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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for September 14, 2000

Aired September 14, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: Seen in classrooms the world over, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And welcome to this special edition of your Thursday NEWSROOM. I am Shelley Walcott.

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: And I am Tom Haynes. Throughout today's show, we'll feature a special look at America's changing face.

WALCOTT: That is right. We call this feature "Still Coming to America." And here is what's coming up.

HAYNES: Putting out and pulling back, the welcome mat tops today's show.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are a nation of immigrants. We have always been reconstructing ourself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But has immigration been at today's level for 400 years since the founding of Jamestown? Of course not.


WALCOTT: From immigration to astronomy. "Science Desk" ventures into space to discovery how scientists could one day play big brother to black holes.

HAYNES: "Worldview" heads back to Earth and lands in the big apple melting pot.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Were it not for all the people arriving from different countries, New York city's population would actually be shrinking.


WALCOTT: Then, we end up where we began, as we "Chronicle" how small town America is dealing with diversity.

HAYNES: The United States is a nation immigrants. It is a phrase repeated so often it is almost cliche now. But, in many ways, it has never been more true. Immigrants are streaming in at near record levels, and changing forever America's traditional ethnic balance.

Historically, most newcomers have been white and European. As late as 1960, just four decades ago, 75 percent of all immigrants to the U.S. were from Europe. A small minority came from Canada, Latin America and Asia. Today, the pie is divided much differently, with most immigrants coming from Latin America and Asia, and only a small minority from Europe.

As these new groups continue to pour in, a century's old debate goes on: Should America keep its doors open?

Our Joel Hochmuth tackles that question, in our special, "Still Coming to America."


JOEL HOCHMUTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the changing face of America, Berkmar High School in suburban Atlanta represents in many ways the nation's growing ethnic diversity. In just six short years, the student body has been transformed, from about 80 percent Caucasian to just over 40.

JIM MARKHAM, PRINCIPAL, BERKMAR HIGH SCHOOL: Rather than call it the browning, I would call it the blending of America. We celebrate the international flavor of our school. And basically, we are exactly what the Statue of Liberty is talking about.

HOCHMUTH: While, for some, the growing diversity is a cause for celebration, for others, it is a cause for concern. Many of these students are here as a direct result of the largest sustained wave of immigration in United States history.

DAN STEIN, FEDERATION FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM: A lot of people ask: What's wrong with immigration policy today? And the answer is very simple: We, the American people, don't have any say in it. It is going on on autopilot, by itself as immigrants bring relatives, who turn around and bring more relatives, who turn around and bring more relatives.

HOCHMUTH: Technically, Congress limits the number of immigrants to the U.S. to about 700,000 from all countries combined each year. But, in practice, that limit is often exceeded since there is an exemption which allows recently naturalized citizens and some green card holders to bring in immediate relatives.

Figure in illegal immigrants, and about one million people are entering the U.S. each year, It has been at that level for more than a decade, boosting the country's foreign born population to over 26 million, the highest in history.

STEIN: The numbers are extraordinarily high. They are helping to create kind of a two-tier society with waves upon wave of poor and uneducated immigrants living in barios that are swelling and overcrowded and overpopulated.

HOCHMUTH: To some experts, though, the rise in poor Hispanic neighborhoods is no cause for alarm. It is simply reminiscent of the ethnic communities of the early 1900s. Then the vast majority of immigrants came from Europe. Today more than half are from Latin America.

CHIP GALLAGHER, SOCIOLOGIST, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY: Every group has been accused, the Germans, the Irish, the Italians, the Poles, everyone said: You have built your own churches, you have your own communities, and you are going to wind up living in a pluralist culture within society. The fact is, two generations in, people leave the ethnic ghetto, they get an education, and they live in the suburbs.

HOCHMUTH: Still, if immigration into the United States continues at current levels, the Census Bureau projects, by the year 2050, the nation's population will surpass 400 million, 50 percent higher than today.

STEIN: Where are the roads? How are you going to handle the traffic? Where are the schools? Where is the housing? Where is the infrastructure? How are we going -- what are we going to do, pave over all our prime farmland? Are we going to turn the country into one big parking lot from sea to shining sea?

GALLAGHER: Where are people going to go? You are right. I mean, between -- if you look at the east and west coast, the middle is pretty empty, except for Chicago. The fact is that, if you look at Europe, how densely settled parts of Europe are, the United States is pretty open and empty.

HOCHMUTH: Historically, a political backlash has often followed big waves of immigration. Following the mass immigration of the early 1900s, Congress passed some of the most restrictive laws ever in 1921 and 1924. By the depths of the Depression in the 1930s, less than 30,000 people were entering the U.S. each year.

STEIN: The history of immigration has been: You get a wave, and then you take a breather to absorb and assimilate the immigrants who have come. We need a timeout and a breather to absorb the incredible amount of immigration we have taken since 1975.

Unless you take a breather, a timeout, periodically in American history, you lose complete control of the process.

GALLAGHER: You know, we need to have sensible immigration. I am not exactly sure what that might mean, but it doesn't seem like we have had a whole lot of problems absorbing the populations that have come in here in the last 25 years. If anything, we are better for it.

HOCHMUTH: To date, the leading presidential candidates have all but ignored the immigration issue, in part because the economy remains so strong. Immigrant workers are desperately needed in jobs like construction and agriculture. When the INS tried to round up illegal immigrants in Georgia onion fields a year ago, two of the state's senators and three of its congressmen fired off letters of protest.

GALLAGHER: My guess is that you are going to see immigration restrictions start to be part of the political discourse when we have a recession, and folks find themselves out of work, and they look around, and they say: How come my son can't have that job? or why is that person that I don't define as a real American working there when that could be a job for a real white or black American?

STEIN: The hallmark of statesmanship is to try to make the changes to bring the numbers down now before the economy tanks to prevent a political backlash that is going to be very ugly.

HOCHMUTH: For now, it appears America's door will remain open. Is it time to start closing it? Until the economy starts failing, the debate will remain largely philosophical.

STEIN: The question is whether we formulate an immigration policy based on the desires of immigrants who want to come, legally or illegally or whether we decide this based on what is in the best interests of out people today and our children and grandchildren.

GALLAGHER: That is what people are scared of. They are basically scared of sharing America. That is the fear. That is the American dream. It is about embracing the idea that we are inclusionary society that is open, that provides equal opportunity to everyone, and that is the idea of the American dream.


WALCOTT: Some might find it surprising that North Carolina would have the fastest growing immigrant population in the United States, but the people who live there aren't. It is a state grappling with a new diversity and old traditions. In one town at least, the two are mixing like oil and water.

Out Joel Hochmuth found that out, as continues our special "Still Coming to America."


HOCHMUTH: La Fiesta Del Pueblo is just another sign Hispanic immigrants are changing the look of North Carolina. In the last 10 years, the state's Latino population has more than doubled to about 175,00, one of the fastest growth rates in the country.

But while this festival in Chapel Hill is a time to party, it masks emerging racial tensions.

JIM JOHNSON, DEMOGRAPHER: The new immigrants are phenotypically (ph) different. They are, for the most part, people of color who cannot change that reality.

HOCHMUTH: Perhaps no one understands those tensions better than Jim Johnson, a demographer who studies population trends for the University of North Carolina.

JOHNSON: The South is dramatically changing and we are not handling it too well right now. That has been pretty unsettling to people. I think it is safe to say there have been a nativist backlash to the influx.

HOCHMUTH: His best example if Siler City in nearby Chatham County. Until about five years ago, it was a quiet town of about 5500. Since then, an estimated 3000 Hispanic immigrants, mostly from Latin America and other parts of the U.S. have moved in.

JOHNSON: No one likes change. I mean, you know, Chatham County, and to a certain extent North Caroline for years was kind of a sleepy backwater. No one likes change, and particularly at the rate at which this change has occurred. I mean, it kind of hit us upside the head without any forewarning.

HOCHMUTH: Most Hispanics are drawn to the area by jobs at two poultry processing plants, jobs that pay about $7 per hour. Many earn more in a day here than in two weeks or more back home. Although these workers and their paychecks have helped revive an otherwise declining downtown, immigrants have not always felt welcome here.

LLANA DUBESTER, HISPANIC LIAISON, SILER CITY, NORTH CAROLINA: I think Siler City is a town that is happy with the way it was, and it's no longer what it was 10 years ago even.

HOCHMUTH: One big sore spot for longtime residents has been Siler City Elementary School. Just seven years ago, most of the students were white with a small black minority. Today, nearly half are Hispanic and less than 20 percent are white as immigrants have moved in and other parents have pulled their children out.

Off camera, they charge their children were getting less attention as teachers' time was taken up dealing with students who couldn't speak English. The school's principal says that's just not true, and that the real problem is simply fear.

RANDY JOHNSON, PRINCIPAL: Sometimes, you know, we're afraid of the unknown. A lot of times people have not been -- they have not been in the middle of what's going on with other races and populations, people from different countries.

DAVID DUKE, FORMER KKK LEADER: Would you rather have me here or would you rather have the Mexicans here? Let me know.

HOCHMUTH: Tensions came to a boiling point in February when a local businessman organized an anti-Hispanic rally led by David Duke, onetime head of the KKK. By one estimate, only 100 or so supporters showed up. They were met by a vocal group of anti-Duke demonstrators.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I think if David Duke had to walk one day in the shoes of Mexican migrants as they worked some of the fields, he would be a different person.

HOCHMUTH (on camera): It's not clear just how many of David Duke's supporters at the rally were actually from Siler City. Local officials contend most came in from out of town and their views are held by only a small minority here. Still, that rally sparked fear in the Hispanic community.

MURRAY COHEN, TEACHER: In the shoe store...

HOCHMUTH (voice-over): Murray Cohen is a farmer who moonlights teaching English to new immigrants two nights each week. He says attendance has dropped by 50 percent in the weeks and months since Duke was here.

COHEN: They're fearful because they don't understand something of freedom of speech. During the David Duke thing, some of the students said, Maestro, we want to go there and shoot him. Why can't we just go ahead and do that? In Mexico, if we didn't like what he had to say, we'd go there and shoot him. I said, he has a freedom of speech. He can speak anything he'd like to say. That's one of the rights that we're granted in this country.

HOCHMUTH: That fear, though, is subsiding as Hispanics begin to realize that there are many others in town like Cohen who support and welcome them.

Even Rick Givens, chairman of the County Commission, has had a change of heart. Last year, out of frustration with problems created by so many illegal immigrants in the community, he asked the INS for help deporting them, writing, quote, "we need your help in getting these folk properly documented or routed back to their homes."

That letter left the Hispanic community in an uproar.

RICK GIVENS, CHMN. CHATHAM COUNTY, N.C., U.S. COMMISSIONERS: I did cause a pretty big stink here and it wasn't intentional, and I certainly didn't want to take the children out of school and the mothers and send them home. That wasn't the intent.

HOCHMUTH: Since then, he went on a sensitivity building trip to Mexico and now says he better appreciates the plight of both legal and illegal immigrants.

GIVENS: Humanity had to kick in. Anyone that had any compassion would see that these people are really in trouble in Mexico and they're really doing a lot better here than they are there.

HOCHMUTH: Givens remains adamantly opposed to illegal immigration, but says the racial hatred of David Duke is not the answer.

GIVENS: My red neck comes out every once in a while, too. You know, I'm not immune to that and you're going to have that, but there's a right way and a wrong way to approach issues, and that was definitely a wrong way to approach this issue.

HOCHMUTH: Of course, not all attitudes in town will change quickly. After all, this is a place where feelings run deep, but few people want to talk about them. JIM JOHNSON, DEMOGRAPHER: And they still have to live in those communities in many instances. So no one wants to be on CNN and then go outside the next day and see all of these people that they have bastardized, you know, on your show. It's just not -- it's uncomfortable for them.

HOCHMUTH: Despite such ill feelings, Siler City's newest residents are here to stay. And as immigrants continue arriving here and in communities across the United States, the question remains: Can we all get along?

JOHNSON: Our challenge is, in this window of enormous prosperity, is to follow -- is to be able to facilitate this transition to a more diverse society. Otherwise I fear L.A. of 1992 could repeat itself, even in a place like Siler City.


HOCHMUTH: Hang on till "Chronicle." We're not done yet. We're going to introduce you to some more new neighbors. Find out how residents of one Texas town learned to cope with their changing community.


VERNON BATES, SHRIMPER: Well, you're either going to stay together or you're going to fall apart.


HAYNES: From issues like immigration affecting us here on Earth to those happening high above. It seems astronomers have amazed even themselves this time with a completely new way of looking deep into outer space. They have come up with the prototype of an X-ray telescope so powerful, it can see black holes in faraway galaxies.

A black hole is an extremely dense object at the center of a galaxy with such powerful gravitational pull that not even light can escape. That's why black holes are usually invisible to the average telescope that uses light.

This new telescope captures X-rays generated by black holes as they swirl around. Then computers process the data into images. So just how are scientists planning to use this new technology?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We think that, more or less, every galaxy has a super massive black hole in the middle, OK? So understanding how these super massive black holes from is crucial for understanding how galaxies form.


HAYNES: Our new insight into outer space in "Science Desk" October 12 on CNN NEWSROOM. WALCOTT: In keeping with today's theme, "Worldview" travels to the United States, a popular destination for immigrants. California attracts the most. Coming in second, the state of New York, known around the world for the Statue of Liberty. For more than a century, it's been a beacon to "the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free."

There are many reasons they're drawn to New York, as Deborah Feyerick explains.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From Chinatown to Spanish Harlem and Little Odessa, neighborhoods in New York City are mirrors of home for immigrants like Russian-born Nari Chemov (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It reminds me of Russia altogether.

FEYERICK: And the city, with its many varied faces, is growing even more diverse. New census figures for the last decade show 40 percent of people living here were born outside the United States.

ANDREW BEVERIDGE, SOCIOLOGIST, QUEENS COLLEGE: They're coming from Dominican Republic, from Pakistan and Bangladesh, from south Asia, from Mexico.

FEYERICK: Sociologists say New York hasn't seen this kind of influx since 1910, when the majority of arriving immigrants landed at Ellis Island. Then, the majority of immigrants were European. Today, immigration to New York is undergoing a transformation.

BEVERIDGE: From a kind of traditional immigrant city, a city of -- with the sons and daughters of the old immigrants, to a new city, a city that's really dominated by the new immigrant groups.

FEYERICK: For example, the Census reports the number of Mexicans quadruples from 35,000 in 1990 to 133,000 last year. Russians tripled during that time from 81,000 in 1990 to 229,000 in 1999. And South East Asians from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh doubled from 89,000 to 172,000, with the Dominican community growing to 387,000 people.

KENNETH JACKSON, HISTORIAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: The reason why a place like New York has such appeal to immigrants is because there are so many others who share their same ethnicity, who know their language, who know their customs, who know their food, who know their religion, and often who even know them personally.

FEYERICK: Many cities have seen an increase in immigrants, but no place has the diversity of New York. The borough of Queens boasts 167 nationalities and 116 different languages.

(on camera): Were it not for all the people arriving from different countries, New York City's population would actually be shrinking, a result, historians say, of folks moving to the suburbs or dying. (voice-over): And as long as the economy remains strong, sociologists predict the booming immigrant trend is likely to continue.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, seen in schools around the world, because learning never stops, and neither does the news.

HAYNES: Throughout the show, we've been taking a closer look at immigration in the United States: for some a reason to celebrate; for others a cause for concern. Whatever side of the fence you sit on, there remains a simple fact: America is a country made up of different cultures trying to live as one society.

Our Joel Hochmuth again on one small town in Texas that's learned to do just that.


HOCHMUTH (voice-over): Seventy-two-year-old Vernon Bates has been shrimping the waters off Palacios, Texas for more than half a century.

BATES: Started as soon as I got out of high school in '47 and just -- my dad was a fisherman and, I don't know, I just -- it's what I wanted to do.

HOCHMUTH: Nadagorda Bay (ph) is his fishing hole. Bates has been on this water so many times, he's seen it all. Still, he'll never forget that day back in 1975 the day he saw a stranger out here.

BATES: He had a little old bitty boat, little small boat, and he was just dragging everywhere, dragging his net all across the bow of our boat, so -- and we'd just give away to him. You know, we'd kind of move off because we figured he didn't know, really, what he was doing.

HOCHMUTH: As it turns out, he did know what he was doing. That stranger was just one of thousands of Vietnamese refugees who would settle along the Texas Gulf Coast following the end of the Vietnam War. They were drawn by the shrimping industry, a livelihood many had back in their homeland.

Bates admits he and other longtime shrimpers in the area didn't exactly roll out the welcome mats.

BATES: Well, in three years, I guess, they built I don't know how many boats. They just flooded the place. And then that's when we got -- started getting concerned about -- my gosh, they're going to, you know, taking everything away from us. And we was hostile at first. But after you get to know the people, they're good people.

HOCHMUTH: Tu Vu was one of the first Vietnamese refugees to settle here. Although he doesn't fish as often as he used to, he still gets out on the water occasionally, this time with his two sons. He says he simply brought his family here for the same reasons millions of other immigrants do.

TU VIET VU, SHRIMPER: We come to the United States because, you know, the United States is the freedom country, the freedom working, freedom build up everything.

HOCHMUTH: Still, 20 years ago, many Anglo shrimpers despised men like Vu. They thought the Vietnamese were given an unfair advantage.

VU: I see a few people, they say, Vietnamese come to the United States, no they build the boats, they buying a new car and the government give them money. That's wrong. You know, Vietnamese go to work and not fair to attack. That's wrong.

BATES: We heard through the grapevine that the government was giving them money. You know, their refugees from Vietnam and the government's giving them money, setting them up in the business and everything and here we've been paying taxes all our lives, you know, and struggling to make a living, and then they jump right into it, you know, building these nice boats and everything. We kind of were resentful of that.

HOCHMUTH: For several years, Bates and other longtime shrimpers tried to run the Vietnamese out of town. The family seafood wholesale house refused to do business with them.

BATES: We wouldn't -- when they first started, we wouldn't buy from them. We didn't want to have anything to do with them.

VERNON BATES JR., SEAFOOD WHOLESALER: You're in it to make money and, you know, if you turn them away you're just turning down money, so we finally just decided if we were going to make any money we needed to unload them.

HOCHMUTH (on camera): While Vietnamese immigrants may not have been welcome here at first, in Palacios, at least things never turned violent. Twenty years ago in the town of Seadrift to the south, racial tension exploded when a white man was killed by two Vietnamese brothers. Although that killing was ruled self-defense, several Vietnamese boats were burned and a vacant home firebombed in retaliation.

(voice-over): Today, that level of hatred is all but gone. In Palacios, the Vietnamese community that was once derided is now seen as a savior.

BATES: If they wasn't here, we'd be out of business.

HOCHMUTH: The Vietnamese shrimpers have led the fight against the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife. This year, officials proposed new restrictions on shrimpers they say are necessary to preserve shrimp populations.

THUY VU, SEAFOOD WHOLESALER: We have no choice but to oppose all changes at this time.

HOCHMUTH: The shrimpers say those restrictions could put them out of business, and now both Anglos and Asians are united in a group called the Vietnamese American Shrimpers Association. Thuy Vu, vice president and daughter of the Vietnamese shrimper we met earlier, spoke out against the proposals at this public hearing.

THUY VU: The future of many shrimping families and associate business need to be considered.

Even if this proposal hadn't come out, we'd still be united. But it pulled a lot of other areas together for -- you know, to fight this proposal because we all on the same, you know, track.

LENNY KUNEFKE, SHRIMPER: More unity. They really stepped forward and they showed American fisherman what unity can do. They really did. It's amazing.

HOCHMUTH (on camera): What did it take to have your attitudes change?

JANIE BLEVINS, SHRIMPER: Time. Working with them as people. It was just time.

HOCHMUTH (voice-over): Even if the Anglo and Asian shrimpers lose the fight to stop the restrictions, they've won something two decades ago no one would have thought possible. They've won respect and admiration for each other.

BATES: You're either going to stay together or you're going to fall apart. You have to know somebody before you can make an opinion of them, really. And after being around them, talking to them, working with them, and they -- every one of them wave at you out in the bay, you know.

THUY VU: Now people, seeing how we live, you know, I think first they didn't understand what kind of person the Vietnamese are. And now they're seeing, well, you know, we just like them, we just here to make a living, you know, getting the opportunity of the freedom.



WALCOTT: And you know, just two weeks ago, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission did decide to impose new restrictions on shrimpers. The rules limit times and places they can fish.

HAYNES: That's right. Officials concede, however, that because of pressure from the Vietnamese Americans Shrimpers Association, the restrictions aren't nearly as tough as originally proposed.

By the say, I want to give special thanks to our senior correspondent Joel Hochmuth for putting that special report together on immigration in the U.S.

WALCOTT: Great job by Joel.

HAYNES: Yes, very nice.

WALCOTT: And that wraps up today's show. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

HAYNES: Take care.



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