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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Out of the Shadows; Inside the Crowds; Dobbs on Immigration; Immigration Politics; Young, Illegal and Alone; Added Costs; Not so Golden Venture; Minutemen Patrol; Unseen America
Aired May 1, 2006 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is time that 11 to 12 million people, who work so hard each and every day, that contribute with their sweat and their equity and their hard work to this great nation, are saying, we are ready to embrace the American dream. We are ready to embrace America, and we hope that today America is ready to embrace immigrants.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): It was billed as a national day without immigrants. A chance for America to see what would happen if immigrants didn't work, didn't send their children to school, or spend money in stores. Instead, they took to the streets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's important that we do a boycott today to show that we are important.
COOPER: In California, home to the country's largest illegal immigrant population, there were demonstrations up and down the state. Centered by a massive American flag, an estimated half a million demonstrators moved through the streets of Los Angeles to city hall.
In Chicago, more than 300,000 marched to a rally in Grant Park and schools in some parts of the city reported their attendance was down between 10 percent and 33 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are at a crossroads.
COOPER: In New York, protesters formed a series of human chains in the city's five boroughs, then marched down Broadway to the federal courthouse.
The picture was much the same in cities all across the country from Washington, D.C., to Homestead, Florida, to Las Vegas, Atlanta, to San Diego, along the Mexican border, even embattled New Orleans saw some protests.
Some companies and small businesses shut down for the day. Tyson Chicken closed 12 of its 100 processing plants. Purdue closed eight of its 15 plants, all in anticipation of a shortage of workers.
But not all immigrants agree with today's action. The group, You Don't Speak for Me, spoke out against the protests and the reasons behind them. COL. ALBERTO F. RODRIGUEZ, U.S. ARMY (RET.): We understand the importance, contribution immigrants have made to the economy and the industry of this great nation. But the difference is that we and millions of others like us did it legally. We're all here today to tell those illegal protesters, you do not speak for me.
COOPER: The protests proceeded peacefully all across the nation, but the issues behind them remain far from a resolution.
COOPER: Well, that is a bird's-eye view. It is, of course, a very different view at the ground. That's a live shot. We're near our location right here at Wilshire and La Breya (ph).
A large number of people started to kind of disperse, but there are many people here -- thousands of people, still standing around playing music, chanting, making their voices heard.
(On camera): It's a very different picture when you're at the ground level inside the demonstrations, really up close and personal. I took my camera in the midst of the crowd earlier today from my reporter's notebook. Take a look.
COOPER (voice-over): Today's demonstration in downtown Los Angeles at times seemed more like a giant block party than an act of political protest. There was plenty of food and music. And thousands of flags -- Mexican and Salvadoran, but most of all, American.
(On camera): There are several hundred people carrying an enormous American flag which is probably very visible from above. There was a real sense after the first major demonstration that there were too many Mexican flags shown and not enough American flags.
Organizers this time have made a real effort to have as many American flags visible as possible, and they're all over the place.
(Voice-over): The crowds came for different reasons, supporting a patchwork of causes. Most, however, called for some form of amnesty for illegals and immigration reform.
ALBERTO, DEMONSTRATOR: 67 percent, or somewhere in the 60 percent of the United States wants that. The president wants that. We all want that. That's all we want, comprehensive immigration reform.
COOPER (on camera): As contentious and divisive as this issue is, when you're actually in the demonstration, I mean, it's actually got a real festive atmosphere. People have brought their entire families, young and old, little children in strollers. It's, in some ways, a celebration, a celebration of what some people here will tell you is a newfound power.
A lot of people in the crowd are chanting, we can do it! We can do it! I think many of the people here feel that really for the first time their voices are being heard.
DORIAN WOOD, DEMONSTRATOR: We can do it. We are doing it. You know, people are coming together, and this is only the beginning. I mean, this is a debt. You know, to bring people together, you know, everybody just coming together and doing something. That's the way this country was founded. We're here to celebrate that. We're here to celebrate why it is that America is America. You know? You know?
COOPER (voice-over): Dorian took the day off from his job as an administrative assistant.
WOOD: You know, I might get in trouble -- I probably will get in trouble, but you know what? I wouldn't want to be anywhere else today, you know. God bless America!
COOPER: God bless America. And that was something we heard a lot today. As immigrants, legal and illegal, and their supporters stepped out of the shadows and into the fray, making sure their voices were heard.
(On camera): Well, there are any number of reactions to the day. Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico and a Latino himself, said he understood the frustration that there is out there with the current immigration policy, but he said walking off the job sends a bad message.
As you heard a moment ago in Washington, a coalition of Latino groups held a news conference today to underscore that the demonstrators today don't speak for all Latino immigrants. We'll get to the politics of it all in a moment.
First, some reaction from CNN's Lou Dobbs.
COOPER (on camera): Lou, what do you make of today's demonstration?
LOU DOBBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's terrific. I think it's riveting the nation's attention on the issue of illegal immigration, on the issue of border security, and it's going to -- I think it's going to be a net positive for the public interest.
COOPER: How so?
DOBBS: Well, I think that it's making clear what the demands are of millions of illegal aliens and their supporters. And I think, as has happened throughout history, as you well know, Anderson, when we see people take to the streets and to demonstrate, which is a wonderful right, even for those who are not citizens of this country, it enriches, it enlivens the national debate. It focuses attention, and it raises the public consciousness about the need for truth. And the search for facts has now officially begun.
COOPER: Also, I think a lot of people, it seems, have had a belly full in the last couple days, hearing Mexico possibly legalizing, carrying small amounts of drugs and also the issue of the national anthem sung in Spanish.
COOPER: Do you think people in this demonstration realize the extent of anger out there that there is about that?
DOBBS: I don't think so. I think that they are sincerely interested in finding a legal path to citizenship. And I don't think that they're aware even of who's supporting, and in some cases, directing these demonstrations and these boycotts.
But at the same time, we have the legislature, the government of Mexico endorsing boycotts and demonstrations. And at the very same time, legalizing heroin, cocaine in small amounts. It's just -- it's a cultural divide that I'm not certain can be bridged quickly or glibly by the movement's leaders.
We're importing Mexico's poverty. And we are a safety valve in this country for Mexico's increasing social pressure. But unfortunately, instead of these people demonstrating in the streets of Mexico City or throughout Mexico for a reform of what has been a corrupt and incompetent government, a nation beset by 50 percent poverty, we're watching it happen in the streets of America. And that's more than a shame. It's tragic.
COOPER: When you see the pictures of the first demonstration, there were a lot of Mexican flags; this demonstration, far more American flags. Do you think that's a real representation of what's behind this, or do you think it's public relations?
DOBBS: I think my guess is just about equal measure. But I'll take the public relations even because this is the United States. And frankly, it nauseates me to see any flag other than the American flag when involved in a protest or a demonstration.
As you know, Anderson, I'm not a guy who's too keen on Americans celebrating their differences. I'd much prefer we celebrate our commonalities, our similarities and our bond as American citizens in this country. I don't think we do enough of it. And I think we do far too much of the other.
COOPER: Lou Dobbs, thanks.
DOBBS: Great to be with you, Anderson.
COOPER: Well, as always, you can see much more on the immigration story every night on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," Monday through Friday, 6:00 p.m., Eastern time.
We got -- there's a lot to talk about on the immigration reform. There's no disputing there's a big difference in the amount of cash that can be made in the U.S. versus Mexico.
Here's the raw data. In the U.S., the federal minimum wage is $5.15 per hour. In Mexico, half of the population lives on less than $5 a day.
Taking a hard look at the politics behind the protests, how a day of boycotts may have backfired for those hoping for support on Capitol Hill. We'll have a reaction from Washington.
Also tonight, border kids. The brutal life of the lost children and the horror that awaits them when they don't make it into America.
We'll also have this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MYELLA, UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT: I have friends who have graduated already, who are undocumented and are working as waitresses or they're working in jobs that pay them cash or below the radar jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Stepping out of the shadows, an illegal immigrant who is also a college student with dreams of helping America and the future. Hear her plea to stay in this country, next on 360.
Illegal immigrants in the U.S. workforce: 1 in 20.
COOPER: Well, as protesters took to the streets, politicians in Washington were debating their fate. The House already voted on a sweeping overhaul of the immigration laws. The president wants the Senate to do the same by Memorial Day. And while lawmakers disagree on the issues involved, many believe today's boycotts were a mistake, actually.
CNN Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash explains.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just a few miles from the capitol, this car wash is always humming, powered seven days a week by more than 20 immigrant workers.
(On camera): A boycott here would have shut the place down, but Supervisor Javier Molena says they thought that was the wrong way to support immigration legalization, so they showed up.
JAVIER MOLENA, CAR WASH SUPERVISOR: I think that the best way for us to show them is like what you see right now. Everybody's working.
BASH (voice-over): Not all immigrants agree. In D.C.'s Hispanic areas, many store owners closed in support. JULIO PINTO, GROCERY STORE OWNER: A lot of people come here to work. So I don't believe they should be treated as criminals. That's why we closed.
BASH: It was hard to find a lawmaker who felt that a boycott could help the immigrants' cause. At a demonstration three weeks ago, Senator Ed Kennedy took center stage.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: And I stand with you and you and you.
BASH: But the Massachusetts Democrat never backed today's boycott, and only issued a written statement saying, "... instead of boycotting on Monday, people should go to work or school and then join together to keep up the drumbeat and help us enact real reform."
Senate negotiators say they're making progress toward breaking the deadlock on immigration legislation and worry about a backlash.
SEN. MEL MARTINEZ (R), FLORIDA: We have a little bit of momentum going in the Congress. The thing we don't need is for there to be anything that sets us back. I'm very concerned that the tenor of the demonstrations is not being very well received.
BASH: Republican supporters like Senator Mel Martinez are most concerned the boycott will put off some GOP colleagues he's trying hard to convince. Yet in the House, most Republicans already have hardened positions on immigration, especially conservatives worried about the intense election-year pressure from their base.
REP. JIM KOLBE (R), ARIZONA: So many of them have back home taken a position that it's not only, no, but heck no. We won't do anything that isn't border security.
BASH: Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe, a House supporter of a guest worker program, says he hopes these boycotts will make the other side of the GOP divide, the business community, get more involved.
KOLBE: If there is a positive outcome to it, it's probably going to be that, but it's going to be employers that are going to be saying we need to resolve this issue.
BASH: Resolve the issue because just as at the D.C. car wash, without immigrant labor, many American businesses would be hard pressed to survive.
COOPER: CNN's Dana Bash joins me now from Washington along with Chief National Correspondent John King and Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider, part of the best political team in the business.
Bill, let's start with you. Where does the public stand on the immigration issues up for debate right now? And could today's demonstrations sway public opinion in either direction? BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANYALYST: Well, first of all, where do they stand? They want strong border security. They want to keep more illegal immigrants from coming in. And they favor measures to do that, including by two to one, they say we should deport illegal immigrants who have been in this country less than two years.
But at the same time, they do not favor a harsh punitive policy towards those who have been here for five years or more. They believe those people, if they have a job, learn English, pay a fine, pay their back taxes, that they should be allowed to earn citizenship in the United States as long as they're peaceable and hard working.
So the ones who are here, yes, they should be able to get in line for citizenship, but they want the borders shut down, and that's their top priority.
COOPER: Dana, your report on how today's protests could actually cause a backlash when it comes to immigration legislation, how so? Because I mean the people who support it say, look, this is showing the power of immigrants, illegal or not, in this country.
BASH: Really, Anderson, because in raw political terms, practical terms here in Washington right now, immigration is all about votes and where the votes are. And the reality is, there isn't a lot of middle ground. There aren't a lot of undecideds when it comes to lawmakers and immigration. Those who are, are mostly Republicans. And they're trying to figure out where they stand on the Republican divide.
From President Bush to Ted Kennedy, Anderson, there was a feeling that these boycotts, people not going to work, not sending their children to school, will simply give the appearance of being anti- American, and that could further inflame conservatives who would be calling Republican lawmakers who are, again, undecided, and that would pretty much tip the balance into what already is a very delicate negotiating situation right now, and perhaps just end this altogether at a point where they think that they are pretty close in Congress.
COOPER: Well, John, Dana is saying there's not much middle ground. It seems, though, the president is trying to maintain a middle ground in the immigration debate, supporting a guest worker program, opposing the boycott today, and saying the National Anthem should be sung in English. It's a fine line for him to walk.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a very fine line, Anderson. Often in politics you say the best place to be is in the middle. Most Republicans think in this debate, though, it's too delicate, too precarious a position for the president.
The Democrats increasingly think this is a good year for them. And one of the things they point to -- Democrats say in their polling, 40 percent of Republicans think the country is now on the wrong track. You have a Republican president, Republicans control both chambers of Congress. If Republicans are dispirited this November, that helps the Democrats. And so the president on the one hand is angering conservatives by supporting the guest worker program, trying to appeal to conservatives by opposing the Spanish National Anthem. You can't please everybody in this debate. And what Republicans are worried about is such a mixed message could convince their voters -- at least enough of them in key districts or key states in Senate races, to just stay home.
COOPER: So Bill, where does the public stand on the guest worker program?
SCHNEIDER: Well, this is a big surprise because you would expect the moderate position to get the most support. But when people are asked about guest workers, they're actually split. They're not very wild about the idea of allowing a large influx of temporary workers into the United States who are expected, after six years or so, to go home. Americans have a lot of common sense about this. They understand these people are not going to go home. They're going to melt into the illegal immigrant population and they're going to add to the problem. So that moderate solution that President Bush proposes is not very widely supported.
COOPER: John, it seemed clearly there were less Mexican flags, a lot more American flags today compared with protests back in March and April, clearly by design.
KING: Clearly by design. In focus groups, those early rallies showing all those Mexican flags, some El Salvadoran, other South American flags, alienated even people who supported the marchers. And we know that political consultants, pollsters who support the marchers, who support more liberal, if you will, immigration policies, sent out to all of the activist groups, do not do that. Hand out American flags. Try to minimize the Mexican flag because it alienates people. As Dana was just saying, creates an anti-American sentiment and it makes it appear that the rallies are anti-American.
So, even -- again, even supporters, people who support these tens of thousands in the streets, said, if you're going to wave a flag, make it an American flag. That is how you will make friends.
COOPER: John King, Bill Schneider, Dana Bash, thanks. Fascinating.
In the fierce battle over the border, they are young, scared and often alone. Children, some barely toddlers, sent across the border by parents desperate to give them a better life. Ahead their dangerous journey and all that can and does go wrong.
Plus, the strains of illegal immigration hitting where it hits the most -- in New Orleans.
ANNOUNCER: Tomorrow on ANDERSON COOPER 360, a special "24 Hours on the Border." For thousands, it's the only route to the U.S., but many who travel it are robbed, raped or killed. We're on board what they call the "Train of Death."
Plus, many cross the border only to die in the desert. But who are they? Forensic mysteries for Americans to crack.
And illegals who survive the trip only to be sent back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you feel like you blew it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: An extraordinary journey. What really happens to those who are caught? Tomorrow, thousands of miles on the edge of America. A special edition of 360. We count down "24 Hours on the Border."
Illegal immigrant breakdown: Male 49 percent, female 35 percent, children 16 percent.
COOPER: And welcome back. We are live here, the site of the demonstrations today. As you can see, the police on bicycles. That's what those flashing lights are, clearing people away. Most of the people here have sort of dispersed. There are a few people still hanging on.
Every day along the U.S.-Mexican border, thousands of people attempt to cross over illegal. Among them, children. Some of them as young as toddlers, kids who make the dangerous journey in the care of smugglers, sometimes even alone. For many their journey ends where it began. Others are not as lucky.
CNN's Thelma Gutierrez investigates.
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Daybreak on the border. And U.S. and Mexican agents prepare for another onslaught of deportees, led through this international gate back into Mexico.
The faces we see are not just men, women or even teenagers. We're talking about small children. Kids whose parents paid smugglers to sneak them into the United States in the trunks of vehicles, under floorboards, seats, even hidden in the dashboards and glove compartments.
ASTRID SANCHEZ, 15 YEAR OLD IMMIGRANT (through translator): I hid under blankets in the compartment of a bus.
GUTIERREZ: Just 15, Astrid made the harrowing trip from El Salvador to Tijuana all alone. SANCHEZ (through translator): Sometimes it was hard to breathe, and sometimes we only had water.
GUTIERREZ: Astrid was trying to reach Boston, where her mother works in a factory. She left Astrid when she was only a baby so she could send money to help support her. But like thousands of other children who have dreams of being reunited with their parents, Astrid was caught at the border
SANCHEZ (through translator): I never understood why my mother went to the United States. I always felt sad for not having grown up with a mother.
GUTIERREZ: Enrique Mendez who runs this makeshift children's shelter just inside the Mexican border, sees children like Astrid arriving every day, all day long.
(On camera): This mobile home here in Tijuana is right on the border of two countries, and it's meant to be a safe house for the kids who are deported from the United States. If you come here, into this room, you can you see that there are bunk beds.
(Voice-over): The day has just started. Already parents and relatives show up looking for lost children. Children who disappeared with their boyellos (ph), or smugglers.
This mother tells Enrique, she's worried sick. She says her son is only 3. He was supposed to be delivered to her brother in Los Angeles, but he never made it. Enrique says the mother's best hope is that the smuggler was caught by Border Patrol and her son is in custody. If not, there's no telling what has become of him.
ENRIQUE MENDEZ, DIRECTOR OF CHILDREN'S SHELTER (through translator): Distraught families come here and say a smuggler approached us and said, I'll take your child across or I know someone who can. The family knows nothing about the smuggler and they never hear from the child again. So those kids were most likely trafficked for other reasons.
GUTIERREZ: U.S. and Mexican officials say smuggled children who disappear often end up in the hands of sex traffickers. No one knows just how many.
(On camera): I asked Lodi Verta Cruz (ph) if she was afraid to send her son with a stranger all alone. She tells me desperation drove her to make a bad decision. She's a single mother from Oaxaca, deep inside Mexico. She was looking for domestic work in Tijuana, but no one would hire her with a small child. That's why she took the risk.
(Voice-over): Enrique calls the Mexican consulate in San Diego. Lodi Verta's (ph) 3-year-old son, Yahir (ph), is safe, and on the next bus back to the border. An incredibly rare and lucky find. Most parents don't find their children here.
It's noon. The bus arrives. Seventeen deported children make their way back into Mexico. The smallest among them, 3-year-old Yahir (ph), who is scared, lost and unable to verbalize what he's been through. Yahir (ph) and the younger children wait here. Enrique and a social worker try to sort out who they are so that family can be located. Lodi Verta (ph) returns to claim her son.
Back on the U.S. side of the border, Enrique's counterparts locate Astrid's mother, whom she hasn't seen in 14 years.
These mothers say they took the most dangerous gamble to better the lives of their children, but nearly paid the most painful price.
Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Tijuana, Mexico.
COOPER: It is so sad.
The impact of illegals sometimes for better, sometimes for worse is often felt simultaneously. Take New Orleans -- today more than 1,000 people, mostly Latino, gathered in Congo Square and marched toward Lafayette Square.
Many construction businesses were closed for business because their workers were no-shows. No question illegals seem to be helping with rebuilding the city, but they're not getting health coverage, and that is taking a toll on the city's hospitals.
With that, here's CNN's Sean Callebs.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Luis is living and working illegally in New Orleans. But he can make $150 a day here as opposed to $8 a day at home in Honduras. So it's worth the risk in more than one way.
Roofing, gutting homes, and putting up sheetrock can be dangerous. Luis told me a friend of his was putting in a screw with a power drill and accidentally drilled a screw through his finger.
Hospitals, such as East Jefferson, have seen a tremendous spike in the number of illegal immigrants needing treatments. It's estimated there are as many as 20,000 illegals here, people who don't have insurance and can require extensive and costly treatments.
Dr. Harold Stokes is a hand surgeon.
DR. HAROLD STOKES, HAND SURGEON: Finger amputations, severe lacerations of the hand.
CALLEBS: It's putting an additional financial burden on post- Katrina, New Orleans' healthcare.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So many of the immigrant workers are coming in, bringing their families, and their wives are coming and are pregnant. And many of those are not receiving any prenatal care. So they're coming here, presenting to the emergency department in labor.
CALELBS: And basically, the hospital has to eat the cost. E.R. Physician Dr. John Wales says the hospital can get some money back from the federal government if the patient admits he's in the country illegally.
DR. JOHN WALES, EMERGENCY ROOM DOCTOR: To me, that's kind of similar to going to the Department of Motor Vehicles and asking where you can register a stolen vehicle.
CALLEBS: There are tragic cases, hospital officials say, such as one illegal worker who fell off a roof.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had serious brain damage and required life support, intubation, and is now in basically a vegetative state.
CALLEBS: East Jefferson must keep him alive and pay the bill.
While today was a day to walk out, Luis and his coworkers were out sweating, trying to improve their lives and help rebuild the city, but oblivious to the strains the influx of illegals has created here.
Sean Callebs, CNN, New Orleans.
COOPER: Well there are so many different angles to this story. Along the Mexican border, U.S. citizens are taking matters into their own hands, trying to keep illegals out.
The Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, they say they are stepping up because the federal government simply won't. This weekend they started to build their own fence. We were there with them. We'll show you how they did it.
Plus, their ship ran aground off New York City in 1993. We'll tell what you happened to 300 illegal immigrants from China. Their odyssey and their very mixed fates when 360 continues.
Illegal immigrants caught annually: 1,241,089.
COOPER: Illegal immigration from Mexico dominates the headlines. But perhaps the single most dramatic episode of recent years involves illegals from China.
Thirteen years ago, you may remember a ship named the Golden Venture brought 286 Chinese illegals to within sight of the Statue of Liberty, then it ran aground. If you thought the voyagers were welcomed as modern day pilgrims, you'd be wrong.
Documentary Filmmaker Peter Cohn has found the story irresistible. So has CNN's Randi Kaye.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): June 6, 1993, just before dawn. The Golden Venture ship runs aground off the coast of New York City. For the nearly 300 Chinese immigrants on board, it is the end of a 17,000-mile journey. Michael Chen was on board.
MICHAEL CHEN, ARRIVED ON GOLDEN VENTURE: All I saw is the people jumping in the water and yelling and calling to help.
KAYE: Ten immigrants drowned that night. Six others escaped. Those left behind were about to embark on a journey of a different kind.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This group is being detained to provide an example of what American law enforcement can do when provided this kind of opportunity.
KAYE: Before he even had a chance, Chen and hundreds of others were arrested, then jailed for years in Pennsylvania.
(On camera): Do you get the feeling the government and Immigration tried to make an example of these guys?
PETER COHN, FILMMAKER, "GOLDEN VENTURE": It was after the first bombing of the World Trade Center, and there was a belief that our borders are not secure, and that we're letting terrorists in and then giving them political asylum. So the Golden Venture people had the bad luck to arrive at exactly the wrong moment, and they were the sacrificial lambs.
KAYE (voice-over): Tired of waiting behind bars, more than 100 Chinese chose to be deported, only to end up back in prison in China.
Filmmaker Peter Cohn alleges they were abused in the Chinese prisons.
COHN: They were beaten every day in prison. And in the case of one individual in my film, he was forcibly sterilized.
KAYE: Michael Chen stayed in a U.S. prison until 1997, four years after the Golden Venture had arrived, when President Bill Clinton granted the remaining jailed passengers parole.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We must say thank you to Mr. President Clinton. He helped us a lot.
KAYE: But parole in the web that's immigration doesn't mean freedom. Michael Chen was released from jail, but not granted asylum or citizenship. He is technically still an illegal immigrant with a signed deportation order against him. So he lives every day in an immigration limbo, somewhere between legal and illegal, always looking over his shoulder wondering if he'll be deported.
CHEN: You don't know what will happen to you. KAYE: Still, Chen has built a life for himself. He's married with two children. He won't discuss his wife's legal status. Chen owns this restaurant in Ohio, where he employs American citizens, but it's still a struggle.
CHEN: I didn't realize how difficult to be in a country illegally.
KAYE: Because he's in limbo, Chen has no life insurance, no health insurance. When his children were born here he paid the bills in cash. And when he opened his restaurant, he couldn't even apply for a small business loan. Travel out of the country is out of the question. So he hasn't seen his parents in 13 years. Chen can't get a Social Security number, but he does have a Tax I.D. number, so he pays taxes to the United States government.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, how are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How's everyone doing? Nice to see you.
KAYE: In his free time, Chen lobbies the president and Congress to grant those from the Golden Venture permanent legal status.
CHEN: If I'd been deported, what would happen to my wife and two kids? And I'd ask the president, please, help us to get the legal status.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay. Thank you so much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks. Have a good day.
KAYE: And while Michael Chen tries to stay afloat in America, the Golden Venture ship which brought him here, now lies deep beneath the ocean surface off the coast of Florida, where it was moved to become a popular, very American scuba diving spot.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Well, just ahead, the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps. They say they're stepping up because the federal government won't -- stepping up and building a fence of their own on the border.
Also, the illegal immigrants who stepped out of the shadows today. Many will return to jobs and lives rarely seen by the rest of us. Coming up, a window into their worlds. Photographs taken by immigrants to document their own lives. We'll have that when 360 continues.
COOPER: And that, of course, was the scene earlier today, a sea of protests. Many people wearing white t-shirts and really shows up from a distance just how many people, some 300,000. That's the scene right now, live, where we are here near Wilshire and La Breya (ph). Most of the protestors have gone. A few dozen, perhaps, remain around this area.
You know, no matter where they march, everyone who protested today has a story to tell, including one young woman in Chicago who is fighting to stay in America. We think you should meet her.
CNN's Jonathan Freed has more.
JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Myella (ph) is like many 23-year-olds in Chicago. Working on a college degree, she dreams of becoming a teacher.
But Myella has to live below the immigration radar. Born in Mexico, she and her family came to this country illegally when she was 9. And despite the promise of life in America, she says her life, as for many illegal immigrants, has been more of an emotional roller coaster.
MYELLA, UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT: I went through my phase of just hating everything, including my parents, blaming them for not having any consideration of us and how our life was going to turn out to be.
FREED: Myella joined the National Day of Protest, and has decided to go public with her story because she doesn't want to hide anymore. She's fighting to make a future for herself after working her way through college. She graduates next year.
(On camera): Is it frustrating for you to have invested this much time in your education and to not be sure whether you're really going to be able to leverage it into a career?
MYELLA: It's frustrating because I don't think it's fair.
FREED (voice-over): Myella wants to teach history, the history of Latinos in America. But...
MYELLA: I have friends who have graduated already who are undocumented, and are working as waitresses or they're working in jobs that pay them cash or below the radar jobs.
FREED (on camera): There are those who will say, look, we're a country of laws, and one of the laws is, you get in line, you wait your turn. So what do you say to people who will look at your case and feel compassion for you, but who will still say, it's too bad, you should have waited your turn?
MYELLA: I would say, yes, you're a country of laws. But that country that you're talking about, and those laws that you're talking about, are so outdated.
FREED (voice-over): Outdated because Myella says, U.S. immigration policy offers no path for illegals who can contribute more to American society if they can become legal.
MYELLA: I made a decision to myself to just keep fighting and keep being in this struggle until the United States tells me, enough, and they send me home.
FREED: Myella says it would be unfortunate if the United States loses the educational investment it has made in her to Mexico.
Jonathan Freed, CNN, Chicago.
COOPER: Well, the people we saw tonight have lives to go back to. Coming up, a look at those lives. A chance to see immigrants as they see themselves when this special edition of 360, "Out of the Shadows," continues.
COOPER: Well, the U.S.-Mexico border spans nearly 2,000 miles, but some sections of it, large sections of it, lack a fence. They lack, really, even a wire.
For a group called the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, border security became an issue after September 11th, when a founding member reportedly watched drug smugglers brazenly cross the Arizona border unimpeded. Ever since, protecting the border has been their mission. This week, as we caught up with them, they were unveiling a whole new tactic.
TIM DONNELLY (ph), MINUTEMEN VOLUNTEER: Who's coming to a neighborhood near you?
COOPER (voice-over): Saturday morning in a southern California trailer park, Tim Donnelly (ph) addresses a group of Minutemen volunteers.
DONNELLY (ph) It's a great day to be a vigilante.
COOPER: Vigilantes is what their critics and President Bush have called them, but the Minutemen say they are merely being vigilant, patrolling the border, alerting authorities when they spot illegal immigrants crossing over.
DONNELLY (ph): The vigilante word for us is now a badge of honor. Because we know we're not vigilantes. We don't operate outside the law. But we are filling a gap.
COOPER: Today, however, the Minutemen are stepping up their actions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Patriot 10, this is Patriot Two, do you copy?
COOPER: For the first time, they plan to build a fence along the border. It's a new front in their battle against illegal immigration. About 100 volunteers have shown up, and they're driving to an undisclosed location along the U.S.-Mexican border. They don't know how authorities will react when they start to build the fence. (On camera): This part of the border where the Minutemen are working today, there is a fence, probably about 12 feet high. But the problem is, it just stops where these rocks are. Then the border is just completely open.
(Voice-over): When you see this, what do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why? Why does it stop? It wouldn't be that hard to build it across the rock.
COOPER: Armed with fence posts and barbed wire, the volunteers quickly begin construction. A Border Patrol helicopter flies overhead, but authorities make no attempt to stop the fence building.
DONNELY (ph): Well, yes, it's symbolic in a way because we want the government to see us actually building the fence. But take a look right there. It's wide open. So if there's a fence there when we leave here, then we will have left the border more secure than we found it.
COOPER: While volunteers build the fence, others prepare food.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's more American than hot dogs?
COOPER: Hot dogs and apple pie. The atmosphere is festive and patriotic. There are American flags on napkins and banners, in flower pots, even on dogs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to get our country back.
COOPER: In what way?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Illegals are illegal. At least it was when I went to school.
COOPER: For many of those here, it's their first time volunteering with the Minutemen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel very passionate about the issue itself, but also, it's one of the few issues I can effect because I can't do anything about the deficit, or I can't do anything about the war in Iraq.
COOPER: You don't seem like a vigilante.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope not. I'm not. I don't think any of us do. And there's a lot of women in this organization.
COOPER: Chelsea Scavenger (ph) picks up trash left behind by illegal immigrants. She finds water bottles and booties.
CHELSEA SCAVENGER (ph), MINUTEMEN VOLUNTEER: These are booties. People who cross over put these on their feet. See, this is very nicely made. They've got the tie thing so it doesn't fall off their feet, and they leave no tracks.
COOPER (on camera): Why are they wearing booties? Why not shoes?
SCAVENGER (ph): Because then they can get their footprints more easily and Border Patrol can find them.
COOPER: So if they're wearing booties, they don't leave footprints?
SCAVENGER (ph): Correct.
DONNELLY (ph): I'm looking around, and I see a whole lot of Americans that are willing to do the job that the American government and even the illegal aliens don't want to do.
COOPER (voice-over): By the end of the day, the Minutemen have finished a makeshift fence some 150 yards long. For Tim Donnelly (ph), it's both a symbol and a start.
What do you think you accomplished today?
DONNELLY (ph): As I look down this line, I am overwhelmed with just a sense that this is an idea whose time has come. And I think we have probably -- the most significant thing we will have accomplished today is we're sending a picture to the Senate. You know? We're going to e-mail them a message that just says, here's what Americans want. Americans of all backgrounds, Americans, some of whom are legal immigrants, young and old alike, they're just Americans out here expressing themselves without using words. They're using posthole diggers, they're stringing barbed wire and they're saying, we want our border to be secured.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, there it is. Thank God.
COOPER (on camera): Well, Minutemen will tell you, if the federal government isn't willing to continue building a fence, they will continue to build a fence.
The immigrants we saw on the streets today, many of them illegal, shaped our lives in countless ways. Yet often the details of their lives remain hidden to most of us. A new book, "Unseen America," aims to correct that. The nonprofit group Bread and Roses is behind the project. It put cameras in the hands of working people, mostly immigrants, and asked them to document their stories.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We gave cameras to those people who do the work which makes our lives what it is. People who make our clothes, who take care of our children, who open doors and clean buildings. The people who really form the back bone of the American society.
They come from everywhere. And because they arrive in this country not knowing the language, not having money, not having connections, they begin by doing any job that they can.
There's a home health aide who took a picture of a horse and buggy in Central Park, and she said, "Sometimes I feel like the horse."
We thought that the language for the project should not be a verbal one, but a visual one because we all see no matter what culture we come from. We all see. The camera is kind of a universal language.
There's another really wonderful picture that a hospital worker took. Her friends told her that you're supposed to photograph your child's first haircut. And she said that she worked two jobs when her son was young. And she never had the money for a camera. We gave her a camera. And she's photographing her 21-year-old son's haircut for the first time.
Many of the people in this book, I mean, every single person who took these pictures had other lives in other countries. There's a very powerful photograph of a bridge. The picture was taken by a guy who was a famous architect in China, and now he drives a truck for the garment business. And you can see through his eye, he has the same eye that made him a famous architect in China. He just had another life there, and he came here for, you know, 100,000 reasons. He happens to earn his living in a different way.
So many of the people in this society live lives that we don't see. And we want to see them. We need to see them. We have to see them.
There's a picture in here that's a very moving picture, taken by a Mexican migrant on the Hudson River Valley. And he shows a man standing at the corner of a building, and he says, "Waiting for the American dream." Waiting for the American dream. And I do believe that many of the immigrants in this book are waiting and hoping to create the American dream somehow, whatever the nature of that dream might be.
COOPER: Well, we'll have more of "360" in a moment. Stay with us.
COOPER: And you are looking at a live picture of New York's Empire State Building. It is in colors white, which is for the 75th anniversary -- 75th birthday, I should say, of the Empire State Building. Seventy-five years ago tonight Herbert Hoover, the president, pushed a button in Washington and that turned on the lights in the Empire State Building.
Coming up tonight, "LARRY KING" is next. He discusses the immigration rallies with CNN's Lou Dobbs and new visions for Heyramas (ph). Thanks for watching. We'll be here tomorrow.
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