Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dan Kowalski (Bender's Immigration Bulletin) Comments on the Barack Obama Interview: ""Obama on Immigration: Just OK"

Dan Kowalski, Editor-in-Chief Bender's Immigration Bulletin (LexisNexis), offers these insights on the interview with Barack Obama that was posted here yesterday.  If you would like to publish a commentary on the interview, please send it our way:

To be honest, when this "exclusive interview" was announced, I was expecting a video (or at least an audio podcast) of a live give-and-take between skeptical reporters or topic experts asking tough questions and putting the candidate on the spot with little, if any, opportunity for reflection. So I was a bit disappointed to find, instead, a canned written product, giving us nothing we hadn't heard before. I'm sure the Senator approved the final product, but I'm also sure 99% of it was written for him by a staffer. I hope this format will be scrapped when other candidates are "interviewed."

Beyond the platitudes, the nugget that struck me hardest was the Senator's rationale for voting for the Secure Fence Act. He says he voted for it even though it sends two strong messages with which he disagrees - that Mexico is "not our friend" and that an enforcement-only approach can work - because "restoring order in the border region is necessary to winning the American people's support for full reform." That's disingenuous (a word Obama loves) at best, because he knows that no fence, long or short, will restore "order" on the borders. Moreover, it's a candidate's (and a President's) job to lead and persuade, not hide behind "safe" votes. And as I've argued before, trying to "secure the borders" first is putting things backwards. Obama tries to soften the blow by saying he'll only support more border fencing "where it can help discourage illegal entry and dangerous crossings over desert terrain [Where else would they put it?] ...[and only] in coordination and cooperation with local communities." Reaction from border communities to today's release of the Border Patrol's fencing plans should make it abundantly clear that the border fence is nothing more than a pork-barrel boondoggle of the highest order; Obama should suck it up and admit his vote was wrong.

Obama (and all your interviewees) should be pinned down on numbers and categories and definitions: How many (more) green cards do we need? How many (more) non-immigrant visas? How should we re-write the visa categories, grounds of exclusion and removal, detention rules, judicial review rules and hardship waivers to bring the statute into the 21st century. It could get tedious, and long, but as Justice Scalia says, "administrative law is not for sissies."

Finally, when your group interviews other candidates, I'd scrap the Elvira Arrellano question. Call me heartless, but her story leaves me cold. There are thousands of stories out there of folks who suffered much more than she did, and without breaking any laws beyond crossing without papers. They would be better examples of our broken system.

Daniel M. Kowalski

[It should go w/o saying, but those are my views alone, not necessarily those of Matthew Bender & Co., Inc., and/or LexisNexis]

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/immigration/2007/09/dan-kowalski-be.html

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Comments

'Obama (and all your interviewees) should be pinned down on numbers and categories and definitions: How many (more) green cards do we need? How many (more) non-immigrant visas?'

I agree but good luck pinning down a politician on that. The most fundamental immigration position is specifically 'how much' and the topic is avoided like the plague by politicians. During the legislative debate of 2006 & 2007, there were plenty of politically safe personal anecdotes but total immigration numbers seemed unutterable. One problem for people biased toward high immigration like Kowalski is that opinion polls consistently show a preference for 'less' or 'about the same' total immigration levels. His preference is rejected by all but a very small percentage of voters which is why legislators for 'comprehensive immigration reform' try not to mention the fact that it would result in higher immigration.

'Finally, when your group interviews other candidates, I'd scrap the Elvira Arrellano question.'

I agree. The Elvira, Slim, & Emma sideshow is offensive to so many people that asking about her is a wasted question. No politician in their right mind (not counting Kucinich) is going to support her so don't waste a precious opportunity to ask an important question. Like Kowalski says, the best would be asking for actual numbers. His number questions are broken down by category but the average Joe doesn't know what to make of those figures--I would prefer presenting the interviewee with a number everyone can relate to (the current estimated annual total immigration number--legal and illegal combined) and then asking him or her for their preferred number. Whatever it is, know ahead of time what population that would result in over a period of years and then follow up with, e.g., 'Senator, your preferred annual immigration level would result in a population of x by 2050. Does a population that high concern you in any ways, e.g., about our environment?' If he says 'no', try to pin him down on whether there is any population number which would. I'm not optimistic he'll answer though.

Besides professing a religious belief, it's considered mandatory for politicians to act like we live in a fantasy world of limitless economic growth and nowadays population also seems to be part of that irrational 'limitless growth' position and thus not open to questioning. It didn't used to be that way but something like the 1972 Rockefeller Commission Report is politically unthinkable now.

Posted by: Jack | Sep 26, 2007 2:59:10 PM

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