Liveblogging Tonight’s Immigration Forum
I’m on the Brown University Campus, where a panel of Rhode Island all-stars is preparing for a panel discussion on the issue of immigration.
Panelists include RI State Senator Juan Pichardo, Judge Roberto Gonzalez, former U.S. Attorney Robert Corrente, Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, RI State Representative David Segal, and Reverend Donald Anderson. Moderator will be Professor Wendy Schiller of Brown.
Audience members include Terry and Karin Gorman and Joe Bernstein.
Brown undergrads will present 3 views of immigration, “families first”, “economy first”, and “security first”.
FFirst: Focus on family reunification, remove arbitrary per-country annual limits, “regularize” illegal immigrants (and make their income taxable). Border enforcement does not work — it just makes the journey more dangerous. Enforcement within the US is even more disconcerting; violates civil liberties and leads to profiling. “Guest worker” programs should be ended.
EFirst: Immigrants play central role in keeping the US economically competitive. Immigrants take jobs that Americans won’t take. Falling fertility rates mean that immigrants are needed to prevent a labor shortage. Hospitality, food-service and construction need low-skill immigrant labor. Costs of services and goods would increase if immigration was limited. High-skilled immigrants are important too. “Regularize” illegal immigrants and expand guest worker programs. Abolish e-verify.
Andrew editorializes: Other than the guest worker position, I don’t see much difference between EF and FF.
SFirst: Concentration of Spanish-speaking immigrants leads to social isolation. They don’t share the “Protestant Work Ethic” (I’m just reporting here.). Bi-lingual education eats up resources that could be used otherwise. If we can’t control the border, we don’t know who may come in. Drug and human traffickers take advantage of an open border. Immigration must be curtailed, until we can absorb the 35 million illegal immigrants who are already here. Significant resources should be used for border control, state and local police forces should be used as a force multiplier.
Over to the panel…Intros just finished…
Schiller throws out 3 questions. Andrew types only fast enough to record 2. What is the top immigration policy priority for the nation? What is you view on movements by “some groups” to discourage participation in the census? (Backfill: 3rd question was how might the RI priorities differ from Federal priorities)
Sen. Pichardo: Top priority is concentrating on comprehensive reform at the Federal level. RI priority is having a vibrant immigrant community and having family reunification. We also need stronger labor laws to protect workers. We need to help integrate the immigrant community by providing more services to them, for instance more state and local funding for English classes.
“We are a sovereign nation that must protect our borders”, but we must do it in a humane way. And we can’t do it with piecemeal policies — we need comprehensive immigration reform.
Judge Gonzalez: We live in a society where lies and hate are promoted about immigrants. Praises removal of Lou Dobbs from CNN. Long history in this country of promoting the broken immigration system we have to today. Indigenous populations were decimated to make room for European settlers (I’m just reporting here). No need to apply for immigration papers in the past. CIA has toppled Latin American governments — had the effect of making them poor and difficult to manage. Everyone agrees the immigration system is broken. We can do this if we’re all honest about what the issues are (though I’m not sure the preceding commentary a great example of that.) Not convinced that an open border is a security problem.
Now a strange pivot: The Judge is not sure that legalizing immigrants is the “moral” thing to do, but it’s good for the economy. Prof Schiller cuts him off, for time…
Currently Without Title Corrente: All 3 perspectives must be considered simultaneously, for both political and policy effectiveness reasons. Ignoring any perspective will just bog down the debate. Instead of surrounding the headquarters of ICE after an enforcement action, people should surround the capitol and demand better laws. It’s unfair to blame the people enforcing the laws for the problems with our immigration system. A fence cannot solve the problem — the full infrastructure needed of border security is an unbelievable expense. But knowing who is entering and leaving the country is critically important. ICE was the agency that was first to identify the September 11 attackers.
It’s way past time for comprehensive reform. The current Napolitano proposal is similar to what was offered before.
Mayor Avedisian: Endorses Corrente’s all-3-at-once view. Takes on census question — declining to participate won’t punish elected officials, it punishes residents. All kinds of grant money is based on census figures (and even one of our Congressional seats may be at risk in RI). Napolitano proposal is short on specifics; the Mayor is disappointed by the lack of detail. Family reunification issues need a framework that has latitude for case-by-case consideration.
Rep. Segal: Need census participation, so we can ultimately take civil-rights issues to the courts (I’m just reporting here). We’re a stable and attractive country, but US policies have encouraged instability elsewhere. Ethnic enclaves aren’t really a problem, they have been a source of strength and pride in RI, cites Rhode Island’s portuguese community as an example.
Rev. Anderson: Addresses the Judge directly; every aspect of immigration is a moral issue. Our Senators and Congressman lack the courage to do the right thing, because they are too concerned about getting re-elected. A pathway to citizenship should be the priority. If more immigrants looked like his own ancestors did, the issue might not be such a big problem (Computer acting up — I’ll have to backfill in a little bit.)….
(I got up to ask a question here, so I wasn’t able to liveblog the first few questions. When it was my turn, I asked Rev. Anderson about whether the use of the term “undocumented” in its various forms could be taken to mean that citizenship meant only having the proper documents. Rev. Anderson answered that there indeed was much more to citizenship. More on this to come in the near future.).
Wendy Schiller asks Joe Bernstein a question (I’ll explain later): What one thing would you change in immigration law if you could? JB: Deportation of illegal aliens who commit crimes. And people who want the law enforced shouldn’t be characterized by a handful of bigots [Backfill: Joe B. had taken offense to the characterization of immigration enforcement agents as using “Gestapo tactics”, which I believe had been mentioned during the question-and-answer period, and related several personal experiences as to why he thought that was inaccurate, leading Prof. Schiller to ask him what he would change if he could.”])
Terry Gorman also objected to the assumption of racist motivation to people who want the law enforced. Rev. Anderson answers that there is an “atmosphere” out there that could lead to problems. Gorman answers with the example of Newport; there are a large number of illegal immigrants there of European origin, and he wants the law enforced there as much as anywhere else.
Sen. Pichardo: Debate cannot be piecemeal at the state level. It must be at the Federal level. E-Verify needs to be made more effective before it is implemented, and it should be a part of comprehensive reform. Everyone should participate in the census. Suggests a connection between the Governor rescinding his executive order and the census that I didn’t quite follow (but the Senator is delivering a letter to the Governor tomorrow that will explain things).
Judge Gonzalez: We need to sift the hate, racism and xenophobia out of the debate (but tells Terry Gorman that he’s not talking about him). There are technical and procedural problems with E-Verify. The state shouldn’t be trying to work out solutions to what is a Federal problem. Also, he explains what he means by Gestapo tactics — bring people out in irons during immigration raids, and pregnant women being shackled to their beds when delivering their babies.
(More technical glitches — my touchpad is too sensitive, and I keep getting knocked to a different page, without stuff being saved. Justin, do you have this problem with your laptop?)
CWT Corrente: We can’t afford as a country to have the immigration issue stall, as it has so far. We need a solution that address all of the concerns.
Rep Segal: It’s a Federal issue, but the state legislature is having some success in helping the people who are here. (Another tech glitch — not sure why these keep happening in the Segal/Anderson speakers bloc)
Rev. Anderson: Bypassess the “older” people to talk to the students. Immigration decisions affect real people. In the Kingdom of God, there are no second class citizens. We need to think about what put them in their current situations — and if the roles were reversed we might understand their situations better. We have a moral responsibility that we have to live up to.
Apologies for the gaps. Signing off for now…