War Of Words In Immigration Debate

Hundreds of thousands of protesters have joined the call for legal status for immigrants, marching in cities around the country on Monday in demonstrations that are drawing comparisons to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

A new CBS News poll shows 74 percent of Americans favor legal status for immigrants who have been here for more than five years. But among politicians and pundits, the debate rages on.

The Early Show brought the opposing points of view into sharp focus with visits from Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico and CNN's Lou Dobbs, who has written a book called "Exporting America."

Asked by co-anchor Harry Smith what he thought of the protests, in which marchers waved American flags, Dobbs observed, "I thought it was a very welcome change from last week when we had seen so many Mexican flags, flags of other nations, and I thought it was the right image for them to offer Americans watching them demonstrate and protest."

But when it comes to immigrants' right to a legal status in America, he was very clear about who stands to lose the most. "Without question, Americans at the low end of the wage scale," he said. "The Pugh Hispanic Center has done a number of studies, various research. American citizens at the lowest end of the wage scale who should be moving up our economic ladder are, in point of fact, being frozen in place by the massive illegal immigration that is simply for the benefit of corporate America, exploiting this illegal labor and, frankly, just freezing wages at the lowest end of the wage scale. This is of help to no one."

But Richardson said these protests are creating pressure that Congress simply cannot ignore. "It's really unprecedented, this ground swell that has come up," he said. "We've watched this now for a couple of weeks. I mean, people literally all over the country walking away from their jobs to stand in the street and say, 'I count for something,'" he told Smith.