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Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, one of the GOP negotiatiors on the Senate immigration bill, defends the language on the fence.

Friday, May 18, 2007

HH: Joined now by Jon Kyl, Senator from Arizona, great, great Senator. Senator Kyl, good to have you. A lot of people are very upset. Are you hearing that?

JK: Yes, I am, Hugh. I expected that. I would appreciate if folks would wait until the bill’s completely written, and take a look at it, read it, and then at least be accurate in understanding what it is. But I understand that emotions are very high, yes.

HH: Before we get to the specifics, why do we have to rush this bill through the Senate in a week?

JK: Well, we don’t have to rush the bill through the Senate in a week. The Senate schedule had allowed two weeks for immigration before the Memorial Day recess. It has taken a long time for the people who have been negotiating on the bill to get it to the point where it could be brought to the floor next week. If it’s not done by the end of next week, then hopefully, the Majority Leader would allow it to carry over beyond the Memorial Day recess so we could complete it.

HH: Is it fair to…

JK: And by the way, after that, we have to begin the process of doing the appropriation bills, which are the bills that run the U.S. government, and security supplemental. So we need to get those things done as well.

HH: This is a hugely important bill, as you know, Senator Kyl. I know you’ve been working on it. How…is it fair to the American people to ask them to absorb a very lengthy, complicated bill in time to react to it and tell their Senators and their Representatives what they think about it on such a short schedule?

JK: Well, this is a very short schedule for this week, but as I say, it may not be completed by the end of this week. We then have a week of Memorial Day recess. And in any event, this is going to be a many months process with the House of Representatives taking up a bill, with the two Houses having to reconcile the differences between their bill. Nobody expects any bill to be sent to the President, if one is sent to him, until at least the fall. So there will be many months, weeks and months to be debating this back and forth, and it should be debated.

HH: I do want to get to the fence, but one more time on that, though. Once it leaves the Senate, the train will have left, and from my perspective, giving us a week to…I won’t even be able to read it until Monday. I don’t know how that comports with the ability for me to talk to my Senators, even though they won’t listen to me in California.

JK: Well, talk to me, and I’ll take all of your objections on board, and you’ll have it by the weekend, but at the very latest, Monday. But in any event, we will have all week next week, and if we’re not done with it, then there’ll be another week of Memorial Day recess, where we all go home and talk to our constituents, and then it would be taken up again after that, and completed whenever it’s completed.

HH: My number one objection is that the 854 miles mandated last year are not mandated to be constructed before regularization begins. Why not?

JK: What the bill says is that several triggering milestones must occur before any process for legalizing people who are here illegally can begin. These are interim steps. They are the completion of at least 371 miles of the 700 miles of fencing authorized. We have about 80 miles already built, the hiring of 18,000 border patrol agents, now that’s not the end. We have to hire more border patrol agents than that. 26,500 detention spaces. We actually already have that many. A couple of hundred miles of vehicle barriers, several, like seventy different radar units, four unmanned vehicles, and so on and so on and so on. In other words, there are a whole list of things that have to be done in our progress towards securing the border before anything else in the bill can even start.

HH: First question, why not all 854, or 700…Duncan Hunter said it’s 854. Why not all of them as a trigger that must be completed and certified?

JK: I think it’s just a matter of what is efficacious within a period of about 12 to 14 months or so. You could probably build it faster than that, but I think the thinking is that much can be built within this time frame without disrupting everything on the border, and paying twice the rate that you’d have to pay for it otherwise.

HH: Why not make everything wait then two years, or two and a half years to get the fence built first? It’s our only leverage, Senator.

JK: Well, that’s part of the leverage. Another part of the leverage is getting a workplace enforcement system in place. That also has to occur before we can proceed. You can make that call, Hugh. That might be a good suggestion. We do need to immediately begin processing people, so it doesn’t matter a whole lot what the time period is between the time that they have to be processed, and when they would get their first actual temporary visa here in the United States. They’re on probation during that period of time in any event.

HH: Senator, I know you’re running, I’m running, I look forward to many conversations next week, but I sure hope the first amendment is 854 miles or nothing (laughing). And so…

JK: All right.

HH: Thank you, Senator Kyl. We’ll continue…I know the blowback is harsh. I appreciate your willingness to come on for a short segment at least. We’ll continue the conversation. Jon Kyl, great American. But on this one, we’re going to do some boxing, I think.

End of interview.

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