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Law school professors who teach immigration law have their own blog. Who doesn't? A few days ago they announced the imminent posting of an "exclusive interview" with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, promising his views on "difficult immigration issues."
To be honest, when this "exclusive" 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 result, 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" by the ImmLawProfs.
What a WOB (waste of bandwidth,) given the possibilities the web now offers in melding audio, video, text, and more. (To be fair, I don't expect law professors to get this web stuff right straight out of the blocks, but perhaps they could take some tips from Jim Chen and Bernard Hibbitts next time around.) And it's a bit surprising Obama's usually media-savvy crew allowed it to happen.
Content? Obama answers softball questions about CIR (comprehensive immigration reform,) family-based immigration visa backlogs, border deaths and his vote for The Fence, immigration courts, local ordinances (the Hazleton case,) assimilation (formerly known as "Americanization," now known as "immigrant integration,") and - spare me - Elvira Arellano .
Beyond the platitudes we've heard before, 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 [uh, 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.
The ImmLawProfs hope to interview more presidential candidates, and I hope they do. But the targets 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 Supreme Court Justice Scalia says, "administrative law is not for sissies."
And please, when other candidates are grilled, scrap the Elvira Arellano question. Call me heartless, but her tale leaves me cold. There are thousands of true 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.
The above piece was produced through OffTheBus, a citizen journalism project hosted at the Huffington Post and launched in partnership with NewAssignment.Net. For more information, read Arianna Huffington's project introduction. If you'd like to join our blogging team, sign up here. If you're interested in other opportunities, you can see the list here.