2012 Election | Ari Ezra Waldman | Immigration | News

The Undebated Debatables: What Was Missing from the Presidential Debate

BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

A_560x375Even good debates make me cringe a little. I shudder anytime anyone says he or she is an "undecided" voter not because there's anything inherently wrong with taking time to make a decision, but because the level of disengagement necessary to remain willfully blind to the differences between the President and Governor Romney is dangerous in a democracy. I also fall into the trap of hating everything the other guy says, while starting most of my one-sided arguments with the television by saying, "I would have said [insert amazingly witty, substantively correct, and persuasive comment here]."

Tuesday's debate between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was striking for a number of reasons. Mr. Romney was exposed as a liar and creepy (at best) when it comes to women. The smackdown on Libya he received and the viral binder meme prove that, not to mention the remarkable throw away comment that the first time he heard about women receiving unequal pay for equal work was when he became the governor of a state and not when he saw his father run a car company and the entire state of Michigan or when he was in business school and then an investor and then chairman of Bain.

There was one question about immigration and it typically missed the boat: A woman named Lorraine asked Mr. Romney what he would do about "undocumented immigrants" living in America. Mr. Romney's answer, which boiled down to the banal pablum, "I like legal immigration, but not illegal immigration," allowed him to avoid saying that his immigration plan calls for increased border patrol and sending innocent children back to Mexico. The President's response was slightly cleaner but no more substantive, liking legal immigration, too, but also pivoting back to Mr. Romney's statements in favor of the controversial Arizona immigration law.

The problem was not so much with the answers as with the question.

An undocumented worker phenomena is a symptom of an immigration regime too nativistic for the 21st century. It creates perverse incentives for highly skilled artists and scientists, splits up families, and punishes children who just want to grow up, get an education and a job, and contribute to society. The President's policies have ameliorated some of the sharp edges of this antiquated system and have, most notably, made this country a more welcoming place for the HIV-positive community and same-sex binational couples and enforced a mini-DREAM Act by going around Republican intransigence and xenophobia in Congress.

But, as the President likes to say, more needs to be done. And still we are asking the wrong questions. I don't want to know what a Romney Administration would "do about undocumented immigrants;" that's like asking Les Moonves what he would "do" about television. Rather, I want to know precisely how we can change an immigration system from one based on keeping people out to one based on keeping families together, bringing the best and brightest to this country to work, staying safe, and growing the economy.

The DREAM Act is a necessary first step. Let's see why AFTER THE JUMP.

The DREAM Act, which stands for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, would grant a conditional permanent residency status to immigrant children who came to this country as minors, graduated from high school, have good moral character, and lived in the U.S. continuously for five years prior to enactment. Serving in the military and completing some college can also result in conditional permanent residency. With that status, they can apply for permanent residency after fulfilling certain other requirements. 

Child-Dream1It was originally introduced in 2001 by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (D) and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch (R). But, by the time Senator Hatch faced a feisty Tea Party challenger for the Republican nomination, the Senator backed away from his early support. In 2010, 2011, and 2012, the bill was reintroduced in various forms, collectively making the permanent residency goal a little harder to achieve: no in-state tuition discounts, no health care, lower age cap, longer delays, no sponsorship, and requires, among other things, back-tax payments.

In 2011, several Republicans who had supported the DREAM Act ten years earlier withheld their support unless the bill included increased border security and enforcement. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) expressed willingness to compromise, but, as has become their custom, Republicans said no.

Earlier this year, the President announced that he was not going to let Republican nativism stand in the way of reform by ordering his Administration to stop deporting those who met most of the DREAM Act requirements. That policy would be reversed if Governor Romney wins in October.

The DREAM Act is supported on the left because it can help raise innocent young persons out of poverty, give them access to education, and bring many more immigrants away from the fringes of official society. The business community supports it because it offers access to millions of new, legal workers. Immigrant communities support it because it would rescue their populations from a kind of legal limbo where they are constantly looking over their shoulders. The only people who do not support it are law-and-order type Republicans (and pretty much 80 percent of the Republican caucus in the House and Senate) who feel that it rewards illegal immigrants. 

Republican opposition to the DREAM Act willfully ignores the positive economic and social benefits of integration of fringe populations and denies the fact that DREAM Act targets -- young persons -- never made the decision to come to this country on their own. They are here because their parents came here, seeking nothing more than a better life and opportunity for the next generation. They are, therefore, no different from young American citizens whose parents would do just about anything to ensure their success.

Therefore, we should ask ourselves the following questions: Why would we want an immigration system that deports children trying to get an education and contribute to American society? Why would we want to punish innocent young people who came here at the whims of their parents? Why, when the business, military, education, and health care communities favor reform would we deny their bipartisan voices in favor of nativism and xenophobia?

The answer, of course, is Republican politics. More immigrants on a path to citizenship means more Democratic voters and a shrinking white majority. They think it means dilution of "American culture" and a hodge podge of languages on official government forms. They think the DREAM Act, like the freedom to marry, brings the end of days.

Mitt_romneyGovernor Romney, the "severe" conservative from the Republican primary and the man who said immigrants do not "deserve" the American dream, likes to smile and say he likes immigration. But, not only did he never have "binders full of women" at Bain, he never had binders full of minorities anywhere. His team at Bain almost exclusively consisted of white men; his Massachusetts cabinet included one racial minority until the Democratic legislature pilloried him for it. But all of that is for show; anyone can puff up their moderate credentials by appointing a token [insert excluded group here] to [position he doesn't really care about].

Mitt Romney is strikingly unqualified to be president because of his ignorance. He never knew gay persons wanted to have families before he summarily and rudely dismissed a lesbian couple from his Boston office. He had no idea women receive less pay for the same work until he became a governor. He has no idea the kind of life he is forcing on immigrant children, remarking once that the farms migrant labor work on are "beautiful." He cannot conceive of the horrors of discrimination because he has no idea it actually happens. And, as such, he will never be willing or able to represent any minority.

***

Ari Ezra Waldman teaches at Brooklyn Law School and is concurrently getting his PhD at Columbia University in New York City. He is a 2002 graduate of Harvard College and a 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School. His research focuses on technology, privacy, speech, and gay rights. Ari will be writing weekly posts on law and various LGBT issues. 

Follow Ari on Twitter at @ariezrawaldman.

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Comments

  1. "The President's policies have ...made this country a more welcoming place for ... same-sex binational couples"

    Have you completely lost your mind spinning for Obama? Not being deported under certain circumstances is not in any way close to making this country a welcoming place. Do you even now how many people were not deported because of the "mini-Dream act", that is that people who arrived here illegally as children won't be deported? 29 (twenty nine). And there are way fewer binational same-sex couples than illegal Latinos. Bain Capital has probably procured more work visas and green cards for gay foreign nationals than the number of people affected by Obama's non-deportation policy in the next four years.

    Posted by: AG | Oct 19, 2012 11:01:16 AM


  2. ari,, while I love the Binder meme that has gone viral, I am surprised that another of his statements is not getting attention..

    he said, and I may not have the quote exactly verbatim. "...if women are going to be in the workplace......"

    IF?

    why are people not staring at him with gaped mouths repeating IF?

    Posted by: mikenola | Oct 19, 2012 11:18:06 AM


  3. AG, that 29 figure is from the very first week that USCIS started approving applicants. A few weeks later, that number is now 4,600.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/about-4500-young-immigrants-approved-to-stay-in-us-get-work-permits-under-obama-plan/2012/10/12/0d5f0684-14ac-11e2-9a39-1f5a7f6fe945_story.html

    Obviously the number will go up, but it will take time. Work permits aren't issued in a matter of days.

    Posted by: Mohit | Oct 19, 2012 11:27:54 AM


  4. @AG, You need to look at how Gov. Romney performed as Governor of Massachusetts. It was a disaster! Rights were what he wanted not what was legal. He disbanded commissions because they did not go along with what he wanted. The legislators were forced to go around him to protect the rights of the people! And you think he is going to be better as president?

    It bothers me that I still remember the republicans saying that they would "make him fail" before he even took office! For example, if the dems said they wanted to cut taxes on the middle class, and the repubs say ok we agree to a negative 10% cut, then they are certainly not giving a tax cut but are able to say yes they agreed on giving a tax cut, when in reality the wanted a tax increase. Strong play on words, but it is that type of thing the repubs tried doing.

    I fear for the future of the nation if Romney wins!

    Posted by: John | Oct 19, 2012 11:32:24 AM


  5. What was missing from the debate? Any mention of the ten years of tax returns that Romney has refused to release, which are apparently as secret as his plan to pay for $5 trillion in tax cuts aimed squarely at the rich. Who can trust this man?

    Posted by: David | Oct 19, 2012 12:13:37 PM


  6. It's a bit odd trying to make a legal case for an election result. The trick for the electorate is to try to figure out what the guy would do, rather than what they would say they would do.

    Posted by: anon | Oct 19, 2012 12:41:08 PM


  7. It's a bit odd trying to make a legal case for an election result. The trick for the electorate is to try to figure out what the guy would do, rather than what they would say they would do.

    Posted by: anon | Oct 19, 2012 12:41:41 PM


  8. Gallup has Romney above 50 and gaining and Obama going in the opposite direction. Sorry. This has predicted the eventual winner every time since when Nate Silvers' mamma first laid eyes on his daddy.

    Posted by: MarkUs | Oct 19, 2012 12:56:47 PM


  9. Ari is upset that the debate did not deal with Dharun Ravi, how great he is and how we can make him happy. Ari loves Dharun Ravi.

    Posted by: Matt | Oct 19, 2012 12:59:47 PM


  10. Ari is upset that the debate did not deal with Dharun Ravi, how great he is and how we can make him happy. Ari loves Dharun Ravi.

    Posted by: Matt | Oct 19, 2012 1:02:03 PM


  11. Ari is upset that the debate did not deal with Dharun Ravi, how great he is and how we can make him happy. Ari loves Dharun Ravi.

    Posted by: Matt | Oct 19, 2012 1:02:28 PM


  12. Ari is upset that the debate did not deal with Dharun Ravi, how great he is and how we can make him happy. Ari loves Dharun Ravi.

    Posted by: Matt | Oct 19, 2012 1:03:10 PM


  13. Actually, Markus, as always you're wrong. Here's a little info about Gallup's wild polling in recent elections:

    "In 2000, for example, Gallup had George W. Bush 16 points ahead among likely voters in polling it conducted in early August. By Sept. 20, about six weeks later, they had Al Gore up by 10 points instead: a 26-point swing toward Mr. Gore over the course of a month and a half. No other polling firm showed a swing remotely that large. Then in October 2000, Gallup showed a 14-point swing toward Mr. Bush over the course of a few days, and had him ahead by 13 points on Oct. 27 -- just 10 days before an election that ended in a virtual tie."

    So you might want to hold off on measuring the drapes and preparing for the Supreme Court appointment of Scalia II.

    In the meantime, you might wish to answer the questions I raised below, which I first posed to you several months ago. You have of course been unable to answer them since, list most Faux News devotees and similar types, you have no understanding of history, international affairs or relevant facts pertaining to the most significant issues of public policy facing the nation.

    "Markus, you allege that the President is incompetent, so let's review the facts.

    Bush liked to talk like a tough cowboy but it was this President who got bin Laden and who has brought al Qaeda to its knees. We should also remember that this President got bin Laden by going into Pakistan, something for which, when he first promised to do it, he was attacked by McCain and others as being foolish and naive. [I'd add that Willard also argued that it was "not worth moving heaven and Earth and spending billions of dollars" to catch bin Laden. http://2012.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/04/romneys-2007-bin-laden-gaffe-comes-back-to-haunt-him.php]

    Despite inheriting an economy on the brink of collapse and worse than that inherited by any President since FDR, he managed in short order to get us to a place where we have had 27 consecutive months of private sector job growth. Look at these charts and explain for us just how they demonstrate the President's alleged incompetence: http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/tag/bikini-graph/ Indeed, if you employ the standards recently suggested by one of Mitt Romney's advisors in defending Romney's weak record on jobs as Governor of Massachusetts (ignore the first year of the incumbent's term as it mainly reflects the lingering effects of his predecessor's policies), then the President is responsible for a net creation of over 4 million private sector jobs. http://maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/06/05/12066258-obama-campaign-pushes-against-double-standard?lite

    That success has been realized in part because of the President's stimulus law, which no doubt was less effective than it could have been had it not been, in order to overcome a Republican filibuster, watered down to make it too small and too laden with relatively non-stimulative tax cuts. Still, even watered down, the non-partisan CBO has found that it kept the unemployment rate from shooting to over 10% as the effects of the Bush recession continue to rock the economy. http://www.cbo.gov/publication/43014 and http://www.cbo.gov/publication/43274

    No one is suggesting that the economy is where we want it to be but I should point out, as President Clinton recently did, that these accomplishments of President Obama are truly historic. Consider how long it took the U.S. and world economies to emerge from the Great Depression. Please identify for me the recession or depression of comparable magnitude in world history where we have seen a comparable recovery in such a short period. http://www.boston.com/Boston/politicalintelligence/2012/04/bill-clinton-says-economic-recovery-ahead-pace-looking-back-years-history/arIN1bNfuvP5cWiipzcYtJ/index.html No doubt we need to build further on the President's successes but, in order to do that, we need to elect a Congress willing to work with the President to enact policies designed to further stimulate the economy and create jobs.

    And the President has accomplished all of this despite reeling economies in Europe, despite Republicans in Congress who've done everything in their power to make sure that the President could implement none of his job-creation ideas over the past couple of years and despite corporations which are making record profits and sitting on those profits instead of reinvesting them in the economy. http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2012/06/01/americas-jobs-crisis/ He's also done this while managing to keep the growth in federal spending levels (unfortunately in the current environment, in my view) at a lower rate than we've seen in years.

    [I note as well, on the topic of competence, that the President saved the U.S. auto industry, while your guy urged us to "let Detroit go bankrupt."]

    [Finally, I regret that the President's campaign has not challenged Willard more on his record as Governor of Massachusetts, the single job he's had in his life which required a skills set similar to that required by the job he is currently seeking, because that record was nearly an unmitigated disaster. You do realize that, when Romney was Governor, Massachusetts ranked 47th in job growth and suffered the second largest labor force decline, don't you? No, of course you don't. http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/06/04/494282/5-facts-about-the-massachusetts-economy-under-mitt-romney/ ]

    Yeah, pretty incompetent. I guess we should all jump off the cliff and let Willard take us back to the good old days of Bush economics. Now there's a competent crowd!

    Posted by: Patric | Oct 19, 2012 3:21:33 PM


  14. @PATRIC, wow! Nice rebuttal. If only all voters were as informed as you, it would be very clear Obama is our best option.

    Posted by: AriesMatt | Oct 19, 2012 3:50:28 PM


  15. Immigration policy is not that easy. I don't blame the Presidential candidates for sticking close to the "I favor legal immigration; I oppose illegal immigration" plank.

    My sense is that there is broad consensus on these objectives for immigration policy:
    1. Attract and keep the best and brightest citizens of the world.
    2. Allow for families, however defined, to be together.
    3. Restrict the total number of immigrants to a level that can reasonably be assimilated and not, in the 19th Century formulation, become a public charge.

    The problem is that these objectives are inherently in conflict with one another. So far, we have not reached a national consensus on how to balance these objectives. That other civilizations, past and present, have been equally baffled may give some comfort, but no excuse for just agreeing to disagree.


    Posted by: Rich | Oct 19, 2012 4:08:01 PM


  16. What was missing??? A total lack of respect for the POTUS. Obama should have taken his mic and stuck in the Neo-Nazi's ear and walked away.

    Posted by: Brian | Oct 19, 2012 4:12:12 PM


  17. Thanks, AriesMatt. I appreciate your kind words.

    Let's wait and see if Markus bothers to reply. He loves to recite one sentence, uninformed Faux News talking points on this site but try to engage him in a conversation which requires actual command of facts and suddenly he has nothing to say.

    I've got plenty more for him, including whether it's been Republican or Democratic Presidents over the past 30 years who've reduced the deficit and whether the federal deficit is today greater or less than when President Obama took office, if he dares to engage.

    Thanks again!

    Posted by: Patric | Oct 19, 2012 4:57:06 PM


  18. Climate change, climate change, climate change. Arguably the most important issue of all.

    Posted by: David R. | Oct 19, 2012 8:28:46 PM


  19. President Obama has promised without contradiction that if he wins the White House back, he will pass a blanket AMNESTY, a mass amnesty, a definite and negative Comprehensive Immigration Reform that will crucify the American job seekers to the majority of the 20 million or more illegal aliens. This will be unimaginable to the millions of working mums, dads who will pay for the illiterate, the people who come here illegally that taxpayers are financially supporting. Every day our hospitals are filling up with the sick people from around the world, for the price of a airline ticket or using guides to bring them through our borders. They are smuggled themselves into this land and taking advantage of our lenient laws. The U.S. courts demand we must care for every need, without ever paying one single penny into the pool.

    Unless the TEA PARTY in the very near future exerts influence on state and federal policies, America will continue to sink like the ill fated HMS Titanic in a financial disaster. Some state voters have got smarter in outing Senators and Congress man across the board, replacing them with moderate Conservatives of the TEA PARTY leadership. Our country has being crippled by additional spending by the Democrats, but what should concern us is influence of the courts, namely the U.S. federal courts. For decades now state taxpayers have been forced to pay the way for illegal alien children, because there is a badly interpreted law, which makes every child of a foreign person the right to citizenship, if they can smuggle mostly unborn babies into our country. Originally it was that slaves after the Civil War could be granted citizenship. Not that any pregnant female could enter the jurisdiction of the United States and claim citizenship for their child? The highest court has never visited this law previously and either of political parties seemingly has ever entertained to vote on an amendment, so that only the children of one valid U.S. citizen have a right to claim citizenship. This is the origin of the DREAM ACT OBAMA EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE LAW, which has been simmering in silence for many decades. The cause and effect of children/ unborn fetuses smuggled across the border or on an international flight.

    Our government does nothing about the birthright tourists, who come here and having delivered their baby here leave the country. Under the present law the child is entitled to a U.S. passport for future use. At a later date the parent or parents return with the child in tow, who is now eligible for a free education, free health and other services? At an even later date the U.S citizen can sponsor the immediate family members and this is yet another immigration issue called CHAIN Migration. This simple method of legal entry draws approximately 8.000 more people to the United States. However other than the birthright tourists as it so called, around 400 thousand pregnant women manage to wangle their way through borders or a port of entry, carrying a human seed in their body undetectable and become a massive financial cost on states and the federal government. The children grow up in America and the parents avail themselves of a child’s welfare payments, which accumulates into billions of dollars a year. This of course is the Origin of Dream Act children, which the illegal parents are entirely to blame and should be held accountable.

    Across the country the majority of states are subject to this law, costing taxpayers’ unknown numbers of dollars annually, within the estimate of 113 billion and constantly rising. The example is the county of Los Angeles as in Year-end closing 2011 figures from the Department of Public Social Services reported that over $646 million in welfare and food stamp benefits were issued to illegal alien parents for their native-born children, announced Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. The $646.2 million consisted of $258 million in CalWORKs (welfare) and $388 million in Food Stamps) — a $21 million increase over the previous year. “With the $550 million for public safety and nearly $500 million for healthcare, the total cost for illegal aliens to this one County taxpayer exceeds $1.6 billion dollars a year,” said Antonovich. “These costs do not include the hundreds of millions of dollars for education.” Even with these billions of dollars staring in the face of an America drained by the poverty stricken from other countries, the city council has given the go-ahead for driver’s licenses for people who criminally entered America and now collecting free health care, free education for their children and Section 8 cheap housing.

    Illegal aliens are being given our jobs, when there is still suffering from 24 million Americans without work? They smuggle their unborn babies into the country, so that taxpayers are forced to cover their every monetary need? Neither the Democrats nor Republicans will pass the “Legal Workforce Act or the “Birthright Citizenship Bill” to stop either travesty. Join your local TEA PARTY of the rising 41 million Americans or Legal Residents and they will not only get these laws passed, but halt the illegal immigration once and for all. The TEA PARTY is being absorbed into the Republican Party, with the intent to alter the direction that both corrupt parties are taken us? The TEA PARTY “The Peoples Party” can no longer sit by and watch the Democrats spending our hard-earned dollars to support the illegal alien invasion; placing official obstacles to halt energy companies drilling for oil on the “Peoples Lands”

    Closing down coal mines in Virginia, after the companies spending millions of dollars to produce clean coal, while this administration allows gasoline prices to leap upwards. Learn more about the healthy agenda of the TEA PARTY at TEA PARTY.ORG. The only Americans, residents and illegal aliens who are going to collect any bounty under President Obama returning are the “Freeloaders”. The wealth people have accumulated isn’t even going to make a dent on the 16 trillion dollar meltdown, with 4 trillion placed on the backs of all of us. One thing the rich accomplish is risking everything, but in addition creates jobs, hundreds of thousands or millions of good jobs.

    In the eyes of a Liberal Progressives, an 81-year old grandma with a cardboard sign of the TEA PARTY is more lethal than a crazed terrorist zealot with a machete whose sole intent is to murder. The Obama administration will not even call these fanatics “Terrorists” or murderers, even after the Twin Towers massacre of 9/11? If the Global Communist Obama Czars were to grab America they would: Burn all American heritage books; Destroy the red, white and blue; Shred the U.S. Constitution; Defund and disband our military; Eliminate free speech; Takeaway our guns. I hope you get what I am saying here. The world is falling apart because America is falling apart. Islamic terrorists smell the weakness in Obama—and they will take advantage to strike.

    The coming year the new president could face: Crash of the dollar; Wall Street failures; Unemployment hitting astronomical highs; Work force vilification; Nuclear War in the making with Iran. The 37 Liberal communist Czars in the Obama government are determined to rip the heart out of this sovereign nation. He is already distributing Food Stamps to foreign nationals and he has already promised to pass a Comprehensive Immigration package if he wins in November. If that wasn’t enough, with the Sanctuary City in California spending 160 million dollars every two months, according to the Department of Health Services, the Liberals want to grant drivers licenses to illegal immigrants and migrants. AMERICA’S LAST RESORT IS THE TEA PARTY, BEFORE WE GIVE UP OUR FREEDOMS FOREVER.

    The Tea Party must be a positive force for America. Return decay into growth; Immorality into wholesome traditional values; Sick spiritually into Judeo/Christian values; take away our right to free choice; Political ineptness into conservative government and rid ourselves of “Political Correctness”. I have never condoned violence to change a political nightmare, but the American people are sick and tired of the Liberals destroying our freedoms. It is not beyond anybodies imagination that these political idiots at either state or municipal level, are going to be in the crosshairs of a sniper rifle? If you read the ultra Liberal-Communist-Marxist and extreme socialists Journalist and newsmen in the Huffington post, New York Post, the Los Angeles Times and other corrupted news media so you are being programmed for a new world order, that is part of Obama’s ideology. This President and his Czars were adamant in allowing the United Nations have a specialized world tax to fulfill their agenda, behind our backs.

    I do not know what the American public thinks about Donald Trump and those people classified as “Birthers”. Something is very odd about President Obama’s background, that two plus two doesn’t add up to four? Anybody who believes in the “Rule of Law” and doesn’t want to squander his/her votes on superfluous issues should read about the investigation in Hawaii, Kenya and Indonesia and read about to many fishy irregularities. Personally, I am voting as an Independent, with the emphasis on voting into Congress as many TEA PARTY LEGISLATORS AS I CAN INTO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY TO CHANGE IT AND GET RID OF ALL THE CORRUPTION IN BOTH PARTIES. TEA PARTY.ORG FOR THE FACTS & FIGURES.

    Posted by: Dave Francis | Oct 19, 2012 10:45:35 PM


  20. The smackdown on Libya he received and the viral binder meme prove that, not to mention the remarkable throw away comment

    Posted by: Supreme Snapback | Nov 19, 2012 4:02:16 AM


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