. You just heard what Santiago told me moments ago. He lives there in Irving. He says, I don't trust the police anymore. I'm not going to call them if I need them or if I have a problem.

That's a real problem for police, to lose the trust of a community where you live, isn't it?

WILLEY: That is a real problem. And again I think that's a byproduct that is often overlooked in the sloganeering or sound-bite approach that so many people on both sides, frankly, of the issue take to solving this problem.

I think another important issue that needs to be examined is the effect on -- these kinds of policies on U.S. citizens. There are a lot of people who fear being caught up in this kind of thing who are U.S. citizens. There are examples of that already occurring in north Texas and elsewhere in the country.

I don't think any of us favors empowering a local or a police state to kick in the doors of U.S. citizens.

SANCHEZ: Right, especially...

WILLEY: And that can be a byproduct.

SANCHEZ: Right. And we have read those reports where people happen to live in the area or in the home where they come to get somebody else and then their rights are violated or trampled on as well.

Keven Ann Willey, interesting. Thanks so much for being our guest.

WILLEY: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: By the way, because of the importance of this story to all of us, I'm going to be packing my bags and headed out to Irving, Texas. I'm going to bring you an hour-long special from there this Thursday.

And, again, now we're hearing that there's a situation in Tulsa that may actually be worse. Hysteria is the word that is being used there. That's coming up next.

Also, how about the really bad ones, you know, the criminals? Tonight, we're going to be taking you on a roundup. We will have it for you.

Stay with us.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back to OUT IN THE OPEN.

We are seeing a trend and we are reporting it to you as we examine this trend of immigration crackdowns by local governments. We see a pattern, but it's an inconsistent pattern, one city doing one thing, another city doing something else.

Let me try and break this down for you and try and show you what I mean when we talk about different municipalities dealing with this problem in different ways.

Let's go over to the big wall. We're going to start out in Southern California. We have kind of created this so you can see them all in yellow.

In Southern California, there's a federal immigration sweep that's been under way. We understand they have got 1,300 arrests. These, they say, are criminals, hardened criminals who they have been going after for quite some time. Good thing.

Now, let's go over down to Irving, Texas. There, anyone arrested subject to a status check. These are not hardened criminals, just people that are being picked up. If they get taken in, then they call ICE on their behalf.

Now, we take you to Cobb County. Let's go over here, Cobb County, Georgia, limits on number of adults and non-family members in some of the homes as well. And, in Prince William County, there's a plan now, we understand, to deny services to illegal immigrants, more police checks, and we understand that there's going to be protests as well.

You notice that they all have different takes on how to deal with the problem.

Hazleton, Pennsylvania, there, what they're doing is, they're fining landlords who rent to illegal immigrants, denying businesses permits to people who hire illegal immigrants. A federal court has now come in and said, nah, you can't do that.

All right, let's bring you back a little bit now and look at Tulsa, Oklahoma. This is the one that we're focusing on now. As of November, there's a new state law. It mandates deportation of illegal immigrants who are arrested. It limits public benefits and jobs for undocumented workers. So, that's the strategy that they're going for in Tulsa.

Let's find out more about what is going on Tulsa, but we understand now that tens of thousands of people may be leaving the area.

The executive director is joining us now of the Tulsa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. His name is Francisco Trevino. Francisco, bring us up to date on what you're seeing there, because we have been getting an awful lot of numbers and figures. At first, we heard 10,000. Now we're hearing as many as 25,000 people are leaving the city of Tulsa because of their fears of this mass crackdown. What kind of number can you confirm for us tonight?

FRANCISCO TREVINO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TULSA HISPANIC CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Well, the numbers are kind of right. Anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 people have been leaving the state within the past month- and-a-half. Now, obviously, the rumor on the street is -- after the 15th of this month, that will be a paycheck. And, so, they're thinking happening maybe perhaps more will leave before November 1 comes around.

SANCHEZ: Is it hysteria? Because that's the quote that I'm seeing here on several occasions, that there's a hysteria. Is that right? Is that the right word?

TREVINO: Well, hysteria, because the fear of whenever they go to work, they are realizing that they might not be able to come back to their families. All this craziness is dividing families, you know, and families that have American children.


SANCHEZ: That's what it says in our material that we have been reading. It says these include families in which the parents are in the country illegally, but the children are U.S. citizens. So, I guess that's what they're really concerned about, right? If nothing else, it's not just me, but this will ruin my child's life.

TREVINO: Exactly.

I know a family that they deported the parent. And, you know, his wife is an American citizen, had a daughter, also an American citizen. They just left last month. She doesn't know anything about Mexico. She doesn't know -- you know, the daughter doesn't know anything. She has never been to Mexico. Now they're going to be changing their whole life, going back to Mexico.

SANCHEZ: And, apparently, there's an economic impact as well. Let me read you what else we have been getting information on here.

Construction projects that have now slowed as a result of a shortage of workers in the Tulsa area, confirmed by the Tulsa business community, are you seeing that?

TREVINO: Yes. Actually, they're working at 30 percent capacity. Instead of building 10 houses, they're doing three.

SANCHEZ: These are all construction jobs that you're talking about, right?

TREVINO: Exactly, exactly, home builders.

SANCHEZ: Can you confirm this one for us as well, a case of a pregnant woman taken into custody as she was driving to day care to pick up her children? Apparently, that's one of the stories that seems to be running throughout the community. Is that true or is that just one of the stories that's running around that may be really more rumor than fact?

TREVINO: No, no, it is true.

The thing is, you know, she got stopped by a police officer. And I mean, whenever you get arrested, you go through a process. Obviously, this lady was pregnant. When you go -- first, officer stops you, arrests you, and takes you in. Now, there's another officer there booking you, OK?

And, as they are doing that, there would be more officers. Nobody said anything, you know, like, OK, maybe perhaps we ought to look at the situation.

But nobody did anything. To show you the ignorance that we're dealing with, Sheriff Glanz said in an interview, since July of 2007...



TREVINO: ... deported people from Australia, and Asia and even mentioned Puerto Rico. So, it kind of shows you the ignorance that we're dealing with.

SANCHEZ: Yes, because Puerto Rico, by the way, is -- if you're born in Puerto Rico, you're an American. It's part of the United States.

TREVINO: Correct.

SANCHEZ: Thank you very much.

By the way, let me just tell you one thing, before I let you go. We got a statement now. This is from the mayor's office in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Let's go ahead and put that up. Here's what they say, because we have called them, and they just got back to us: "Our officers' priority is to arrest criminals and keep our citizens safe, but it is up to the federal government to secure our borders and develop a consistent set of laws throughout the United States. There is a clear vacuum of leadership on this issue that has led to the current patchwork of state and local laws."

So, there you go again, constant theme throughout this newscast. The government's not taking care of what they need to do at the federal level, so, the state and the locals are stepping in and trying to do it themselves. And it may not be going all that well.

Francisco Trevino, thank you, sir, for bringing us up to date on this. TREVINO: Thank you, Rick. Great show.

SANCHEZ: There's trouble brewing south of the border OUT IN THE OPEN next with Latin America's new crop of lefties. And there are a bevy of them. How dangerous are they to us?

Then, later, why does it cost so much to run for president in this country? You're not going to believe how much money they are actually spending.


SANCHEZ: Now more on those whose deportations no one seems to question, the dangerous and often violent illegal immigrants in this country.

Now, I have reported from Central America and flown on these so- called "Con Air" flights sending shackled immigrants out of the United States. This is a program that works. But how do you round them up at the street level? That's a different question.

CNN's Dan Simon was invited by ICE agents in Southern California to see firsthand what it takes to nab these undocumented criminals.

Here now, his report.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentleman as always, officer safety is of paramount importance.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's just before dawn at a restaurant parking lot in Costa Mesa, California, just outside Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything can happen. We have got six targets today.

SIMON: Here, we meet seven federal agents from the Southern California offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to watch an unprecedented operation.

When it's over, these federal officers will have taken part in a massive immigration sweep to find and deport criminal immigrants they say are a threat to Americans, they and dozens of other federal officers making more than 1,200 arrests in less than two weeks.

Nearly all of those rounded up have felony convictions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are looking for people who are threats to our communities. We are looking for people who have been convicted of crimes.

SIMON: We're here on the final day of the sweep and if these officers are tired, they don't show it.

(on camera): Are you expecting a peaceful confrontation with this one?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We always hope for a peaceful situation.

SIMON (voice-over): The first target is believed to live a few miles away from the restaurant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police, open the door.

SIMON: An immigration judge ruled he'd be deported from the country, an order he's refused. These officers armed with an arrest warrant to forcibly remove him from the country. The problem is, the guy's not home or answering the door, and deportation warrants don't allow cops to bust in.

(on camera): So they know if they don't answer the door there's a good chance they're not going to go down on that day?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That would be the perceived notion, although it's rarely the case, because if we target someone over a long period of time, we will get them.

SIMON (voice-over): Well, no success at this address, not today, so we move on. And move on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police, open the door.

SIMON: And move on. They hit five homes, and nothing. Finally on the sixth try, an arrest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm being told's in custody at this point.

SIMON: This is 34-year-old Antonio Salas; we're told he's an illegal immigrant from el Salvador.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's been convicted of a number of crimes to include assault with a deadly weapon, he's also been ordered removed from the United States.

SIMON: He's taken to ICE's processing center, fingerprinted and photographed and within days will be deported back to his home country.


SANCHEZ: Hey Dan, you're joining us now. Did I hear you correctly when you told some of our producers there was only one or two arrests out there tonight?

SIMON: Yeah, just one arrest that day. You know, it really comes down to knowing where these guys are going to be, but a couple of things regarding our shoot. You know, when we got there, you know, we were told that this was the last day for this raid so there was a perception among some of the officers that word had spread out within the illegal immigrant community to really be on the lookout and apparently that's what happened, Rick, but you're right, just one arrest that day. But they did make 1,200 in about two weeks, ICE says it's an unprecedented success.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, it is and some of these are real bad guys, by the way, these are part of the (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) gangs that we've been reporting out that are out there that nobody in this country, legal, illegal, Hispanic, non-Hispanic, wants to see and they would like to see them rounded up.

Dan Simon, thanks so much for that report.

By the way, this nationwide crackdown also sparked a nationwide controversy. Some of the harshest critics were police officers, not just Latino community leaders. "Newsday," a Long Island, New York newspaper is reporting that officials accused federal agents of a cowboy mentality that could have put local police in harm's way.

One county executive is saying that he would no longer cooperate with this type of enforcement action. Again, these are local police officers arguing with the feds about the way they did these raids. We're going to be staying all over this story and making some phone calls for you.

Thursday I'm going to head to Irving, Texas, where there has been so much fear in the air. I'm going to bring you a one-hour-long special OUT IN THE OPEN at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here.


FRED THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As far as the economic prosperity of the future is concerned, if you look at the short term, it's rosy. I think if you look at a thin year projection, it's rosy.


Yeah, rosy, but was his performance rosy? Next, Fred Thompson's first presidential debate. Is he really the next Ronald Reagan? Or a dud?


SANCHEZ: Welcome back to OUT IN THE OPEN. I'm Rick Sanchez. We've been telling you about the trouble that's been brewing on this side of the border, there's also trouble on the other side of border where many of those immigrants are coming from that we have been talking about.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez launched a new reform campaign. He's calling for higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco and urging parents, get this, to stop buying Barbie dolls and to stop aping U.S.- style capitalism.

Venezuela is not alone, by the way. Many of our neighbors to the south, Central America and South America are taking a sharp turn toward Castro-style rule, not all but some and many considering it.

If you want to know who the hero in Latin America is these days just look at the Che Guevara stuff for sale. No, we're not just talking about Greenwich Village, here, pictures, portraits and sculptures at this market. You'll see t-shirts, bandanas and medals all over the place.

By the way, today is the 40th anniversary of the death of the Cuban revolutionary leader.

Joining me now is somebody who probably knows as much about this, because he writes about it just about every day, Andres Oppenheimer, he's a syndicated columnist for the "Miami Herald" he's also author of "Saving the Americas: The Dangerous Decline of Latin America and what the U.S. Must Do." Great title.

I want to read you something, Andres. Good to see you, by the way.

ANDRES OPPENHEIMER, AUTHOR, "SAVING THE AMERICAS": Same thing, thank you for having me.

SANCHEZ: Here's what Chavez says and I want to you try and translate this to us into normalcy: "We're one of the countries that consumes the most whiskey per capita in the world," he writes, "We should be ashamed. I'm not continuing offering dollars to import whiskey in these quantities. What kind of revolution is this the whiskey revolution? The Hummer revelation? No," he says "this is the real revelation."

What in the hell is Chavez talking about?

OPPENHEIM: Rick, this has happened in Venezuela throughout history, this is a country that has had several oil booms and it's now in the middle of an oil boom and Chavez is awash in money. And what he's doing today with this announcement that he's going to tax whiskey and Hummers and luxury goods is all due to the fact that this guy is addicted to the headlines. Here's a president who can't stand a day out making a headline.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, but see, this is successful for him and for the Kirchners and for the others in Latin America who have been making hay at criticizing the United States while it seems -- and I think you're suggesting this in your book -- the United States is not paying enough attention to them, and others who live in the region.

OPPENHEIM: And it's worse than that, Rick, because we are not only paying attention to them -- and just as an example, I recently wrote that the president of Iran, Ahmadinejad, spent three more times in Latin America than President Bush over the past 12 months. He made three trips to the region, President Bush has made one, which is better than nothing, but still, just to give you an idea. But, it's linked to we petrol dollars.

And, the other thing I wanted to tell you, Rick, is that guess who's paying for that? Us. We are paying Chavez, the president of Venezuela, $34 billion a year, $34 billion a year in U.S. oil imports from Venezuela. So with that money he can do whatever he wants. SANCHEZ: It seems like there's a hypocrisy, but there's a hypocrisy here. We criticize the guy, we say he's the enemy and then we've got this unbelievably cozy relationship from a business standpoint with him, don't we?

OPPENHEIM: Definitely. Definitely. We are financing -- and I say in the book -- we are financing Hugo Chavez. So, anybody with that kind of money in the bank can do whatever he wants. So, he's touring Latin America, calling for anti-American moves and he can get away with it.

SANCHEZ: Andres Oppenheimer, unfortunately, we have run out of time. I read your column, I've read your books, you're fantastic, smart man. Hopefully we'll keep having you on. Thanks again.

OPPENHEIM: I really appreciate it, Rick, thank you.

SANCHEZ: All right.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Steps to maintain long-term solvency...


SANCHEZ: Look who finally showed up for a presidential debate. Was Fred Thompson Elvis-like, Reaganesque perhaps? This is OUT IN THE OPEN with John King.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back. Today was the big coming out party for the newest candidate for president, Fred Thompson. He joined eight other Republican presidential hopefuls on the stage and Dearborn, Michigan, for his very first presidential debate and candidate Thompson was the very first to speak in his very first presidential debate.

CNN's John King was there and he is joining us now to let us know -- well, how did Fred Thompson do in his first presidential debate?

JOHN KING, CNN NEWS CHIEF NATL CORRESPONDENT: As always Rick, it certainly depends on who you ask. The Thompson campaign says it is very satisfied. If you talk to other Republican strategists, not affiliated with any of the campaigns, they say it was a solid performance, not particularly flashy, but that he did what he needed to do and he certainly didn't make any big mistakes.

A bit tentative at the beginning. You mention he was at center stage, he was asked the first question and it was clear from the beginning that Senator Thompson wanted to make this point to Republican primary voters that he would keep taxes low, that he would try to keep government small and his assessment was, he said that he thought George W. Bush's economic policies has left the country in pretty good economic shape and he was pretty upbeat.


THOMPSON: We're enjoying low inflation. We're enjoying low unemployment. The stock market seems to be doing pretty well. I see no reason to believe we're headed for economic downturn.


KING: So an upbeat assessment of the national economy, Rick. I'll tell you, people here in Michigan were rather stunned by that answer. This state is losing jobs, bleeding jobs, and they thought he could have been more empathetic to this situation in this one particular state. But again, the Thompson campaign says the first one's over, they thought it went OK.

SANCHEZ: Hey John, let me ask you a question about something we've seen a trend in. We've been reporting here at OUT IN THE OPEN now for almost a straight week now, that there are cities all over the country that feel like the feds, the Congress, some of these candidates that you just saw on stage a little while ago, have all but abdicated a policy on immigration, so they're having to do it. They're going to have their cops go in and act as almost INS proxies or ICE proxies in this case. Did the candidates address that? Did they talk about immigration at all? Did they talk about a future policy they want to enact?

KING: It came up once or twice but really only in passing tonight, Rick, and I have tell you I'm stunned about that because it is such a big issue in the country. I've been listening to your discussion tonight, but also among Republican primary voters. You go state-by-state, even a state like Iowa where you wouldn't think illegal immigration would be a huge problem. It is a huge concern among Republican voters.

Senator McCain had a very different tone, tonight. Remember he was the candidate who pushed the "comprehensive program" that would allow those illegal immigrants to stay in the country and get on a path to citizenship. He said tonight that clearly the politicians have lost the trust in the people, border security first. So, a change in emphasis from him, but not a lot of discussion about immigration.

SANCHEZ: That seem amazing. John King, thanks for bringing us up to date on that as usual.

BY THE WAY, political analysts say that this is going to be the very first billion-dollar, billion dollar presidential campaign. Think about that for a moment. And while you do that, let me take a walk. I'm going to show you something. I want to break it down for you, because here's where the money is going.

Mrs. Clinton, $90 million in this case. Mr. Obama, $78 million, so far. John Edwards, $30 million. This is the money that's been raised so far given to them from donors. Mitt Romney, on the Republican, side with $62.4 million. Giuliani, $45.2 million, and John McCain with $30.5 million. No question about it, that is a lot of money. Is it your money? So what are you getting for that money? Join me now, Patrick Toomey, he's the president of the Club for Growth.

Is this a lot of money at this point for these campaigns? Because a lot of Americans would look at this and they get a little wide-eyed thinking: oh, my god, it takes an awful lot of money just to be elected, right?

PATRICK TOOMEY, CLUB FOR GROWTH: It's easy to get wide-eyed about a few hundred million-dollars, maybe a billion-dollars. Yeah, this is a lot of money by any historical measure. Back at the end of June we probably about passed the amount of money raised in the entire 2000 cycle and we haven't even had our first primary yet. I do think a billion dollars is probably within reach.

You know, but one of the questions is, is that a lot of money for this purpose? We've got a $13,000 billion economy. That amounts to, if it gets to a billion, about $3 per man, woman and child in America for deciding who's going to lead this country for the next four to eight years, is that unreasonable? You know Rick, it's expensive to buy a commercial on a popular show like yours...

SANCHEZ: But here's the problem. The problem is, and many Americans are starting to get it now, that what you're really get something not a real person. You're getting a media fabrication, partly as a result of all that money that's poured into it, because you need a focus group, you need media advisers, you need hair and makeup, you need coaches. I mean, it gets to be a little fake, doesn't it?

TOOMEY: And people have an amazing ability to see through that, I think. And they want authenticity and that can come across. I mean, I think some people can come across on TV with a lot more authenticity than others. If people are too coached and too fake and too rehearsed, they end up doing badly.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, but I keep reading that there are many people out there who are apparently the consultants who deal with these politicians who say, you know what, it really doesn't matter what he thinks or what he's like, because I can create his opinions and I can create his image, and you know that happens out there.

TOOMEY: I know people try it all the time, because I get involved in a lot of congressional races, so I see it. Very, very hard to pull that off. You know, people who believe that that works aren't giving the voters the credit they deserve. Voters see through that. A person has to actually stand for something and believe in something otherwise they're going to collapse.

SANCHEZ: I don't know. I'm a little disappointed in seeing some of the things that have happened out there. But let me ask you this, because I think this is important and I think a lot of viewers are watching us right now and thinking the same thing. How beholden are you to somebody who gives you that amount of money that I just showed them up there on that big wall? TOOMEY: Yeah, well, here's the thing, you know, the ironic thing in a way, when the numbers are that huge you're obviously beholden to any one individual really very little. You know, the maximum legal personal contribution is $2,300. If a leading candidate ends up raising $400 million or $500 million, a single $1,000 check or $2,000 check is really almost insignificant in the context of the whole thing.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, I think maybe in some cases, though, they come in, in blocks and they come in from industries and that's where you kind of got to follow the dollar.

TOOMEY: You have individuals who accumulate these funds and bundle those checks and so obviously, you know, as people do that on a large scale there's some influence in it.

SANCHEZ: There's the bundling. Hey Patrick Toomey, thanks, smart. I appreciate the information.

TOOMEY: Thanks for having me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hose was double looped around his neck. But you know, this is not going to make any sense to you. For the first time in my months, he really looked at peace.


SANCHEZ: Why was the suicide the only way that an Iraq veteran could find peace? Did his own country fail him? We are about to bring you this most important story, OUT IN THE OPEN.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back. This is an important story because for thousands of American combat veterans the war doesn't end when they return home. In fact, recent Pentagon studies shown that suicide rates for our troops is soaring. This is a fact that as Americans we all need to grapple with.

Listen to this story of a 23-year-old named Jeffrey Lucey. His family says that he was denied mental health care following his return from Iraq. Our reporter is CNN's Deborah Feyerick.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jeff Lucey's room is much the way he left it, uniform pressed, his ruksack packed, a picture of his Marine platoon on the wall.

DEBBIE LUCEY, SISTER OF JEFFREY LUCEY: Jeffrey didn't get the chance. He didn't get the chance.

FEYERICK: He left a note, "Dad, please don't look, just call the police. I love you, Jeff." KEVIN LUCEY, FATHER OF JEFFREY LUCEY: The hose was double looped around his neck, but you know, this is not going to make any sense to you. For the first time in months, he really looked at peace.

FEYERICK: Lance Corporal Jeff Lucey by what he saw and did in Iraq.

D LUCEY: Standing right here, actually where you are, and he looked at me, and as he took two dog tags off of his neck and tossed them at me and said: "Don't you understand, your brother is a murder?"

FEYERICK: He had been home less than a year, depressed, hallucinations and drinking heavily to numb the pain. Finally his family convinced him to get help. They had him involuntary committed at a V.A. hospital 40 minutes away.

K LUCEY: The day I brought Jeff over to the V.A. I really felt like I was putting him in the arms of the angels. I really did, because they're the experts. They've been dealing with PTSD and military PTSD for decades.

FEYERICK: But Jeff was not diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. He wasn't diagnosed at all.

(on camera): Jeffrey Lucey lasted all of four days. His family says he was sent home, told by the medical staff that they couldn't do an assessment until he was alcohol free. Well, Jeffrey Lucey began to freefall.

(voice-over): His sister, Debbie, tried to bring him back.

D LUCEY: I said, you know, if you don't help him, he's not going to be here at this time next month and that was on June 5, and on June 22 he died.

FEYERICK: Jeff killed himself in 2004. But a wrongful death lawsuit filed recently by the family says Jeff was turned away, without ever being evaluated by a psychiatrist. So, what went wrong?

Harvard's Linda Bilmes, who's done extensive research on the cost of veteran's care says the Veteran's Health Administration is overwhelmed.

LINDA BILMES, KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVT, HARVARD UNIV: There has been no planning for how much money the V.A. needs, how much capacity they need, how many mental health care practitioners they need. It's as if we expected to send out all of these young men and women to war and not to take care of them when they came home.

FEYERICK: The veteran's affairs office could not comment on the Lucey's case because of the lawsuit, but they say the V.A. has made changes.

ANTOINETTE ZEISS, VETERANS ADMIN: We've hired in the last two years over 3,400 new mental health professionals, and that includes things like placing a suicide prevention coordinator in every single facility in the country.

FEYERICK: Small consolation for the Luceys.

K LUCEY: If they did this to our son, how many others are they doing it to and have they done it to?

FEYERICK: Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Belchertown, Massachusetts.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back. Tomorrow's going to be a travel day for our crew here. So, let me tell you what you'll be able to see.

A CNN special, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, Soledad O'Brien goes inside the minds of the D.C. snipers and then Thursday I'm going to be in Irving, Texas, we're going to be traveling there for an hour-long special OUT IN THE OPEN. We'll look forward to seeing you from there. Larry King starts right now. I'm Rick Sanchez.