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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Prince Harry Heads Home; Clinton-Obama Ad War Escalates; Illegals Heading Back Across Border; Revolving Door at Border for Some Illegals; New Mexico Governor Weighs in on Border Issues
Aired February 29, 2008 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, breaking news is what we start with.
The royal who went to war in Afghanistan is now heading home as we speak. Just moments ago, we got our first look courtesy of the U.K.'s Ministry of Defense at Prince Harry getting ready to board an RAF transport back to Britain.
And, as take in these new pictures, we're also learning a little bit more about his mission and the aborted plans to send him to Iraq and the reception that he can expect when he's back in the U.K., both warm and cold.
CNN's Nic Robertson is working the late details for us. Michael Ware lends his combat perspective. We're going to check in with both of them.
Also, a Texas-style advertising battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, with her saying in so many words that he's just simply not ready to be president. Will it backfire? What does it say about the upcoming crucial Tuesday battle for Texas and Ohio? We're going to check in with our reporters, all part of the best political team on TV.
Then later, the immigration story you thought you would never see. Instead of sneaking across the border, thousands of illegal immigrants are heading in the opposite direction. We are going to show you where and tell you why.
We begin, though, tonight with Harry's homecoming. The warrior prince is no longer on the front lines, no longer fighting the war in Afghanistan. Today, the British government decided to evacuate him immediately after word of his mission was leaked on the Internet and then reported by news organizations, interesting this one, CNN.
Meanwhile, the fallout over his deployment and the decision to remove him continues to grow. It's a story that is generating heated reaction here in the U.S. and in the U.K. We will get to that and all the latest developments in just a moment.
First, though, more on once secret mission, including the new video of the prince in combat.
For that, we get right to CNN's Nic Robertson, who's reporting.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Combat rations fit for a prince, but hardly the royal treatment, warmed-up instant meals in a bag, about as good as it got for Prince Harry.
PRINCE HARRY, GREAT BRITAIN: Rations is miserable. Been on rations now for -- I can't even remember for how long.
ROBERTSON: Ten weeks at the front in combat with the Taliban, a prince at war.
At his first base, Commander Mark Milford (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the moment, we can process enough water to wash and shave every three days. And, so, the washing area and shaving area is immediately behind me, and just over to the side there, you have the shower cubicles that have been knocked up with a bit of plywood.
PRINCE HARRY: I haven't really had a shower for four days. I haven't washed my clothes for a week and everything seems completely normal.
ROBERTSON: Normal for his unit. One of his buddies woke up with a mouse in his mouth. Snakes were a constant danger, too. But it was the rain and freezing nights that seemed to get him down the most.
PRINCE HARRY: Typically British. Last week, we were complaining it's too cold. And now there's people already complaining it's too hot.
ROBERTSON: In the sun, he played ball to beat boredom. He was just one of the guys talking about war and tactics. Little doubt he will soon be briefing a top British general, his father, Prince Charles.
PRINCE HARRY: My father is very keen on me reporting back as the mole.
ROBERTSON: Harry's brief will likely recommend more calls home. Even the prince had to worry about his phone minutes, only 30 a week, a call home this day a tonic for a homesick soldier.
PRINCE HARRY: It's not a case of the longer you go on, the worse it gets, because the longer you go on, the closer you are to going home. And everyone here is looking forward to going home.
O'BRIEN: Let's get right back to Nic Robertson, who joins us live from London, along with CNN's Michael Ware, who is in Baghdad tonight.
Nic, let's start with you.
We were looking at some of those brand-new pictures of Prince Harry leaving Afghanistan. Tell me a little more about that.
ROBERTSON: Well, you can he still hasn't had his hair cut. When we saw him on the front lines just a few days ago, he was unshaven, by sunburned. His hair was a matted mess. He looks like he's given a wash.
But he doesn't look very happy. He's sitting there at what appears to be Kandahar Airport in Afghanistan with all the British troops waiting to catch a flight home. But when you look closely at his face, he doesn't look really pleased about being there. He really wanted to stay longer. It's clearly that this news coming out has upset him and the decision to send him home clearly is not one that is going to sit well with him -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: No. Clearly, he's going to be furious about that.
Michael, let me ask you a question. There was talk, we know now, that in fact Prince Harry would be sent into Iraq. It was deemed to be too risky. Why was Afghanistan considered much safer? I mean, Afghanistan is very dangerous now as well.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely, Soledad.
And I have no insight into the decision-making process of either the royal family or the British Ministry of Defense. All I can tell you, having spent far too much time in both battlefronts, is that, tragically, it's too easy to be killed or maimed in either of these theaters, be it Iraq or be it Afghanistan.
Both are extremely violent places. We're seeing the attacks against the coalition forces in Afghanistan on the rise. The Brits have taken very heavy losses here. They have been very much at the forefront of the fight.
And, in Basra, that's also been a wretchedly bloody place for the Brits. So, it's no win either way you go. However, in Basra, you can say that the Brits have retreated or pulled back to the airport by and large. So, their combat power is not moving through the city. Afghanistan, you can stick someone out in a remote base that is little noticed.
Nonetheless, like I say, on any given day, in war, it's all about a matter of inches -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: You know, Nic, that kind of brings you to the point of, why would he do this? You were describing the mouse some soldier found in his mouth and the snakes. It's not -- as a prince, he certainly didn't have to. So, why?
ROBERTSON: He really didn't have to.
Number one, it appears this was really his passion, to be a soldier, trained as an officer, wants to serve with his troops. But one of the fascinating things about all of this, when you listen to a lot of his comments on the videotapes, this is, as he's describing it, his first chance to be a normal person, where he's away from the media.
He says it's great where he's not reading the newspapers, great that he's not having people writing things about him every day. He's in the headlines here all the time. He's escaped all of that. But it really does seem to be about his passion for military and just being a normal person, talking about normal things.
Let's face it. He hasn't really had a normal life. He's been in the spotlight. His mother was killed. His mother died in that car crash. It was something -- is something he will escape, the publicity surrounding that. His father is going to be king. His brother will one day be king. He will never be normal.
This is the closest he's ever going to get to it -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Well, the closest for 10 weeks, and then won't be normal again when it's leaked by the media.
Michael, I have got to ask you a question. He has made it clear that he would like to get back to the front lines. Do you think in any way that's realistic?
WARE: Well, I would imagine that would be quite difficult, particularly the way his cover was betrayed in this instance.
I mean, the only protection he and the mates beside him would have had would have been deception, would have been the fact that their enemies did not know he was there, because you can bet your life that he would have been targeted or that base would have been given an extra special bit of attention.
So, I would imagine it will be extremely difficult now. They would have no faith in the media. And, certainly, Britain's enemies would be alert to any possibility of having a prince on the front line now. But you have got to take your hat off to -- to Prince Harry. Anyone who's prepared to stand up and be a digger, to put on that uniform and to serve in whatever capacity in these violent wars, then you have to give them some modicum of respect -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Nic, he spoke pretty bluntly about now being a target of the Taliban because he was fighting in Afghanistan. Do you think that that's true, now, when he returns to England?
ROBERTSON: It does appear to be so.
Security experts here are certainly going to give him more security, and they will believe and listen perhaps more carefully to some of those threats that Prince Harry mentioned. He said the royal family get a number of threats. So, he's going to probably, when he goes out, get perhaps a little more security attention. He will get a lot more attention from the paparazzi here in London, who will be keen to start chasing him around and photographing him again.
The reality here is, is, though, some radical Islamist Web sites have already said that he should be targeted, targeted for what he was doing in Afghanistan. That does seem to be the assessment. The assessment here is, though, that, perhaps while he's still a relatively junior officer, there's still a reasonable chance he may get back to the front lines again in the not-too-distant future -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Nic Robertson and Michael Ware for us tonight, thank you, gentlemen. Appreciate the time.
Well, I have got to tell you, as if anchoring this show is not enough, now they have you blogging during the program as well.
O'BRIEN: Feel free to join in on the conversation at CNN.com/360.
Just ahead, we're talking hard board politics -- hardball politics and the fear factor.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): The going gets rougher, and Hillary gets tougher.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CLINTON CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: It's 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone in the White House and it's ringing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Her new message? Trust her, not him, to be there when it rings.
But he's got an answer for her, and we have got the facts for you about the crucial Tuesday primaries that could decide the race.
Also, a poisoning mystery in Vegas.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They responded as a result of a call of a found suspicious substance.
O'BRIEN: Deadly ricin in a hotel room, a man in a coma, a city on edge, solving the puzzle -- tonight on 360.
O'BRIEN: Tuesday, crucial Tuesday for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, primaries in Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island. Continuous coverage Tuesday night on CNN.
And, with so much at stake, the Clinton campaign is getting tough. How tough? A new ad in Texas with a gut-level message: Your children will be safe with me in the White House, not that other guy. We will talk about the punch and the counterpunch in just a moment.
Getting tough because it's so close in Texas, where our poll of polls is showing a narrow Obama lead, and, in Ohio, where Senator Clinton is defending a slim advantage, a whole lot slimmer than even just a few days ago.
Covering all the angles for us tonight, CNN's Candy Crowley, Jessica Yellin, and Suzanne Malveaux.
Ladies, good evening to you.
Jessica, let's begin with you.
Early in the day, Clinton released an ad that questioned Obama's national security credentials. Then you got the counterpunch, with Obama releasing his own ad.
I want to play a little bit of both. Hang on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CLINTON CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: It's 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone in the White House and it's ringing. Something's happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call, whether it's someone who already knows the world's leaders, knows the military, someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: It's 3:00 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone ringing in the White House. Something is happening in the world. When that call gets answered, shouldn't the president be the one, the only one, who had judgment and courage to oppose the Iraq war from the start?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: So, the first one was hers. The second one was his.
A very quick response, wasn't it, by the Obama campaign to her ad, which some people thought was a very effective ad?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Her's was effective. His response was enormously fast and effective.
Look, Senator Clinton is trying to land a knockout punch ahead of this do-or-die primary for her by playing on voters' national security concerns. But Barack Obama is doing what he's managed to do so successfully every time the experience question has come up, which is say, he has something more important than experience, which is good judgment. And he argues every time you hear this issue that he made the one essential right decision, when Senator Clinton was wrong. That was, he opposed the Iraq war when it was politically unpopular. So, now he's so comfortable selling this, that he's almost selling Barack Obama, this brand, man of superior judgment. And, in that equation, experience almost doesn't matter. So far, this argument has worked for him enormously successfully -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Suzanne, the Clinton strategy has been to attack Obama's readiness as commander in chief several times now. We see that in the ad. She went a little further today with something she said. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
H. CLINTON: He was missing in action when he failed to show up for a vote dealing with Iran. He was missing in action when he failed to hold a single substantive hearing on a committee that he chaired that had responsibility for Europe and NATO and NATO's policy in Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: What's the strategy here, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a new line. And, essentially, it's the same kind of theme that they have been harping on before, and that is, is that, essentially, it's words and deeds -- words vs. actions, and those deeds vs. speeches, that type of thing.
So, it's really just kind of a reincarnation of the same message here. But what they're hoping on doing here and what they're banking on is two things here. They believe that what they need to show is that her resume is beefier than Obama when it comes to national security concerns, that the stakes are high enough for voters to pay attention to the alert by this, and, then, secondly they also are looking at Senator John McCain here.
They want to take a little of the fire away from him, because they do recognize this is going to be one of the biggest strengths for John McCain, his national security experience. He's a war veteran. He has decades on the Senate Arms Committee.
So, clearly, this is something that they feel they have got to set her up and contrast her, not with Obama, but also with John McCain as well. They believe that they have got a winning strategy to do that. And the other thing, Soledad, is that it's a very simple argument that they're trying to be consistent with, is that she's applying for the job of president, commander in chief. So, look at her resume. Look at Barack Obama's resume. She makes the case that hers is a beefier resume, and, therefore, she is the one who should get the job.
O'BRIEN: Her husband would say, yes indeed. Let's get right to Candy, who is covering that. He was on the stump today, Bill Clinton, that is, campaigning for his wife. Let's play a bit of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the great misconceptions of this election is, somehow, her opponent is a new and different kind of politician, and she represents the establishment. She never was elected to anything until she took office in the Senate in 2001. She just spent a lifetime as a change agent, making other people's lives better. That's what you want the president to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Little bit of a change of tone there, wasn't it, Candy?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It was. And it's a -- it's a tough sell.
I mean, she was eight years in the White House. She's been -- will be eight years in the Senate. It's hard to sell someone who's been 16 years on the national agenda as someone that really just got into the game.
So, but, nonetheless, look, what they realize is the power of that one word, change. I mean, if you ever wanted to see the power of that word, you just have to look at Barack Obama.
So, they're trying to kind of find that sweet spot between, yes, she will bring change, but she's experienced enough to bring change. And he, obviously, is very in synch with her message these days. And that is what he's trying to get across.
O'BRIEN: All right, let's leave Jessica with the final word tonight.
Jessica, it's all about expectations and framing those expectations. I only have a few seconds. What's the Obama campaign doing about that?
YELLIN: You know what they're trying to do is set expectations very, very high for Senator Clinton, saying she doesn't simply have to win Ohio and Texas; she has to win by a hefty margin of at least 10 points. Otherwise, they say she can't stay competitive.
Now, I bet you the Clinton campaign doesn't agree, but that's the Obama message. That's what they all the media at least saying that night, as we watch returns come in. It's going to hard to kind of imagine that the Clinton campaign is going to take a victory, even a narrow one, in Ohio and Texas as anything other than a massive success for them.
O'BRIEN: We will watch and see. Jessica Yellin for us, Suzanne Malveaux, and Candy Crowley, ladies, thank you very much.
Ahead tonight, coming up: a man poisoned in Las Vegas by one of the most terrifying substances on earth. That's ahead.
But, first, Erica Hill join us. She's got 360 bulletin.
Good evening to you.
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Soledad. Nice to see you.
A senior White House official who admitted to plagiarism has resigned. Timothy Goeglein copied material from a college publication and then used it in a column he wrote for a local Indiana paper. The editor of that paper says Goeglein may have done it more than once. Goeglein was special assistant to the president and deputy director of public liaison.
In Miami, a high school protest turns into a brawl, 27 students arrested, seven police officers injured. Get this. The students were actually protesting the arrest of a classmate on charges he had assaulted the assistant principal.
And what Barry Bonds told a grand jury no longer going to be a secret. A federal judge is unsealing the slugger's testimony on steroid use in professional use. That evidence was of course used to indict him on perjury charges -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Now, Erica, down under, two robbers got a very big surprise when they stormed a club. One of them fled through a plateglass door, jumped off a balcony, kind of a 007 style, really. Not a lot of class in that. "What Were They Thinking?" is coming up next. We will show you.
Plus, toxic exposure to tell you about in Las Vegas, one man in a coma after ricin is found in his hotel room. Could more people be in danger? We will get the very latest in the investigation -- when 360 continues.
O'BRIEN: Now for our segment "What Were They Thinking?"
You really have to wonder what two would-be robbers were thinking in Australia. They donned ski masks. They attempted to hold up a club. Happened on Wednesday night. They didn't exactly plan on who would be inside. Yes, as it happens, dozens of members of a biker gang at the club. Apparently, that's where they hold their monthly meeting.
HILL: These two chose wisely, clearly did some research.
O'BRIEN: Instead of turning over the money -- no surprise -- the biker gang turned on the robbers, because that's what they do, folks, beat up people.
(LAUGHTER) O'BRIEN: All the bikers through chairs. Look, take a look at the video from this. Others just pounded them.
You start feeling a little sorry for the thieve, in a way.
HILL: Just a little. Not too much.
O'BRIEN: Yes. In the end, one was tied up. That's where the police found the guy.
O'BRIEN: And the other had to be hospitalized.
Yes, it's all about the research, isn't it?
HILL: Isn't it? It really is, as we know.
I have to say, one of my favorite things about the story is -- is the quote from the leader of the bikers, who told CNN: "These guys were absolutely dumb as bricks. I can't believe they saw all the bikes parked up front and they were so stupid they walked in."
HILL: So, even the bikes were there.
O'BRIEN: And, if there had been police cars parked in front, that would have meant?
HILL: Hey, maybe we shouldn't rob this joint.
O'BRIEN: Maybe not today.
O'BRIEN: A reminder, coming up in a few minutes, our 360 special report, "Debate on the Border: Which Side Are You On?" That's ahead.
But, first, a poison mystery to tell you about in Las Vegas. A guy is in critical condition after he was exposed to the deadly toxin ricin. But who released it, and why?
And Here's tonight "Beat 360."
John and Cindy McCain sharing a light moment on the Straight Talk Express. I think the musical addition is ours.
O'BRIEN: Here's the caption from our staff winner intern, Kelly (ph). "Focus on your feelings, John. Just tell Mr. Spots what's troubling you today."
Boy, that's very good.
O'BRIEN: If you think you can do better, go to CNN.com/360. Send in your submission. And we will announce the winner at the end of the show.
O'BRIEN: Tonight, a mystery involving the extremely rare and deadly toxin ricin is unfolding in Las Vegas.
A man who stayed at a hotel strip near -- near the Strip, rather, is in a coma after being poisoned by ricin. Ricin, you might know, is so lethal that even microscopic amounts of it can kill within 72 hours. So, how was this man exposed to it and who possibly could have been carrying ricin?
Kara Finnstrom joins us from Las Vegas with the very latest developments.
Kara, thanks for being with us.
I understand there was a news conference that sort of gave an update. You spent the day also talking to authorities. There are lots of unanswered questions here. Who do we know so far?
KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do know that there will be a press conference, Soledad, in about 10 minutes. This is kind of sudden and unexpected, because I spoke with the police department here just a couple hours ago, and they told us they wouldn't be holding any press conferences until there was a major development.
So, it will be interesting to see what may have developed this evening. But, earlier today, they did hold a press conference, and the two pieces of information that really came out of that was, one, that these further tests confirmed that this is indeed ricin, which, as you mentioned, is an extremely dangerous, powerful poison.
And, two, what was really the most compelling part of all this is that there was a man who was exposed to this ricin in this hotel room two weeks ago on February 14 and that he is now comatose in a hospital, unable to talk, obviously, with officers and provide any further information about what his interaction may have been, but showing all the signs of ricin poisoning, so that this perhaps could have been there two weeks ago. No one else has been in that hotel room to this time, so -- until it was actually discovered . Now the investigation begins into why it was there.
O'BRIEN: And a relative apparently discovered it. I read that it was in a -- in vials in a plastic bag. What do we know more about this relative and what he discovered?
FINNSTROM: Well, police are saying this was either a relative or a friend. They're not totally sure of the connection there. But this man has been in the hospital now for two weeks, so his relative or friend came to simply collect his belongings and, as he was gathering them, came across a plastic bag with some vials in it with what he thought was a suspicious white powder inside.
And authorities say they don't think this man had any idea of what he was actually handing over to authorities.
O'BRIEN: Kara Finnstrom for us tonight -- thanks, Kara.
Ricin is rare, but it's made headlines before, famously back in 1978, when an umbrella tip containing the poison was used to murder a Bulgarian journalist. What is ricin? Why is it so lethal?
For answers, let's talk now with CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Hey, Sanjay. Good evening to you.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening.
O'BRIEN: What exactly is ricin? How do you -- how do you make it and why is it so deadly?
GUPTA: Well, it is a poison. But, interestingly enough, it actually comes from the process of making caster oil from caster beans.
Once you get the oil out, the sort of mash or leftover that is -- that remains can be crystallized and turned into this poison. The reason it's so dangerous, I think, is just because of how toxic this stuff is, Soledad. Five hundred micrograms, which is the amount that can fit on the -- the head of a pin, for example, is enough, if injected into somebody, that can actually kill, for example, a 175- pound man within a few days.
So, it's very toxic tough. It just shuts down the cells in the body and does it very quickly.
O'BRIEN: Apparently, two tests have confirmed that, in fact, what was found in his room was ricin. The guy is now in critical condition. Can we assume that he's got ricin pointing? I mean, is that pretty obvious at this point?
GUPTA: Well, you know, what's interesting about that, Soledad, a couple things I don't think I have heard reported so far, is that -- so, you have ricin in the room. You have a sick man. So, they are making an assumption that one led to the other.
But what is interesting now, it was two weeks ago that he actually developed respiratory distress. Now, if they actually tested his blood, two weeks later, they should be able to see some antibodies to the ricin. That's -- this is the body's way of saying, hey, I see ricin in here. Produce these cells.
If they find those cells in his body, then that means that, in fact, he was exposed to the ricin.
O'BRIEN: All right, he's in critical condition. It's been two weeks. Do you expect that he's going to live, or -- or he won't survive?
GUPTA: Interestingly -- and this is a big counterintuitive -- it's probably a good sign that he's still alive, obviously, after two weeks. But, usually, people who are going to have -- who are going to die or have the worst outcomes, usually, that will happen within the first few days.
So, the substance acts. It acts quickly, but then it starts to leave the body. So, it sounds like he got to the hospital. The fact that he is still alive here actually bodes very well for him actually surviving this whole thing.
O'BRIEN: At this point, it seems, Sanjay, that it's clearly not terror. Or at least that's what they're saying about it.
But would there any -- be any legitimate uses that this guy would have ricin in his hotel room in vials, in plastic bags? I mean, would he be making it in the hotel room? Is that a -- is that a possible scenario?
GUPTA: You know, it's possible. And I have actually run through these in my own head throughout the day. And I really can't find a legitimate use.
You know, it can be used, for example, to treat certain types of cancers. But that would come in a -- not in little vials that are unlabeled, probably in a medicine bottle of some sort. So, that doesn't seem logical.
It could be used for research purposes. But, again, this seems all very sort of cloak and dagger. So, I don't know. I couldn't come up with a legitimate purpose in my own mind as to why that would be in this hotel room.
O'BRIEN: Is it -- is it used as a biological weapon?
GUPTA: It can be used as a biological weapon, but not as a mass biological weapon. It can kill people, for example, in the story that you cited at the beginning. But to kill a lot of people you would need so much of this stuff.
For example, up need a thousand times the amount of ricin versus anthrax, or botulinum toxin, for example. So it's just not a very effective biological weapon.
O'BRIEN: Which I guess is good news for this guy, who after two weeks is still alive and maybe will survive it.
Sanjay Gupta, thank you as always.
GUPTA: Thank you, Soledad. Thank you.
O'BRIEN: Coming up next, "Uncovering America," an illegal immigration story that nobody saw coming.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN (voice-over): They're crossing the border in reverse.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (speaking foreign language) Are you sad to leave?
MIRABEL RODRIGUEZ, ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT (through translator): Yes, I'm sad because I'm leaving.
O'BRIEN: Thousands of illegals heading home. Where is it happening and why? And why might it actually make Americans worse off, not better? Answers ahead.
Also, inside the revolving door, a U.S. detention center where illegal immigrants check in and check out. And check in and check out. Over and over again. 360, debate on the border up next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: "Uncovering America" tonight. We're giving you a new in depth look at illegal immigration. The debate on the border. It's a key issue in the battle for the White House.
Our first stop is Arizona, home to the sixth largest Latino population in the country, large portion living there illegally. Just last month Arizona enacted a new law making it the first state to punish employers for hiring illegal immigrants. Now thousands of illegals are heading back home, back across the border, but at what cost?
CNN's Randi Kaye has our report tonight.
KAYE (voice-over): In Arizona, illegal immigrants are putting it in reverse.
(on camera) (speaking in a foreign language) Are you sad to leave?
RODRIGUEZ (through translator): Yes, I'm sad because I'm leaving. I've been here for ten years, and over there, how is it going to be?
KAYE (voice-over): Mirabel Rodriguez and her husband, Juan Leon, came here illegally from Mexico. Now they're taking their daughters back.
Juan lost his job when the state passed one of the toughest immigration laws in the country, making it nearly impossible for undocumented workers to keep a job. Employers who hire them could be shut down. (on camera) (speaking foreign language) What do you think of the new law?
JUAN LEON, ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION (through translator): I think it's something the state is manipulating.
KAYE: (speaking foreign language) You don't have enough money for the house or the food?
LEON (through translator): I've been trying to get work, but I've had to resort to other methods. For example, I've sold some of the things that I had, but it wasn't enough to cover the utilities that are required like rent, electricity and because of this, I am leaving.
KAYE (voice-over): Illegal workers like Juan make up about 11 percent of Arizona's workforce, double the national estimate.
(on camera) What will happen to Arizona if so many of them leave?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When people are attracted to an area, when people are coming to the area, that means we're going to have economic growth. If they start leaving, well, then you get a ghost town.
KAYE: Research economist Dawn McLaren (ph) predicts the state could lose tens of billions of dollars in economic output and $1.5 billion in tax revenue. Plus, with such low unemployment, McLaren (ph) says there won't be enough people to fill their jobs, forcing businesses to move.
Children are packing up, too. One school district is down more than 500 students. Fourth-grader Carla Rodriguez says she gets straight A's.
CARLA LEON RODRIGUEZ, PARENTS ARE ILLEGAL: Just because you're from a different culture or country doesn't mean they can't come to the USA. It ain't fair. We could stay. But that's the president -- we have to leave.
KAYE: McLaren (ph) predicts 8 percent of Arizona's population will disappear.
(on camera) Here at the Mexican consulate in Phoenix the rush is on for Mexican birth certificates for children born here who will be leaving with their illegal parents. Already this year, more than 300 have been processed, compared to just 63 in all of last year.
(voice-over) A mass exodus long overdue for State Representative Russell Pierce.
RUSSELL PIERCE, STATE REPRESENTATIVE, TEXAS: Disneyland's smart enough to know this. You want the crowds to go home? Turn on the lights, hut down the rides.
KAYE: Pierce says businesses like construction and agriculture will adjust. PIERCE: It is OK because taxes will be less, my crime will be less, classes will be smaller, the congestion will be less on the freeways, my emergency rooms will be lighter.
KAYE: Mirabel and Juan already have their bags packed. They plan to leave in March.
Randi Kaye, CNN, Phoenix, Arizona.
O'BRIEN: Still ahead tonight, New Mexico governor and former presidential candidate Bill Richardson will join us.
Plus, a revolving door at the border: illegal immigrants caught and sent home, only to cross again. That story is up next.
O'BRIEN: Illegal immigration is a huge issue for many voters in Tuesday' primaries, especially in the state of Texas. Tonight we show you just how determined some illegals are to get into the United States. There's kind of a revolving door on the border, where illegals can enter and leave the U.S. over and over again.
Here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's high noon on the streets of violent Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Twenty-year-old Alejandro Toledo Lara (ph) and his 16-year-old cousin Juan tell us their dream is to get to North Carolina.
(on camera) (speaking foreign language)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's very pretty. It has a lot of work. It is very green.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): The cousins talked to us in the midst of a bizarre tumultuous day. A few hours earlier they can be seen on this videotape in the Rio Grande River on a makeshift raft. Alejandro, his cousin and a 16-year-old friend, along with three others spotted by one of the increasing number of border cameras.
They reach land in Texas and start running. Alejandro says he agreed to pay a smuggler $2,000 if they made it safely.
(on camera) The thick vegetation here on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande is the illegal immigrant's friend. It serves as camouflage. It's very hard to see them after they cross.
(voice-over) Three of the six get away. But not Alejandro and the two 16-year-olds. They are loaded on the Border Patrol paddy wagon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not out of the ordinary that we do see the same people more than once.
TUCHMAN: Alejandro tells us this is his second time being caught. They are three of an estimated 5,500 illegal immigrants apprehended monthly in the Laredo area alone.
They're processed in a Border Patrol detention center where others rest and sleep in small holding cells.
The 20-year-old has to show how much money he has with him. He's carrying 300 American dollars and 1,600 Mexican pesos, which is worth about $160 more. A huge amount of money for someone who makes about $10 a day working in Mexico.
(on camera) What is the computer telling you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The computer is saying he doesn't any history. He's not wanted by the FBI, no criminal history.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): It does say he was apprehended once before in 2004, but because he's not suspected of being a criminal, he's given his money back and ushered into one of the holding cells. But because Alejandro has been nabbed fewer than seven times and is not considered dangerous, it will be a very short stay.
Within one hour, Alejandro and his cousin, who both live 17 hours away by bus, are being escorted by a U.S. agent across the international bridge back into Mexico. Their 16-year-old friend will be released a bit later, because his family has to be notified.
When they reach the borderline between the two countries, the agent says good-bye, and Alejandro and his cousin, who were apprehended only hours ago, are now back in Mexico, free to try to cross the river again. Even Alejandro thinks it's a bit incredible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes, I think it's ridiculous that they take you halfway across the bridge. But everybody has a job to do.
TUCHMAN: Alejandro says as soon as they meet up with their friend, it's back to the Rio Grande.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We're going to try again and do it from a different area where it's more secure and not as dangerous.
TUCHMAN: But he appears to have a change of heart when they meet up with their friend, Luis, at a social service center where he was brought. A Mexican police officer drives them to the Nuevo Laredo bus station, and they buy tickets for the long, bumpy ride back home.
Alejandro now says he's OK with staying in Mexico for the time being.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): because I like it. It's my home. TUCHMAN: But as the bus gets ready to leave, only 16-year-old Luis is getting on it. A short time before, the other two said they were getting something to eat. Luis won't say what happened to them. So we realize that they gave us the slip.
There is no record of Alejandro and his cousin being caught again. So there is a very good chance they are now living underground in the United States, perhaps even in North Carolina.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.
O'BRIEN: Joining us this evening is Bill Richardson, the governor of the border state of New Mexico.
Nice to see you, Governor. Thanks for talking with us. I know for a long time, sir...
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Thank you, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: ... you have pushed for improvements in technology. You've wanted to see more border agents, and you've also said you want to see a path to legalization. But you oppose that 700-mile fence, you oppose state troopers having the power to detain.
How likely do you think it's going to be that, at some point in Washington, D.C., these efforts will come together, and people will actually come up with a plan that looks sort of like what you're looking for?
RICHARDSON: Well, Soledad, I think in your excellent segment you've shown a broken immigration system. You've shown that states can't deal with this issue. There has to be a federal solution.
So what you need is comprehensive immigration. Stronger border security, but also a full legalization program.
My view on a fence is not going to work. You showed the desperation of those illegal workers coming in. What I think will work is more Border Patrol agents, double the number. More technology at the border to detect, maybe, a nuclear material.
But if you put up a fence, you put a 12-foot fence, you're going to have 13-foot ladders. You've shown how desperate people are.
What makes sense is a full legalization program, not amnesty, where these individuals are allowed to stay if they are required to register, and then they proceed with having a background check, learning English, paying back taxes, paying a fine. That's the way to go.
O'BRIEN: But plenty -- but plenty of critics of your plan would say that it just doesn't go far enough, that your plans to secure the border don't go enough of the way.
Listen to Duncan Hunter from California, quickly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: People now understand if you want to get into the United States illegally you no longer come through L.A. International Airport; you come across a land border between Mexico and the United States.
So there's a dimension of homeland security that's concerned about terrorism that needs to be focused on this. And this no longer is simply an immigration issue; it's a security issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: There are plenty of people who say you want to do comprehensive immigration -- comprehensive immigration reform. Forget the comprehensive part and just focus on the border, you know, and put that fence in and some other things that would really stop immigrants from coming across the border.
RICHARDSON: Well, you can't have sensible immigration policy unless you have stronger border security, that I agree with. But a legalization plan for the 12 million that are already here. What are you going to do, deport 12 million people?
My difference with Congressman Hunter is not that we have to secure the border. We do. More Border Patrol agents, more technology. Keep the National Guard there longer. I've urged President Bush to keep the guard there beyond the summer when he wants to take it out.
But a fence is not going to work. Fences have not worked. The Berlin Wall, the wall -- the Great Wall of China. When people are desperate, they're going to cross that fence. They're going to go over it. They're going to go under it. A fence is a terrible symbol between a division of two countries.
Use technology. Double the number of Border Patrol agents. Backup the problem is the Republicans talk good, the president talks good. The Congress talks good, but they don't do anything. So governors like me...
O'BRIEN: Well, what about the Democrats? What about the Democrats? Of the two Democratic presidential candidates, who has the best immigration plan? Is it Hillary Clinton or is it Barack Obama?
RICHARDSON: Well, I believe they both are moving in the right direction. They say they have...
O'BRIEN: That's a non-answer answer.
RICHARDSON: No, no, no. I will tell you. I opposed their position -- both of them voted for the wall. I disagree with that. Both of them do think we need comprehensive immigration. That's far better. Now Senator McCain started out with a sensible plan. What I talked about, the full legalization program, was Senator Ted Kennedy and John McCain, but Senator McCain is backing off from what I consider to be a sensible proposal, to give full legalization to the 12 million. Not amnesty. You know, some standards. Require them to register. Pay back taxes. Pass a background check. Make sure they learn English. Make sure they pay a fine for coming here illegally. Don't get ahead of those that are trying to get here legally.
But you've got to deal with it comprehensively, Soledad. And you know, you can have all of these issues and these programs. Unless the Congress and the president deal with this, states like mine, local police chiefs, local jurisdictions cannot handle what is a national problem.
O'BRIEN: It sounds like neither of the senators is exactly impressing you with their -- their immigration policy or plan. Do you have a candidate who you would endorse at this point?
O'BRIEN: Was that like a snort-laugh, Governor? I've never heard that before on TV. You laughed so hard you...
RICHARDSON: Well, I'm going to -- I'm going to stay loose. We've got two excellent candidates. I may decide before the Texas primary. I may not.
But, you know, I'm a renaissance man. I'm growing my beard. I'm talking to you. I'm a local politician, retired.
O'BRIEN: What's that all about, you and Al Gore, you all grow a beard after you get off the campaign trail.
RICHARDSON: Well, you know, you go into decompression after you get into a race and you don't do well. So that's what I'm doing.
But, look. It's going to be a good race. Immigration's going to be a top issue. But the key component is it's got to be a federal solution. It's got to be the Congress and the president acting, and they have failed to act, miserably.
O'BRIEN: Governor Bill Richardson joining us tonight with the no=answer to who he's going to endorse. Thank you, sir, for your time. We appreciate it. Always nice to see you.
Coming up next, a brutal day on Wall Street. Stocks falling like Paris for the paparazzi.
And in honor of leap day, an incredible leap off a mountain. It's our "Shot of the Day," and it's coming up.
O'BRIEN: It's almost time for our "Shot of the Day." In honor of leap day 2008, we bring you leapers. Or base jumpers. Or just -- people are just nuts. Look at that. Oh, my goodness.
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: I think it may be the latter.
O'BRIEN: First, Erica Hill joins us with a "360 News and Business Bulletin."
I think it's all of the above, right?
HILL: C, there you go. That will be the answer.
I want to get top the latest now. We had talked a little bit earlier about the ricin poisoning case in Las Vegas. We told you the press conference was to be held. And just moments ago police actually revealed they did go to a second hotel where the victim had stayed. They didn't find any residue of the poison there.
And here's what we learned. They're actually searched the room on the 26th. They didn't find any ricin. They did find a book, though, an anarchist book which apparently included information on how to make ricin. Two days later when they were in the room, they found the ricin. It is not clear whether that ricin had been missed or whether it may have been planted there.
So we'll continue to follow this one for you.
Boy, what a week on Wall Street it has been. And a painful end, the Dow losing 315 points today -- that's like 2.5 percent -- finishing off at 12,266. The NASDAQ and the S&P also posting some big declines, which makes it the second worst day of the year for stocks.
That blackout in Florida earlier this week that left 3 million people without power and caused some major chaos at intersections? Chalk it up to human error. A local utility company says an engineer doing repairs at a West Miami substation shut down two backup systems, triggering the failure. They still don't know why they shut them down, apparently.
O'BRIEN: It's time to check out the "Beat 360" picture. You know how it works. We put a picture on the blog and ask viewers to come up with a caption.
HILL: And play the cheesy music.
O'BRIEN: OK. See if you can beat the caption that we've already picked. Tonight's photo shows John McCain's wife, Cindy, and she has a cheetah hand puppet. The McCains are riding in the Straight Talk Express campaign bus.
Here's the staff pick from our intern, Kelly (ph): "Focus on your feelings, John. Just tell Mr. Spots what's troubling you today."
I kind of like that.
Here's the one from our winner, Michael Limerick (ph) in Washington state: "Unlike waterboarding Cindy's little game of 'Who's Afraid of Mr. Meow-meow' DID meet Senator McCain's definition of torture."
HILL: I agree that that was pretty good. I have to say, though, while I liked our staff winner Kelly (ph), my favorite from the staff, I convinced them we needed to give them runner-up status. Here it is from Dan: "McCain announced his running mate today, Roger Spotted Leopard, cousin of Danielle Striped Tiger from Mr. Roger's neighborhood of make-believe."
I'm a sucker for Mr. Rogers. What can I say?
O'BRIEN: You can check out the other ideas: CNN.com/360. Feel free to play along. But only if you have a really good submission. Otherwise, we don't want to hear it.
OK, Erica, the "Shot of the Day" is up next. Looks like another skier heading down a mountain. But believe us, this run is very far from normal. It's one for the history books. You can see it for your shelf when 360 continues in just a moment.
O'BRIEN: "Shot of the Day." In honor of leap day 2008, high up on Mt. Hood, Oregon. Watch this guy skiing toward the end of a cliff. And just so he's sure we understand what's happening here, he's got this helmet cam on -- that's how we can see all this -- capturing every thrilling moment of his descent.
And he's going "yahoo," so you can tell it's really far, 253 feet before he had a very soft landing. Actually, it looks like picture perfect on his skis.
First man on skis to base jump off of Mt. Hood. And they might want to say, and lived to tell about it.
HILL: Yes, I think that's the most important part.
O'BRIEN: Erica, thank you. Good night.
More to come tonight at the top of the hour. New details about Prince Harry's life on the firing line in Afghanistan.
Plus, Hillary Clinton's new tough ad and Barack Obama's instant answers.
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