THE PLANK FEBRUARY 21, 2008
The debate is getting off to a good start. Both candidates appear
sure and prepared. (Is it just me, or is Obama sitting up
ramrod-straight in hopes of appearing more presidential?) The
back-and-forth on immigration was particularly interesting. Both
candidates are acutely aware that this is a huge issue in Texas.
walks through the basic Democratic platform when it comes to
immigration (border security, a caring-but-penalty-laden path to
citizenship). Obama concurs, then makes a point I had not yet heard
uttered in formal or informal debate: Reforming "the legal immigration
system" would be a priority of his as president. Not only does Obama
make a point to cool off the "ugly" rhetoric of the last two years
(really, jingoistic nativism does not a political platform make), but
this answer is the kind that really resonates with "the rest" of the
immigrant families in the United States (like mine, not from Mexico or
other parts of Latin America).
Frankly, some foreign-born
Americans resent that the open doors of Ellis Island allowed past
generations (mainly European) to seek opportunity in the United States,
but that today, that opportunity is only available to those with the
good fortune to have been born just south of the U.S. border.
Frequently, America's "front door" is a more perilous hurdle than
crossing the Sonoman desert. Even for good people with valuable skill
sets, applying for a visa just to enter the U.S.--let alone to study,
gain a job, or permanent residency--is a costly and futile task.
Tamping down the de facto State Department quota system, and the shame-inducing lotteries that go on at embassies worldwide would be a good start.
follow-up question questions the continuation of the border fence, in
spite of the buck-passing effect it has had between the San Diego
region and Arizona. Clinton takes a page from her 2000 "listening tour"
of New York State, saying she would "listen to the people who live
along the border." This common-sense answer nets her a big round of
applause, with good reason. Are we really dividing up backyards and public campuses with the inane fence?
It's great that the Democratic party, at least, has thoughtful, humane, yet pragmatic solutions to a big problem.